Their vast and expanding popularity is unquestionable, but Inquisition remain a curious phenomenon. Armed with a suitably quirky and cult backstory – formed on the mean and presumably grim streets of Cali, Colombia, and they’re a two-piece! – Dagon and Incubus have risen from obscurity to the upper echelons of the modern black metal scene, propelled along by a succession of albums that certainly seem to have ticked a few boxes for a great number of people.
Meanwhile, a similarly large number of people have been scratching their heads and wondering what all the fuss is about. As intermittently enjoyable as 2013’s Obscure Verses For The Multiverse and its five predecessors undoubtedly were, Inquisition have never really made an album that glues itself to one’s turntable, just a lot of raw and grandiose blackness that seemed to suggest a strong identity, rather than confirm it.
As a result, Bloodshed Across The Empyrean Altar… comes as something of a revelation. Superficially this marks no kind of grand departure and neither does it abandon any of the duo’s now firmly established quirks (most notably, Dagon still sounds like a toad with indigestion). But somehow these songs just feel more potent than before, as if the confidence gained from seeing their stock rise so much in recent times has pushed Inquisition to a level of collective chemistry that they had never quite reached.
The band have written songs of a similar hue to the slow-burning The Flames Of Infinite Blackness Before Creation Dies in the past, but whether due to enhanced production values, more intense performances or simply a lurking aura of unstoppable momentum, where before it would struggle to linger in the memory, here it sinks its teeth in and refuses to let go. Similarly, on both the pummelling, cosmic rush of Mystical Blood and the molten lava blitzkrieg of the title track, Inquisition appear to be growing, transcending even, in real time. Their best album by a mile and an intuitive coming of age, this confirms that it’s entirely OK to believe the hype.