Review Summary: After a fall from grace, Inanimate Existence find form once again.
Few tech-death albums have had me awaiting their arrival with equal parts enthusiasm and dread, but Inanimate Existence's Underneath a Melting Sky
was one of them. The band were a known quantity, with their sophomore, A Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement
, standing as a monument to their artistic and technical chops. However, their escapade into faux-experimentalism shortly after had soured my impression of them. But O ye of little faith, who was I to doubt? For Underneath a Melting Sky
is the sound of a band coming of age and finding their own niche: a body of work in which ambition is somewhat counterweighted by self-awareness and tact.
Embellishments are present yet subtle, and while Inanimate Existence can shred with the best of them, they play well within their abilities for the bulk of their latest opus. This isn't to say that fretboard acrobatics are absent; there are smatterings of sweeps and taps here and there, but they're used as means to ends. The band focuses on developing songs in ways that are coherent yet very intuitive, regularly stepping outside of comfort zones only to make new domains their own. Sure, the stream-of-consciousness song-writing can allow your focus to wander, as some tracks may come and go with nary an impression made. Zack Ohren's mastering doesn't help here; that said, the tones on the album aren't nearly as dry or tinny as we've come to expect from some of his usual clients (read: Fallujah). With Underneath a Melting Sky
barely surpassing half-an-hour, it is still more than listenable one sitting at a time.
Dips in interest notwithstanding, you're bound to be coaxed back into a trance by at least one of the album's ethereal leads or infectious grooves. “The Old Man in The Meadow” is a stunning blend of flair and soul, with the leads having an almost gossamer quality to them. Sporadic bottom-string chugging punctuates songs as opposed to filling them out, which works to bolster the more climactic moments further still. Underneath a Melting Sky
is thus everything its misguided precursor tried to be (sans clean vocals), heralding an infinitely brighter future than I could've hoped for them this time last year.