Written by Kep
Unflesh – Inhumation
Technical Melodic Death Metal from New Hampshire, USA
Releasing April 2, 2021
A while back, in his review for the new Orecus album, John Angel asked “How do you like your death metal?” It’s a good question, and so, with a tip of the hat to John, today I’d like to ask you the same. What is your death metal flavor of choice? Do you like it technical, precise as hell and complex? Maybe you prefer it on the melodic side, with soaring guitar lines and a touch of power metal flair. Or do you want it blackened, icy with just the right amount of evil filth?
Well, who says you have to settle for just one? If your answer to the above multiple-choice question was “I’ll take it all,” then you’re going to adore Inhumation, the latest release from New Hampshire-based outfit Unflesh.
A one-time solo project that has since been expanded to comprise three members, Unflesh is the brainchild of Ryan Beevers, who handles guitars, vocals, and the majority of the songwriting. He’s joined by bassist Orin Hubbard and drummer Jeff Saltzman (who’s also in Aversed) for Inhumation, the first release with this lineup. The record is eight tracks and 46 minutes, and it’s a tour de force of technical melodic death with a few tasty doses of blackened frost to mix things up, performed by a lineup of extremely talented musicians. The band most easily compares to groups like Arsis, The Black Dahlia Murder, Beyond Creation, and Obscura, although there are fewer prog elements on display here than in the latter two groups’ recent releases.
Let’s get this out of the way immediately: Beevers’ talent on the guitar is immense, and both his leads and solos are remarkably impressive across the entirety of the album. I lost track of how many times I thought to myself “damn, that’s a tasty lick in the guitar”, and I wrote down “HOLY SHIT THAT SOLO” in my notes on multiple occasions. His riffs feature tons of arpeggios and near-constant activity, and there are headlong acrobatics nearly all of the time. As far as the solos go, there’s at least one on each song (excluding the intro track), and every. single. one. is amazing. He includes a little bit of everything: sometimes shredding, other times working alluring melodic material, and still, others duetting with himself on excellent two-guitar harmonies. “Holocaust of Stars” features maybe the finest examples on the album, with two concise solos that run the full gamut of elements. It’s impressive work, and it only goes to further the effects of Beevers’ songwriting, which is also really solid. The tracks are varied in tempi, form, and feeling but make a cohesive package.
Inhumation features tons of great little compositional moments, like in rip-roarer of an opener “Vast Forest of Impaled Cadavers”, where tight shifts between 4/4 and 3/4 time serve to highlight transitions in and out of the track’s main sections. My favorite passage is an extended black/speed metal riff just after 2:20 in “Amongst Horrors Must I Dwell” that channels last year’s Kvaen album to a startling degree. I also loved the final moments of closer “Dehumanized Legion”, where a slow, dignified riff finishes the album in a suitably epic, poignant way after the ending lyrics include the words “I will prevail.”
Beevers’ vocals are throaty and furious, with a tone similar to that of James Malone of Arsis, and they feel right for the style; however, there’s little to no variation in tone, pitch, or dynamic. It’s certainly not a dealbreaker, but it is something that becomes more and more noticeable as the album’s 46 minutes go by. Hubbard and Saltzman both impress with their performances on bass and drums respectively. Hubbard in particular really shines with a ton of licks that jump out from his already-complex bass lines, like the tasty little moment around a minute and a half into “To Renounce Flesh and Blood”. The counterpoint between guitar and bass is easily my favorite aspect of this record; the two lines are active and dynamic and play off each other constantly.
This brings me to my biggest complaint about Inhumation: the production. It’s not bad, per se, but the mix is a bit on the loud side, and more nuance is needed. There are so many great things going on in each of the instruments, but the production counteracts some of that. The mixing and mastering was actually done by V. Santura of Dark Fortress and Triptykon fame, and I wonder if the black metal influence did a disservice to the intricacies of Unflesh’s technicality. For example, the vocals are dominant in the mix, which works well to highlight the lyrical content, but also serves to obscure some really excellent instrumental action. There are multiple places where the guitars carry a great melodic riff, but are overshadowed a bit by the vocals, like in the chorus of “The Sepulchral Depths”. There are also moments where the bass breaks into a cool solo-esque riff, but the overall noise of the guitar production keeps it from jumping out the way it should. Bands like Beyond Creation have really mastered a heavy but clear sound in this style, and I wish Inhumation leaned more in that direction.
Complaints aside though, my hat is off to Ryan Beevers and his two collaborators, who have created an album here that is worth a listen on the basis of the talent on display alone. Add to that talent the cohesive package of songs, and Unflesh’s Inhumation equals a solid, enjoyable effort.
Favorite track: Amongst Horrors Must I Dwell