The last Prosanctus Inferi album, Noctambulant Jaws Within Sempiternal Night, was a masterpiece of dark, blasphemous, and intricate black/death metal. But it’s been seven years since, and as was hinted by the Pulpit Sycophants demo from last year, the new album Hypnotic Blood Art is a considerably different beast. Far more streamlined and almost entirely without the juxtaposition of contrasting voices that made previous work such a twisted listen, Hypnotic Blood Art initially can throw fans of the band for a loop. The core sound is still present, make no mistake; texturally, this is as revulsive as metal gets, a legitimate musical defecation on any wishy-washy notion of morality one cares to define. Moreover, Prosanctus Inferi continue proudly holding the standard for songwriting in the old metal tradition, restoring the riff to its preeminent position and sparing not one moment for the atmospheric bloat that has plagued the underground for so long.
Still, it is surprising to discover that what, on the Pulpit Sycophants demo, appeared to be only a rough draft of things to come, has in fact turned out to be the complete sound, sealed and delivered, on the new album. A bit of a curve ball, this, to revert to origins at this stage, considering how the band has been on an outward trajectory, technically and theatrically, for the last decade. The intention here is to douse the listener, minus all distractions, in a concentrated bath of the most basic elements that make up Prosanctus Inferi. This has induced what I think of as the taffy effect, where the essence of the music hasn’t really changed, but it’s all just that much more stretched out and operating at three-fourths speed. The side-effect of this is a sameness of rhythms, a criticism that could never be leveled at the previous album and its organically chopped-up nature, making the longer running time here a somewhat blurred affair. Most sorely missed, however, is the unpredictability, and the tension-release dynamic emerging from it, that made Noctambulant Jaws Within Sempiternal Night so exhilarating. Hypnotic Blood Art is still worth owning for the student of this particular sound, especially so, perhaps, in light of the above caveats; the band’s integrity and genre awareness remain beyond reproach as usual, but as a follow-up to the last album, it leaves something to be desired.