How does one define avant-garde? Is it an element of the songwriting, an aspect which can be incorporated into the sound of a band? Or is it an intangible atmosphere that pervades certain records and discographies? One could argue that is a sense of bewilderment that is felt when experiencing an album, and the boundaries of reality are not quite at your grasp. This sense of bewilderment echoes through Inhibition, the début album from post-black metal project Decline Of The I. The term ‘post-black metal’ can evoke a wide variety of possible avenues, from Altar Of Plagues to Alcest and much more in between, but what Inhibition claims is a “heavy, oppressive and neurasthenic” approach with Burzum, Neurosis and Code as compass points.
Neurasthenic describes this album well, as the opening piano notes and overdriven post-metal chords of “Où Se Trouve La Mort?” (“Where Is Death Found?”) fade in. The focal point, however, is on the French-language film sample over the top, one of several to be found in the 58 minutes of this album’s runtime. Fortunately, the album finds more energy in the second track, “The End Of A Sub-Elitist Addiction”, where the black metal emerges in both vocals and tremolo riffs. The division of work is a tad confusing, with mastermind A.K. (he of Vorkreist and Merrimack fame) handling all instruments bar the drumming, and sharing vocals with two other individuals named G. and S. The main individual provides a Formloff-like rasp which works well, but the slight off-key singing that enters briefly is unwelcome.
Adding to the peculiarity is a distinctly minimalist electro, and a thick bass sound despite no bass listed in the credits. The electro element succeeds in adding to the eeriness such as in “Art Or Cancer”, and the bass contributes to a headnodding, then thumping rhythm before the song takes a dive into a blackened Jean-Michel Jarre. By now the formula appears to be set, each song swinging between off-kilter electro moments and Neurosis-like black metal parts. Code may not be present so much, but a couple of riffs evoke a Burzum-like quality. In continuation, “Mother And Whore” further cements the bass’ augmented position before a lengthy electro section culminates in a metallic explosion. Although the vocals are fairly easy to discern and comprehend, it seems easier for the listener to treat the vocals as an instrument with its interplay. Things get weirder as “The Other Rat” creeps in, introducing faint whimpers that recall Stalaggh, and a return of the off-key singing from before, which is no less palatable here than before. However, at this point one wonders whether that may be intentional…
It takes a while for the album to develop, but it becomes enjoyable after a while, and by the time “Static Involution” kicks in with its symphonic and choral touches, they’re more than welcome as a break. The Neurosisian atmosphere pervades on occasion, at least in the calmer moments, and the film samples are an odd juxtaposition to the rasping vocals. To top it all of, there are some tinkling melodies as though from a wind-up music box, which in a strange way is the eeriest aspect of the songs in which they appear.
Where this album starts to falter is the near the end: after 45 minutes of a familiar yet bizarre formula, Inhibition starts to drag with the last two lengthy tracks of “L’Indécision D’Être” and “Keeping The Structure”. This may well be in keeping with Henri Laborit’s theory of a person’s reaction (“How can one stand one’s own freedom facing this machine, which crushes the individual, its body and its mental?”), the concept around which this album was based, but the result is not an enjoyable one in the traditional sense of the word. This is enhanced by the electro sections which, while being well-executed, are more unsettling than engaging.
For those who have been following black metal’s branch off into the post- and avant-garde territories, Inhibition is an album to jot down for checking out. Recalling Formloff (whom I previously reviewed here) with touches of electro and Neurosis, it’s hardly a ‘normal’ album, but definitely succeeds in its aims of being “heavy, oppressive and neurasthenic”. Decline Of The I are certainly an intriguing project, and given the second release Rebellion promises to be “violent, fast and epileptic”, things prove to get even more interesting next time round.
1. Où Se Trouve La Mort?
2. The End Of A Sub-Elitist Addiction
3. Art Or Cancer
4. The Other Rat
5. Mother And Whore
6. Static Involution
7. L’Indécision D’Être
8. Keeping The Structure
Decline Of The I are:
A.K.: Guitars, keyboards, programming, samples, vocals
N : Drums
G : Vocals
More Decline of the I: