Album Review – Inkvisitor / Dark Arts of Sanguine Rituals (2018)

After suffering major lineup changes, this underground Finnish thrashing machine is back with a concept album following a neo-noir murder mystery story laced with black magic and necromancy elements.

After going through major lineup changes in the past couple of years, Jyväskylä-based Thrash Metal squad Inkvisitor is finally back with their second full-length installment, titled Dark Arts of Sanguine Rituals, following up their fun and frantic full-length debut album Doctrine of Damnation, released in 2015. Part new Inkvisitor, part swansong of the old Inkvisitor, the album introduces the band’s new lead singer Markus Martinmäki and new drummer Tino Jäntti, while at the same time it also farewells their second guitarist Lauri Huttunen (not to mention their old friend and bassist Pekka Hölönen played bass on the album as a session musician).

Featuring an old school cover art by Petteri Ylitalo (Dear Death Designs), Dark Arts of Sanguine Rituals is a concept album following a neo-noir murder mystery story laced with black magic and necromancy elements, with a single storyline progressing through the songs, and that’s one of the most remarkable changes from the band’s previous album, where lyrics revolved around the usual topics most Thrash Metal bands sing about such as nuclear warfare and beer. Another major change are the vocals by Markus, sounding a lot raspier than the Joey Belladonna-inspired style from their previous vocalist, adding an extra touch of aggressiveness to the entire album. In the end, although Inkvisitor are playing a different type of Thrash Metal in the new album, as aforementioned their core essence remains intact, resulting in a more-than-healthy and fun clash between their past and present musicality.

Starting in an Anthrax-like way, with both guitars exhaling metallic sounds while Tino pounds his drums mercilessly, the title-track Dark Arts of Sanguine Rituals feels a lot more hardcore and pugnacious than their previous album (mainly thanks to the visceral screams by Markus, as already mentioned), and their hostile Thrash Metal extravaganza goes on in another circle pit-catalyst named Second Sacrament, with both guitarists Mikko Saviranta and Jesse Kämäräinen (as well as the departing Lauri) sounding infernal with their riffs, not to mention how bestial Tino is once again behind his drums. More modern and heavier than its predecessors and featuring the only  guest  musicians of the album  on  lead  guitars  (Sebastian Frigren and Kasper Koutonen, of  Nuclear  Omnicide  and  Devenial  Verdict), A Shadow Suspended by Dust brings massive, rumbling bass sounds which set the perfect stage for Markus and his demented growls, inspiring us to crack our necks in half headbanging.

Then speeding up their pace and mixing elements from traditional Hard Rock, Punk Rock and Rock N’  Roll with their frantic Thrash Metal, Inkvisitor deliver a full-bodied thrashing extravaganza named The Confession, with highlights to the incendiary performances by Markus and Tino. Moreover, it’s quite impossible to stand still to such high level of electricity and insanity, which can also be said about Mindslaver, another Anthrax-inspired tune with classic guitar riffs and headbanging beats, presenting lyrics about how our society has failed and how we need to start everything over (“Mankind has failed, brotherhood has been lost / The prison of the mind / And the cancer of your soul / Complete the ritual, sacrifice your family / Through death you ́ll be born again / Reclaim your throne”). In Necromancy Cascade, a slower but still very heavy and impactful composition, Markus delivers deeper, more introspective vocals while the energy in the music remains at a decent level (it never really takes off, though, falling flat after a while); whereas Paradigm Shift is a berserk, demented and totally awesome hymn by Inkvisitor showcasing all elements we love in old school Thrash Metal, with the demolishing drumming by Tino dictating the rhythm while the stringed trio Mikko, Jesse and Pekka sounds absolutely thunderous with their riffs, solos and punches.

Violence keeps flowing from all instruments in the belligerent War is Path to Victory, a song tailored for slamming into the pit with your friends while Markus screams its lyrics right in your face (“What do I think I know ́bout war? / Spare a life hand over your own / Violence consists of certainty / That war is a path to victory”), before the imposing and ruthless The Revenant (Redeemer) closes the regular version of the album, bringing to our avid ears menacing drums and bass lines, soulful riffs and solos, and the most demonic vocal lines of the entire album. And last but not least, as a bonus track for the ones who buy the album either in CD or digital (and you also get an instrumental version of the whole album and a 12-page booklet with liner notes) we have Quagmire Twilight (Deleted Scene), Inkvisitor’s darkest creation, a doom-ish tune with obscure vocal lines and piercing bass lines, with that dark and heavy aura going on until the song’s devilish ending.

As aforementioned, this new version of Inkvisitor is just as electrifying and heavy as their previous release, sounding more unfriendly (in a good way) due to their new vocal approach, and if you like what the band has to offer in this new phase you can purchase Dark Arts of Sanguine Rituals (available for a full listen on Spotify) from the band’s own BandCamp page, from Record Shop X, or from iTunes, and don’t forget to follow them on Facebook and on YouTube for more of their music, news, tour dates and all things Inkvisitor. Let’s hope that Inkvisitor’s days of major lineup changes are over and that they can now focus on touring and writing more Thrash Metal, because based on what they’re offering us all in Dark Arts of Sanguine Rituals the band is on a beyond promising (and thrashing) path to success.

Best moments of the album: The Confession, Mindslaver and Paradigm Shift.

Worst moments of the album: Necromancy Cascade.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Dark Arts of Sanguine Rituals 3:31
2. Second Sacrament 3:24
3. A Shadow Suspended by Dust 5:14
4. The Confession 3:39
5. Mindslaver 3:42
6. Necromancy Cascade 5:49
7. Paradigm Shift 4:38
8. War is Path to Victory 4:46
9. The Revenant (Redeemer) 5:45

Bonus track
10. Quagmire Twilight (Deleted Scene) 5:29

Band members
Markus Martinmäki – vocals
Mikko Saviranta – guitar
Jesse Kämäräinen – guitar
Sakari Soisalo – bass
Tino Jäntti – drums

Guest musicians
Lauri Huttunen – second rhythm guitar & lead guitar on “Second Sacrament”
Sebastian Frigren & Kappe Koutonen – lead guitars on “A Shadow Suspended by Dust”
Pekka Hölönen – bass (recording)
Kalle Raijonkari & Sampo Riikkilä – additional gang vocals

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