On “Void of Unending Depths,” Inanna Weaves a Tapestry of Death Metal (Interview)
Death metal contains multitudes. Though many OSDM fans expect pithy, quick releases with the guttural rumblings of early '90s filth, there's also a whole set of folk inclined to proggier palettes and baroque production—put simply, it seems some hew closely to Cannibal Corpse's The Bleeding while others scoff at albums that could be perceived as lower-brow and favor gnarly, tangled works such as Disembowelment's Transcendence into the Peripheral.
Happily, it doesn't have to be one or the other. Supposing you could blend knuckle-dragging pulverization with soaring solos and proggy shifts in landscape?
I'm going to put a stake in the ground here and say that Inanna's Void of Unending Depths, out last Friday via Memento Mori, is 2022's finest death metal opus to date. It's truly the best of both worlds—"Among Subaqueous Spectres" is nearly seven minutes of mid-'90s Schuldinerean shredding, but "Cabo de Hornos" is as breathtaking, challenging and epic as the mountain range after which it's named. The latter is one of the richest death metal songs in years, a tour of everything the genre encompasses. It closes the album with dense ambience, cirrus-cloud solos, vocal gravitas and a general compositional ambition that's equal parts early-aughts grandiosity mixed with contemporary production and panache. The song, in this writer's opinion, is damn near perfect.
From the jump, Void of Unending Depths is more deliberate than the band's last release, 2010's Transfigured in a Thousand Delusions. While songs on that LP veered much more often into territory that felt informed by then-nascent atmospheric black metal, Transcendence into the Peripheral is beautifully, unavoidably death metal. At its most neanderthal moments, it embodies much of what many love about the more recent resurrection of death metal's core. However, while Transfigured in a Thousand Delusions is wilder and more ecstatic, Void of Unending Depths contains both depth and expansiveness. It's a case study in the efficacy of depth vs. breadth—sure, Transfigured in a Thousand Delusions has excursions of gorgeous guitar and an overall greater vocal range, but Void of Unending Depths has that je ne sais quois that speaks to a Herculean effort on the band's part.
Part of this is the time Inanna takes with what they do. The twelve years between releases may have irritated local fans, but to the more casual observer, this just looks like a band refusing to settle for less than they were capable of. Going back and listening to Converging Ages, a 2008 release the band remastered in 2020, one feels the band's drive to grow.
"Unterdimensional" is a case in point. While it starts in meandering prog territory, the track explores everything from atonal, thrash-informed explosions of rage to to mournful sections of doom-informed voyages into madness. Single "The Keys to Alpha Centauri" is one of the most Schönbergian works on the album. Its atonal chords and languid pace give the listener plenty of time to absorb Inanna's maturation as a death metal band. Far from sluggish, the spiraling track is an invitation into a warped other realm.
Inanna has been a relatively stable four-piece. Except for Carlos Fuentes shifting from guitar to drum duty a few years back and Cristóbal González joining on guitar in 2019, the band has maintained a stable lineup, somewhat unusually for any death metal act let alone one that's existed since 2000. Their cohesion is perhaps a key ingredient to their consistent yet ever-evolving sound.
On Void of Unending Depths, Inanna has challenged themselves and won. This is celestial death metal with attention to detail. The vocal range is probably the only area where the band has held back compared to Transfigured in a Thousand Delusions—in place of that, they've created a simultaneous intricacy and seamlessness that fires off everything death metal has in its arsenal. If you're a death metal fan for any reason, you'll find something here to enjoy.
I reached out to Inanna to find out more about the LP and what the band was up to in the 12 years since their last major release. The following interview has been edited for style and clarity.
Inanna has been around since 2000, but ten years have passed since your last LP. What's happened with the band since Transfigured in a Thousand Delusions?
Max Neira (vocals and bass): Well, we've become known for the long gaps between our sound productions. In this particular case (2012–2021), a bunch of factors caused this stalling. To begin with, we made the fatal mistake, fooled by pointless dribble, and releas[ed] Transfigured in a Thousand Delusions through an unnamable local label [that] did absolutely nothing to promote the album, which took us one and a half years to produce. With no spreading at all for this material, of which we were very proud, we were overwhelmed by a general feeling of frustration. Despite all that, thanks to other contacts inside the underground, we were able to boost [it] live, especially between 2013 and 2015. After that, at the end of 2016, Felipe, our partner and drummer of many years, left the band in November 2016, fulfilling his last live date in February 2017, and thus the year ended almost in limbo. For the following period, Carlos [Fuentes] decided to take over the drummer position, and the band began to perform as a trioz_a start from scratch—in order to recalibrate [to] a new operating dynamic. In June 2019, Cristóbal arrived to complete the usual quartet formation. It is worth saying that in all this time, there was hardly any work on new music since we were worried with different tasks in order to return from the grave in top form. At the beginning of 2020, we got the record deal with Memento Mori and started writing new material just when the global disease fell on us and changed our work schedule again, especially due to the long quarantines applied in our country. In short, we managed to normalize things in early 2021 and finished the compositions and enter the studio to record it in August. As you will see, the brew of factors that held us back for almost 10 years contains quite a few weird ingredients.
Void of Unending Depths is massive and densely layered. What was the process of writing and assembling these songs?
