by MythofRock

Labels shouldn’t be regarded as the sole holders of truth in metal genres; high-quality material is also hidden within independent releases, where some light should be shed. The largely unknown melo-death band Inner Sanctum from Freiburg, Germany, have a twenty-year history. They never signed a contract with a label, instead paving their way with their own means. However, their decision to self-finance their albums wasn’t the only factor obstructing access to wider audiences. Inner Sanctum started as a band of friends and have remained so until now; they never considered their band an entity that would operate under a more “professional” framework, requiring the typical sequence “composition-recording-release-tour” on a regular basis. Indeed, rare discographic activity like Inner Sanctum’s (three albums until recently) seldom helps bands gain recognition, regardless of quality standards.
After eight long years since their last release and some unavoidable delays, “The Great Odd Ones” reached our ears, a concept album narrating the corruptive influence of some kind of monstrous sea gods (a direct reference to Lovecraftian mythos). As you may expect from such a lyrical concept, Inner Sanctum weave darkened themes and successfully immerse the listener in a nautical, horrific atmosphere, drawing on the heaviness and roughness of death metal and the epic splendor of melodies.
What’s impressive about “The Great Odd Ones” is the musical richness you encounter in all songs. None of them have a “flat” structure or logic; on the contrary, all tracks contain, like distilled liquor, the experience that Inner Sanctum have gathered over two decades. Technically demanding death patterns, grooves, acoustic parts, and appealing, melancholic melodies and solos are combined in versatile compositions of changing tempos and moods, keeping the listener constantly vigilant; the excellent “Abgott Death Kult” perfectly reveals the truth of the band’s temperament.
Often, albums of that kind suffer from a lack of memorability. I recently commented on a similar occasion that you listen to them, and sooner or later, you move on. Inner Sanctum avoid this trap by diligently composing ideas that, besides aggression, feature epic, captivating melodies of grimness and desperation, which may “play” maliciously on the verge of the cold, blackened sound. In this respect, pay attention to how peaks like “Juggernautic” and “Thalassophobia” are structured, and notice how melodicism collaborates harmonically with the other elements, making these songs, as “difficult” to the ear as they may initially sound, memorable and majestic.
Farms and Yoric deliver splendid riffing that’s heavy, sharp, and occasionally technical and groovy, with references to traditional death acts, all while maintaining the catchiness of their ideas. The intricate rhythm section perfectly corresponds to the band’s essence, which wouldn’t be as death-reeking and ominous without Kolai’s powerful growls (his guttural abilities might also be suitable for more savage forms of death metal).
The band neither do something unfamiliar or unheard, nor transform the facets of melo-death in unexpected ways; their influences are evident, yet their material is so meticulously composed and structured that you cannot avoid paying attention. Your hearing sense might be particularly stimulated by “Godfisher”, a rather “radio-friendly” idea that was probably born out of gothic rock’s womb, making a striking antithesis with the succeeding and more savage “Battlements of Abomination” (a re-recording of the band’s distant debut).
As you listen to the concluding “Those Who Never Sleep”, with its haunting melody, you realize that you’ve experienced a cryptic, grim work full of aggression, strength, and beauty, where work on guitars is certainly in the spotlight. Inner Sanctum’s stuff is captivating and strikingly detailed, while the narrative overwhelms the listener “deep down, below…”, where the aquatic gods dwell. All this beauty, hidden in details, shouldn’t go unnoticed.

♦ 8/10

Alex Nikolaidis

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