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Everyone else is right, but everyone else is wrong - 96%

lord_ghengis, February 2nd, 2014

It's a strange experience when you completely agree with the general consensus of the quality of a piece of art, but disagree entirely on the reasoning so you can never comply fully with all the people you're siding with. It's like anyone who thought Fight Club was great, but found the anarchist messages and philosophies retarded and only liked it for the entertaining black humour and snappy dialogue, or for a far less even remotely plausible example, someone who liked Terminator 2 heaps, not because of the cool liquid terminator or cutting edge effects, but because they thought Edward Furlong was the coolest kid ever. I get this with Into the Depths, With Degradation. I completely agree that this is one of the finest death metal albums ever created and it's something which deserves all the praise in the world from absolutely anybody, but this really feels like I'm listening to an entirely different album which is coincidentally freaking awesome too. Infester's only full length effort is widely regarded as one of, if not the most dark, horrific and evil albums ever made and I can't for the life of me figure out why.

Don't get me wrong, the album doubtlessly kills (the Bliss), but I dunno, this has always felt way too brutal, violent and generally lacking in subtlety to feel overly atmospheric and moving to me. I mean it's moodier than Suffocation or Carbonized, but it's not as outright miserable and decrepit as an Incantation, Sororicide or Rippikoulu to my ears, the band just has way too much vulgar extremity to strike me as all that dark. I dunno, I'd put it on par with Molested or Demigod or something that range when it comes to straight up atmospheric qualities; it's certainly dark, but simply being dark isn't really the big appeal. This album is a bold, intense riff monster with brutality to spare, which excels not only for its thick enthralling sound and exceptional riffcraft but also for the way it manages to forge intensity, energy and momentum as well as any band in the genre ever has. This album should be known as one of the most propulsive and attention grabbing ever made, not one which simply gives kids the heebie jeebies.

This is a long album, peaking beyond the fifty minute mark, so I'm glad to be able to say the band has a good grasp on a multitude of riffing styles. Songs seamlessly shift between doomish tone worship, lumbering grooves, devilish tremolos, surprisingly technical fretboard adventures, rather brutal crunchy slogs and eerie atonal melodies, and the band is consistently good at making every style sound absolutely massive. Every song has a unique identity through either structuring or unique little touches on the edges, despite the commonly used techniques throughout. For instance "Chamber of Reunion" stands out for two glorious lead melodies, one atonal and one more graceful, both of which are unlike anything else on the record, while "Braded into Palsy" is more notable for consisting of one of the album's most relentlessly brutal fast passages followed by a long doomish build and release few others could emulate. Every song has at least one way it can be easily be identified, whether it's "This song is the one with the weird keyboard notes ringing out during the slow break" or "This is the song which has the most technical riffs in it"; it's nice to see an album this long and this universally brutal be so consistently fresh.

The songs are predominantly in a pretty slow tempo, as the most commonly used techniques are the brutal grooves and evil tremolo riffs, but bursts of outright speed are quite commonplace both as hectic tremolos and brutal staccato palm muted riffs. This is where the album really wins for me actually, even more than the excellent riffs themselves; I can only think of a handful of albums that are this explosive when they mix up the pacing. This is through a combination of factors, ranging from guitar tone, sporadic vocal variations, drum sound and genius drumming composition. The immense guitar tone is utterly devastating in it's density and weight when played slowly, but gains a sharp edge to it when the tempo picks up, drawing your attention to the actual rate of notes being played and adding some actual high end to the mix, while still keeping that dark and vile low end in tact. As it stands, every time they change up these riffing styles the production makes damned well you're aware of it. Once you add in the multitude of little bass runs and post-production keyboards and effects the three piece has a sizable number of ways of making sure you stand up and take notice when they mix things up, even before the whole band is taken into account.

Jason Oliver's vocals are one of the most talked about elements of the band, often one of the big features when people talk up how disturbing and vile this album is, and they're certainly worthy of some attention. As my earlier statements would imply, I don't find them overly horrific or even all that dark, but they are very, very good. 90% of the delivery here is an exceptionally deep, thumping grunt, I guess it'd be like Lord Worm's barking style being sung by someone with the pitch of Craig Pillard. It's fucking monstrous in its ferocity, but lacks the manic craziness of Worm or the demonic structuring or rumbling of a Pillard so it doesn't carry much atmospheric weight for me, only brutality. It's actually quite like if you took Craig's various "Graaaawwwwwwwwwwwrrrrrrgggghhhh's" and "Bwwaaarrrrrgghhhhhhoorrr's" and just cut them down to the "rgh" in the middle really; it's like a regular roar if you cut the start and end off it. It's heavy, it works crazy well with all the thuggish stomps around here, but it's not evil... the other 10% however is flat out possessed. When Oliver decides to change from the formula he goes fucking hard. The massive ear bursting higher screeches, gurgling inhuman death chokes, and completely pissed off screams launching out of your speakers are completely shocking at the best of times, but when placed alongside a sudden musical shift after 4 minutes of terse, blunt grunts it's downright alarming. These crazier moments I would agree are horrific as hell, as seen in the outro, but they're reasonably sparse to keep the general mood more ferocious as a whole.

The drumming is really the biggest factor as to why this is as exciting and lively as it is. Firstly, the sound of Dario's snare drum is easily the dominant sound of the mix, if only because it's the only higher frequency which routinely bursts through the dense wall of lowness, but it's not irritating at all. Not just because a little bit of high end is quite welcome on something this lengthy and dark, but because holy fuck the guy can play. Obviously with a loud snare, he's got an added advantage that when ever he moves into blast mode it's going to sit you on your arse pretty hard, but he's mercifully mindful of how often he abuses that idea. Instead he loads the album up with kinda jazzy, atypical busy beats, such as the sped up snare hits around 1:30 into "Viscity Slippery Secretion", and numerous agile snare roll based fills. His ability to switch from pounding and heavy to agile and odd to rapid and chaotic is hugely enjoyable and never overdone in any single way, this keeps the frequently shifting riff ideas as lively as they deserve for the full journey. His complexity and inventiveness does cancel out a fair amount of the lurching morbidity that could have been found in a lot of the more simplistic passages, but I wouldn't change it for the world.

I'm not sure how I've managed to interpret "dark, evil horror" as riffy propulsive brutality, but that's how I see this. It's got moody moments for sure, but I listen to this for the riffs and momentum rather than anything abstract. I will however agree 100% that To the Depths, in Degradation is a death metal classic that deserves all the praise that can be heaped upon it, admittedly, I'd heap different praise than most apparently, but I suppose that makes it even easier to recommend; even if you don't find the diversity and driving energy as utterly captivating as me, chances are it'll find a way to give you really good nightmares... but you'd be wrong.