Carlos Fuentes: This was a new process for us [that was] much more focused in the recording studio than in proper rehearsal sessions. We started the editing process in my studio organizing some demos that we had for “The Key To Alpha Centauri” and “Among Subaqueous Spectres,” which allowed us to develop a pre-production methodology that we replicated for all the other songs on the album except for "Cabo de Hornos," which was written and structured entirely by Diego in his home studio using the same method. This consisted of writing editable tempo tracks, MIDI drums as close to the real execution and recording [and] all the string work that we wanted to include in the songs. [We] immediately structured isolated ideas that each of us had, mutating riffs into songs. What we were looking for was to have clarity of each arrangement and section of the songs composed prior to recording, above all, because on this album there is a lot of cellular creation (each member putting together one or two specific songs); therefore, the group input and arrangements were very important for maintain[ing] that tradition that we used to get from the rehearsal room. The vocals and lead work were the last to be added to this work, and it served as another relevant factor of cohesion since we knew exactly where we wanted to highlight instrumental moments and where we wanted to add the energetic charge of the vocals… to lead it towards “individual” moments or macro arrangements with solos. That is how we were able to identify ourselves with an extended concept and reinforce our new line-up, obtaining Void of Unending Depths as a final result.
Obviously the pandemic came along and threw all our lives into disarray. How did you all deal with COVID, and how did that impact the record?
CF: We started the album process just a few months before the pandemic hit us all. The idea for Void already existed, but we were trying to solidify our new lineup with concerts, so when the preventive measures came, we found ourselves isolated from each other and understood that the album would be affected. At that time, only three of four of us lived in the same city… moving from one place to another was very restricted, forcing us to do everything virtually. Each one took care of himself according to the possibilities and needs of our own families, but we understood that the record had to be built, and as the restrictions began to abate, we managed to consolidate the work meetings. Thanks to a great group effort, and Raúl of Memento Mori’s patience, the album was only achieved after being delayed by one year.
This is undeniably a death metal record. That said, the riffage and solos on tracks like "Cabo de Hornos" take things far beyond old-school death metal worship. What, in your view, sets you apart from other death metal acts?
MN: “Cabo de Hornos” is a special tune like other compositions written by Diego [Ilabaca, guitarist,] in the past. Although his subconscious conspires with speed, dread, and massive intricate chords, in classic DM fashion, his brain transfers it to the canvas in a totally different way that the rest of the band individually couldn’t achieve as songwriters. It is an almost indefinable and inexplicable entity factor that lives in this dude’s mind, and that has clearly given us the necessary push to forge a style that is out of the ordinary, but in consistency with the ancestral DM chants. From an early age, what attracted us as a group to this style was the freedom with which one can create and naturally take things further. I found the old-school death schtick odd knowing it was born a few years ago. By 1991, death metal was still in its development stage, so for us, that term doesn't make any sense. If you want to play old-school, just repeat the same old riffs, bore yourself to death, and work your ass off to sound exactly like the old bands. It's really tiring to be chained, and we as a band want to enjoy our work. “Cabo de Hornos” is a perfect illustration of our musical stand.
What are some of the concepts driving Void of Unending Depths? You notably reference Lovecraft and Cthulhu in promotions.
MN: As the group’s lyricist, of course Lovecraft and Cthulhu are constant influences and an almost overwhelming presence. If I had never picked up one of those books like 25 years ago, I might never have written a single line. Void of Unending Depths is not a concept album like [The Who's] Tommy or [Genesis's] The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway but a collection of songs with a common thread that joins them together. Our only object of worship is human insanity, nothing else, [and] with that inspiration you can fill pages and pages. The literature of H.P. Lovecraft, as well as many other different genres of fiction [and the study of] history, teaches us the tortuous, unpleasant and endless path of this aberration called humankind. Cthulhu… is literary horror; it’s a perfect embodiment of [the] human conscience’s fears. [But] it's no use to pull out a can of clams, light some candles over a painted pentagram and try to summon a giant actual octopus. We are not into some cult whatsoever.
Continuing on that theme, Lovecraft was like us, obsessed with the sea; the immensity of its terrifying surface and its mysterious depths provokes thoughts that are buried where the limits of the flesh meet the spiritual side. Sea tales are as old as the written word itself. In short, I repeat, we are not occultists, we are only mentally unbalanced. In my personal case, I like vicious anxiety and a permanent death-wish knowledge. However, there’s nothing wrong with reading about dark old practices, magic, alchemy, medieval thinking. It will always be good material to broaden perspectives.
What made you decide to go with English over Spanish?
MN:We never use our own language, except in very rare occasions, such as names or specific places. Spanish is an amazing, complex and extraordinary language if you want to dedicate yourself to writing; in fact, in my opinion it is richer than English. But us writing texts in a foreign language was there from the beginning, reading for example the lyrics of “Show No Mercy” or “Seven Churches” next to a dictionary, and then writing dumb childish evil songs in the schoolyard. Metal is a universal thing, so if we want some kid in Lithuania, Tunisia or Thailand to be able to understand at least the titles and the oversight of our dementia, English is the most [useful] language… and all our songs are sung in good old English.
Can we expect to see Inanna in the US or Europe anytime soon in support of this record?
MN: It would be a delight to be able to visit the US or Europe. We hope to be able to make some deal with a serious booking group to be able to promote the album or even [book] a single gig far from here. We have traveled the entire width [of Chile from] south to north, but Inanna has never been able to appear in other lands, not even in our neighboring countries, which also would be great. We hope to be able to take the plane and cross the pond. In the meantime, we will dedicate ourselves to what suits us best—writing and performing our music in the best possible way.