Inanimate Existence – Death Metal StorytellersMonday, 11th August 2014
Often times in death metal, bands are drawn towards the cliché. Singing songs about death, destruction, murder, and Satan, sometimes the whole thing ends up feeling a bit trite without the proper musical flair. So when a band comes along that takes the extra effort to create something unique and interesting in it’s own light, people tend to take notice. Such is the case with California’s Inanimate Existence, whose sophomore effort, A Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement, sees the band weaving an intricate web of both technical death metal and storytelling.
How did this story come about? “One of my other hobbies besides writing music is writing short stories, so I knew I wanted to have a story based album. The first album had a few short scenario but with A Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement I wanted to have a continuous theme and characters,” states guitarist and lyricist Cameron Porras. A Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement is a story filled with eastern philosophy and mysticism, furthering what the band did with it on their debut, Liberation Through Hearing. “I have always been very interested in the Tibetan book of the dead, and their ideas of life and what lies beyond death. Our first cd is in fact named after the books translated name The Great Liberation Through Hearing in the Intermediate State. I tend to mix those ideas with dark fantasy style storytelling.” In addition to the eastern influences, Porras cites Dantes Inferno and the works of Clive Barker as influences.
A Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement tells the bloody tale of Tenzin, who is on a journey that ends in the reveal that he has murdered his wife and is on a Bioshock Infinite-esque cycle to atone for it. For those interested in the concept behind the album, the band had posted it on Facebook before the album’s release (it is also available, along with the lyrics, in the album’s linear notes) to positive feedback. “Most people seem to enjoy it, I haven’t heard anything too harsh yet haha. I’m just really stoked that people have read it and got a chance to get a glimpse of my imagination.”
Integrating story into equally complex music can be problematic if not handled properly. Porras states, “Some of the music came before I even started thinking of a storyline and I started freely writing to them. I think ‘Staring Through Fire’ came first and then I wrote rune of destruction lyrics and had to think of how the character got from the one place to the other. After having the story fully written, a few more songs, namely ‘Catacomb of Mirrors’ was written to give off an icy vibe (with the opening bells digressing in a whole tone scale) to match the lyrical concept.”
To match the album’s storyline, the band chose a particularly bright and vivid cover. A great match to the conceptual description brought up in “The Rune of Destruction,” but also one that may not strike most as even belonging to a band of the tech death variety. Porras elaborates, “We had been looking at that particular piece for a long time and it really stuck with every member. After sometime we decided it would be cool to represent our softer side with such a beautifully drawn scene. We agreed that it would stand out far more in a death metal section, whether you love or hate it.”
To round out Inanimate Existence’s approach to death metal and emphasize some of the underlying eastern influences, there are a number of “non-traditional” death metal instruments at play. Of course, the fickle death metal crowd is often critical of outside influences and tend to decry gimmickry at first chance. Thankfully, Inanimate Existence’s usage of such instrumentation expands their sound as well as giving it some atmosphere not normally associated with death metal. “We never really thought of it as gimmicky, we just wanted to experiment with new instruments in a way that wasn’t just a tacked on flute solo, but actually implemented into the melodies and that added warmth to our clean sections,” adds Porras.
With A Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement’s release last month, will we hear more of Tenzin’s story? “Actually yes, the next album is planned to be a prequel and explain the unanswered question of why Tenzin murders his wife.” The band recently shot a video for the song “The Rune of Destruction” and plans to stay busy for the remainder of 2014. “We have very high hopes for ourselves and have driven members so you can expect to see much more from us. The rest of the year we’ll basically be touring and writing the new album.”