To keep slam death metal fresh, a little spice and garnish is needed. Manic crash hits, filthy vocals, and scorching riffs are all well and good, but over the course of a whole album these familiar signifiers can grow stale pretty quickly.
Ingested‘s ‘Where Only Gods May Tread’ has a good go at solving this problem. While extreme metal has always relished its ability to say whatever it wants, in 2020 it seems that it can now also do anything. Gone are the days of crude, murky death metal (bar a few intentionally revivalist sources), these are the days of expansive, ambitious, and intentionally varied heavy metal.
It’s easy to imagine a version of ‘Where Only Gods May Tread’ from about ten or twelve years ago that sounds like an early The Acacia Strain album or the frantic silliness of The Red Shore. However, instead, Ingested have crafted a far more ambitious work, one that takes everything it knows about violent, moody slam metal, and reshapes it into much more of an artistic statement than it has any right to be.
It’s a weighty album, but one composed of quirks and nuances that often come in the form of melodious breaks, like the voices of scarred angels briefly rising above the anguish of Hell. ‘Another Breath’ makes excellent use of Crowbar‘s Kirk Windstein and his whiskey-scorched voice, howling over one of the album’s more tame half-time beatdown sections. ‘No Half Measures’ plays a similar trick, going from the album’s most furious, almost Cattle Decapitation-style opening into an expansive back half overlaid with simple, thick leads.
When Ingested throw everything into the mix, it can be a glorious thing to experience. ‘Impending Dominance’ contains a final section that is a work of real beauty; choral vocals and piano keys create a build-up and release that’s as viscerally pleasurable as anything that you’ll hear in metal this year. It’s also a great showcase of Jason Evans‘s imposing and controlled vocal range, slipping between the lows and highs with elegant ease.
‘Where Only Gods May Tread’ finishes with the grand, lengthy ‘Leap Of The Faithless’. So often in this genre do bands save their most ambitious track for last, as if throwing down a final gauntlet. At nine minutes, ‘Leap Of The Faithless’ is an endurance test, however, it’s one that contains riches and rewards. After a standard punishing introduction, a Sepultura-like drum break leads into Iron Maiden melodies, creating a hugely engaging and entertaining middle section. The extremity then returns, along with some more bright and atmospheric leads, leading to a stunning, strangely poignant endnote.
Ingested‘s ambition is more than commendable. The album isn’t a masterpiece, yet it feels like they tried to make it one, which in itself is worth praising. What ‘Where Only Gods May Tread’ is is a hefty, brutal, and sometimes surprising work of extreme metal that occasionally manages to become something more than a solidly-crafted work of genre entertainment. However, what’s most exciting is the sense that Ingested still have much more to say, and a lot of new corners of Hell left to explore.