Prosanctus Inferi – Pulpit Sycophants (Demo, 2019)

Prosanctus Inferi return after five years with a collection of demos in anticipation of a proper full length later in the year. No other contemporary band in death metal has quite managed to capture the idea of music as blasphemy in the manner heard on Noctambulant Jaws Within Sempiternal Night; harking back, perhaps even signifying the culmination of developments first introduced by Havohej, Incantation, and Immolation, Prosanctus Inferi turn sound itself against the conception of holiness on a primal, subconscious level. Music is classically described as that which most closely approximates the essentially unquantifiable nature of God and the soul, but in the hands of this band, it becomes a weapon against those hallowed assumptions, a twisted distortion and desecration of cadences, even when heard in the light of a genre that has regularly flouted conventional harmony. That they achieve this effect while staying adamantly musical and song-oriented, without resorting to avant-garde detours or overt minimalism, makes them one of the most important death metal bands in the modern era.

The songs on Pulpit Sycophants represent the outline but no more of what can be reasonably expected on the full-length. Conspicuous by its absence is the lead guitar, such an important tool on previous recordings where it routinely squirmed all over the rhythm in myriad scrambled and inverted configurations. As such, it now becomes possible to discern just how big an influence Havohej and Dethrone The Son Of God are on the Prosanctus Inferi sound; in terms of note choice and variations in rhythm, these songs unmistakably reference the older band, whilst ironing out its slightly impulsive nature and addiction to groove. Jake Kohn’s vocals consciously mirror Paul Ledney’s larynx-shredding eruptions more than ever before, stretching out each syllable to its breaking point and quite possibly having an effect on the elongated phrasing of the underlying composition. Unlike Havohej, however, Prosanctus Inferi excel at creating more than just a quilt patchwork of  potent dissonant riffs; this is a band that is adept at surreptitiously varying the texture of the call-response aesthetic within the same bar of music, toying with listener expectations and as a subliminal consequence also making way for a vaguely hypnotic lilt in proceedings. Melody is used with understated effect but it undeniably exists and frequently gives these songs an epic-tragic flavor that belies their fundamentally chromatic nature. Like Condemner, Prosanctus Inferi stitch their riffs out of many moving parts across the chromatic register and not always in a linearly ascending/descending manner; all it then takes for a relatively stable melody to emerge from this cluster of notes is a strategic point of resolution.

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