Innerload - Mater Tenebrarum

It has been a bit of a stretch but Italy’s Innerload is back with a new album and a surprisingly fresh perspective. For those who know of this four piece who started up in 2009, they’ve been performing in the past of a style that is pretty much a mix of Heavy Metal meets Fantasy Metal (though not quite on the Dragonforce level when it comes to expected cliches from the genre). However, with “Mater Tenebrarum,” the band’s third album has them almost jumping ship completely to new genre waters fully, and it works in a wonderful way. Those who were expecting Innerload to continue how they did on “Again” are going to be probably disappointed, or pleased. The first thing to note is that the band has acquired a new guitarist- Antonio Tavella- and one can tell he has something to do with the shift in sound. A little less virtuous the approach Innerload brings here is mid paced, crunchy, and yet still catchy. Like an enjoyable Thrash or even Melodeath approach. While the band has delved into other genres before in previous albums, here they really bring forth something fresh to the table that makes “Mater...” their most ambitious effort yet.

Maybe it has to do with finally signing to Great Dane Records, but the band feels like they abandoned the Heavy Metal style for almost Thrash Blackened Death Metal with their approach, especially on the vocal front. The snarls from Marco Cortese are a far cry from his crooning and almost fall in line with the croaks of Abbath from Immortal mixed with Anders Strokirk of Necrophobic. Alongside the guitars from Tavella, bass work from Alessio Novello, and drums from Lorenzo Meneghetti, the opening track ‘Tears of Blood’ set the tone for the Death meets Abbath approach. There are still some Heavy Metal traces of the band, but the lumbering pace of the track kind of sits in the middle, avoiding any frantic passages or explosive moments as the band churns along at accessible speed. The track is still something to headbang to, but not quite the anthemic pit starter that some of the previous work has been. ‘Shadow from the Past’ is more Melodeath driven and touches more on the likes of At the Gate meets Children of Bodom, but with a less keyboard atmospheric approach. Like the previous track, it keeps things at a mid pace but aims for a bit more of the ‘Heavy Metal flair’ on the guitar solo.

Innerload also try their hand at being more atmospheric/ gothic as well with their Cradle of Filth inspired intros to songs like ‘Asylum,’ ‘Again’ (gotta love that spooky piano intro and bits of layered clean singing) and ‘Mater Tenebrarum.’ Again, trying out something new and throwing curveballs, this is a bit of a big jump for the band, but it works well to set the mood before exploding into the heavier sections. Sometimes they are abrupt and jarring like on ‘Asylum,’ and other times after the creepy child singing on the crawling and successful title track it just works well with the overall flow of what Innerload are trying to do with their genre hop (here the music is definitely more Black Metal inspired overall). Think a bit more along the lines of Dark Fortress. The biggest surprise on the album for both old and new fans will probably be the appropriately titled ‘The Unexpected,’ which has the band at its softest. Cortese brings back his singing for a bit, but even here it sounds raspy, twisted, and like King Diamond going for his most sinister approach before falling back to the snarls. But here, even with the chugging guitars, one can tell the band is pushing for more melodic overall, and like many of their other tracks, the chorus is infectious, catchy, and crunching in thrashy Melodeath fashion. For those looking for something faster and more remotely close to the older albums, ‘Gemini’ has a bit more pep to it and has more of an Ensiferum vibe to it with the energy and pace the band brings to the song.

Overall, fans will be definitely willing to dive into “Mater Tenebrarum” sheerly for the fact it sounds like nothing Innerload has done before. This could easily be their Paradise Lost “Host” anomaly, but even if they go back to the typical Heavy Metal style, this album will stand out forever in their discography. While it may not be as energetic as their previous efforts, the darker and heavier approach by touching more on Thrash and Melodeath makes this third effort quite engaging and all the more ferocious. Some might argue they slowed down a bit and opted for more of the typical ‘genre single’ sounding tracks as many of them just seem to punch with a moderate approach and don’t quite have that ‘peak’ moment with the way some of the solos are developed, but compared to past work it still sounds catchy, if not catchier. Hopefully they will continue to expand on their genre approaches and delve into other things as well, making them a rather unique band indeed.

4 / 5 STARS

1. Tears Of Blood
2. Shadow From The Past
3. Asylum
4. Gemini
5. Again
6. The Unexpected
7. Down In A Black Hole
8. Mater Tenebrarum
9. Aokigahara
10. Insomnia