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Dispel - Inferno (self-released)

16 November 2022

Most genres in the darker, heavier ends of the music realm have toyed with fantasy and fantastic ideas. Rockers have rambled on in the footsteps of Tolkien characters, Goths have danced through gardens of delight, and metallers have shimmied up silver mountains in search of the man. Such songs and sentiments have worked to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the skill of those weaving the story. In the hands of poets, the lyrics are convincing and transportive; in the hands of many, they are ungainly and even risible.

Inferno works because of the commitment that Dispel put into the worlds they build with their music. They don’t just use the words they conjure to suggest the settings and scenarios; they use them to transport you to that otherworldy world where their songs are set.

A wise man once said that their music sits “Somewhere between Mallory’s Morte D’Arthur, a Tarot card reading, and a late-night session of Dungeons & Dragons.” Actually, it wasn’t a wise man. It was me. But I stand by such a statement; their blend of folklore, symbolism and high fantasy themes is both rich and intoxicating. (When you have written a description that you think is smart and a bit high-brow, you want to use it more than once. Right?)

They also have the ability to pull off that most complex and controversial of ideas, the concept album. With Inferno, we follow Dante’s words and Virgil’s footsteps into the mouth of hell, each song centred on one of the sins identified in his work.

And such an epic subject requires similarly epic music. And that is what we get. With the dark Gregorian chant as we stand before the first gate, as instructed, we abandon all hope. Unless that is, you are hoping for a deft blend of darkwave washes, raw and raucous rock urges, dark and delicious gothic grooves, cavernous walls of sound, delicate interludes, and neo-classical vocals. If that is your want, then you’re in luck.

“Dispater’s Lust” is doom-laden and dense, “Flames of Greed” is the sound of the part of hell that post-punk musicians are quartered in, probably where Souixsie acquired her Banshees from, and “Rings of Violence” is slow and harmonious. It leads us to the final act, the spoken word “Escape Epilogue”, which brings us back to the light.

Hell: The Musical! Awesome!

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