Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Ten of the best metal albums of all time - Part 9 - 100%

droneriot, November 6th, 2016

After a ridiculously long period of time I have finally decided to finish up my series of ten of the best metal albums of all time, and after some careful thinking on the subject I decided to conclude the series with two albums that made the way into the exalted pantheon of my all-time favourites at the most glacial pace.

The first and only Infester album, To the Depths, in Degredation, is a showcase example. It's an album that I simply could not get into for years and years since I've known it. What is intriguing right from the start is that I nonetheless continued trying over and over again, like the album exerted a kind of magnetic pull that I could not resist. I listened, every now and then, perhaps every couple of months, but the music basically went in one ear and out the other leaving me pretty much untouched, while at the same time possessing a subliminal quality that warranted these frequent revisits. There was just "something cool" about the music, something below the surface that continued to intrigue me and fostered the determination that I must give the album however many listens it takes to "click" with me, because something about the album felt like it deserved that determination to make it work, and that the reward will be worth all the time invested. On a less grand scale, it is not too uncommon in death metal, or metal in general. A lot of albums do not work the first time you listen to them, but you pretty quickly get an idea of whether they are worth more than two or three revisits or not. Albums like Gorguts' Considered Dead are a good example of records that one knows they'll never be any less boring after any number of listens because they're simply not good albums. Infester's debut is the opposite, and to the extreme. And it is a testament to the subconscious seed it plants in one's brain that it gets the numbers of relistens it requires to fully unfold its sublime glory.

The reward is indeed worth all the time invested. To the Depths, in Degradation is no less than one of the crowning achievements in death metal history. I recall a friend giving the album a puzzled look and a question along the lines of "what the hell, is that atmospheric brutal death metal?" when hearing it early in my quest to unlock its secrets, and I can understand such confusion or shrugging it all off when unfamiliar with what is curiously but meticulously concocted in the space of these 54 minutes. The whole thing doesn't really make a lot of sense when you start out trying to get into it. The riffing is pretty firmly rooted in that transition period or grey area between old school death metal and brutal death metal that you'd find albums like Onward to Golgotha or Dawn of Possession (or the previously reviewed Ritual of Infinity!!), but without a clear intent to "brutalise you", in lack of a better terminology. The audial violence inherent to that style is significantly subdued here, in other words. What creeps in its place I can only liken - in the mental picture it paints - to a morbid alchemist foraging through an assortment of obscure and unwholesome ingredients to create an ultimate potion of pure evil, all the while cursing and speaking unholy verses to instill his creation with the dark energy it is to possess. In more worldly terms, death metal is stripped of its human form here. You won't be caught in a mosh by these tunes, shredding the air guitar or anything. It's not a kind of obscure dissonant for the sake of being dissonant avant-garde like you hear a lot these days, it's simply hideously ugly in sound and tone. And hellishly dark to an oppressive degree. Where normally death metal riffs pump you up with their primal energy, Infester's are an all-engulfing maelstrom of obscure malevolence. And it's crazy how underrated within the metal community Jason Oliver's vocals are in particular, as they add a level of insanity that fully elevates the already intimidating experience to a black celebration of the apocalypse. Sparse keyboards do their part as well, and I won't insult your intelligence by telling you they don't sound like Emperor or Nile, you already get the idea that they won't sound like popcorn cinema soundtracks. It's a brutal experience, but for only a little part for the elements it borrows from brutal death metal, and for a much larger part for the oppressive atmosphere.

Now all this of course I knew relatively early on in my journey to try to make this album "click" with me, the devestating mood of the music reveals itself more or less readily - though still takes time and effort to comprehend fully. What makes an album truly good however, is the addictive property in its songwriting and craft of melody it must develop for repeated revisits. An Abruptum album can create just as haunting an atmosphere (well, sort of), but how many people are in any way likely to come home from work every day and blast some Abruptum to settle down and enjoy their time off? This is the part that took me the longest to fully get into, because with all their bleak ugliness, the album's riffs and songs surely are not easy to derive the same energising experience from that you'd so easily get from any Bolt Thrower album. And that, finally, is the full extent of this album's genius: Because while you have one of the most brutal atmospheres on any metal albums to begin with, once you work your way through the riffs' repulsive ugliness and decipher their intricate patterns, you discover that you have some of the most hard-hitting and lethal riffs in all of death metal as well - making this album the two-fold tour de force it is. Once fully grasped, the reward for your efforts is one of the darkest, most brutal metal albums of all time with some of the best riffs and song arrangements you'll be able to find in death metal's illustrious history. So if you come across this album but can't get into it, but feel the same level of intrigue I felt in my early attempts to grasp what is going on here, stick with it and don't abandon the quest until the work is accomplished, because once the full power of To the Depths, in Degradation reveals itself to you, you'll understand how it easily plays in the same league as the genre's most revered classics.