To make it in the metal game (well, the music game in general but we mainly review metal, so we’ll go with that) you need to bring a lot of things to the table. You gotta have ’em all, or you have nothing. That said, there are times when you can have just a little and have it work.
This, sadly, isn’t one of those times.
Enter Appalling, a blackened death metal band hailing from Richmond, Virginia of all places. Inverted Realm is their second release, the follow-up to their 2017 opus Secrets of the Adept. The music you’ll find here is sort of a happy medium between black and death metal, but not as you’d expect. See, Inverted Realm often cuts closer to the punk roots of black metal, marrying a crust-adjacent death metal approach to riffing. This is accompanied by gutturals, more often than not blast beats and actually pretty goddamn nice bass. Before I go any further, I have to say that Appalling take cues from (at the very least) early Suffocation, their less slam-like material at any rate. Which is good.
The thing about Inverted Realm is that it is terribly uninspired. Tracks here feel less like they are songs and more like just meanderings. Doesn’t help that everything is decidedly low-impact. The track, Epileptic Sermon, is a perfect example of this: it just passes by without leaving any impression whatsoever. The songs slog through without any proper breakout moments or even bass drops (for fuck’s sake) to speak of.
That’s another thing – the songs have that “interlude” quality to them, where they just start and end without having anything resembling actual progression. It would remind me of the more disjointed, jazz-oriented stuff, except Inverted Realm just doesn’t have what it takes to get on their level.
This is a very real problem, to be sure, but the production only makes it worse. It’s underwhelming, to say the least. The sound lacks any punch and power. By trying to go for a raw sound, Appalling have effectively robbed it of impact. What results is a very dry, very basic sound with nothing interesting going on. It doesn’t help that the drums are insanely buried and you have to struggle to hear the kicks – and given that the snares are of the brush-like variety, the drums fade in and out through the album. This is an exceptionally bad thing when blast beats “hit” and then all you have left is a tremolo-picked passage sort of hanging in the air.
In short, although I was at first impressed by it, I don’t think Appalling did a very good job on this one. But, as always: fans of death, brutal death and brutal-adjacent death may get a kick out of it. For others, there are far better albums out there.
DM – guitars
JK – guitars
BM – vocals
JA – bass
01. Hot Coals for Branding
02. Shameful Kiss
03. Epileptic Sermon
04. Artifact and Vessel
05. A Mutilator at Large
06. Critical Thinking