One of the bigger Black Metal names in recent years, and rightly so, Inquisition is back with an album whose title could describe the unfortunate aftermath of these times as we progress through the twilight of 2020. Its end can’t come soon enough if you ask me, but in the meantime Black Mass for a Mass Grave provides a welcome retreat from the usual shit show with a fresh batch of those trademark hypnotic riffs along with some new dynamics added to the mix. It’s like Dagon spent the last four years building up a collection of cosmic effects and is eagerly putting them to calculated use without taking away from that signature Inquisition sound.
“Spirit of the Black Star” is the first to prove that Dagon is still a beast at writing great Black Metal riffs, and like many of the following tracks it has moments that are blatantly crushing, but there’s also a melodic flow to the notes that makes it easily accessible. This fluidity in the music creates the hypnotic effect that characterizes Inquisition’s style of songwriting. It’s always been one of their distinct qualities, and here they double down on this trance inducing talent by introducing some spacey clean guitar effects on a tremolo-picked riff. The effect takes full flight on “Luciferian Rays” with a great hook played over another hypnotic riff, and it all has an epic power and groove that’s taken over the top by the slow beat of the drums.
These slower tempos are the other standout element on this album. A slow tempo and clean guitar sound come together to create a melancholic tone on “Necromancy through a Buried Cosmos.” Another strange effect also appears on this song and shows the spacey effects aren’t limited to Pink Floyd style clean guitars but can reach levels that are almost alien. keyboards appear to contribute organs on songs like “Triumphant Cosmic Death” and more alienish sounds on “Majesty of the Expanding Tomb.” I like the use of pinch harmonics on the bold main riff of “My Spirit shall join a Constellation of Swords” which also utilizes the evil tritone sound to end in pitch blackness. While slow tempos are prevalent it never feels like the album is just plodding along. Balance is achieved, for example, when a particularly dazed out song like “Majesty of the Expanding Tomb” is followed by a faster song like “A Glorious Shadow from Fire and Ashes” where the vocal pattern and guitar rhythm sync together on the main riff to give the song even more kick. “Extinction of Darkness and Light” starts off slow but eventually builds speed and has a standout riff that sounds like a string bend or trill is used to create a different spacey effect. “Beast of Creation and Master of Time” delivers one more blast of powerful, driving Black Metal riffage and double bass before the album ends with a funerary rite taking place over an instrumental on the title track.
Inquisition mainly explores cosmic and occult themes on their albums. This one focuses on the death and grave of the cosmos itself, which is reflected in the cover artwork showing the dead cosmos being channeled into the giant void of an open grave by a figure representing Death. This must be the “grave of the cosmos, spiral of dead stars” described in “Spirit of the Black Star.” There are many lyrical references to glorifying ancient gods and entities, the search for wisdom, elemental forces, and to death triumphing over existence. While this death is glorified it isn’t regarded as negative or final. “Majesty of the Expanding Tomb” says “when extinction reaches the horizon, and no beginning is after the end, infinity rises as the throne.” Another lyric on “A Glorious Shadow from Fire and Ashes” describes “power from fire, renewed from the ashes.” These examples show how opposites eventually become one and the same and death ends up being life. “Spirit of the Black Star” adds to this idea by ending with “cycle of new life through chaos and order.”
The song title “My spirit shall join a Constellation of Swords” really caught my attention and could be an expression of how the fight continues even after death. Personally, this title also brings to mind the famous quote from Aleister Crowley that “every man and every woman is a star.” This quote has multiple symbolic meanings, but it also takes a literal meaning during a character’s vision in Crowley’s novel Moonchild. Starting on page 274 of this PDF is the quote itself and a scene where the character sees stars in space that are actually the souls of those who have lived previously. She then witnesses the process of incarnation, and the behavior of these souls as they contemplate incarnating is like seeing the bardos (from my last post) in action. Page 283 observes that “to them incarnation was death; and they did not know that death was life. They were not ready for the Great Adventure.” This easily relates to the lyrical examples mentioned above. I can’t say that Crowley was a source of absolute truth, but I’ve always found inspiration in his writings and so I’m sharing this as food for thought in connection with these albums.
It’s good to see Inquisition doing well after the last few turbulent years they’ve had. Black Mass for a Mass Grave is a solid album that delivers all the goods we’ve come to expect along with a few new surprises. The hypnotic elements were amped up on this one with various spacey effects and slower paced songs. These slower tempos may turn some listeners off, but I felt they were used with purpose and served to add more emphasis to the structure of the riffs. Far from reaching the point of monotony, this album is welcome among the rest of Inquisition’s outstanding discography. Since it utilizes more diverse effects than previous albums, I’m anxious to see what direction they will take when pursuing their next album. Until then, take the time to bask in Black Mass for a Mass Grave and all its dark cosmic glory.
I’d like to take this opportunity to remember those who have gone before us, especially this year. May their spirits also “join a constellation of swords!”