The Danish group Iniquity without question is my most loved death metal band not just of the 1990’s but of all time. I could pile on the reasons and have in past writings. Their style is distinct and their unmatched might mixed with complex, soulful writing remains impressive no matter who they’re juxtaposed with.
I’ve heard virtually all their material hundreds of times over, I own all their records and obsess over their 1996 debut Serenadium to an unhealthy degree. So when I found out the line-up from their second greatest release The Hidden Lore had reassembled and was planning a series of tours, I was floored. I was too young to even be aware of them or the genre when they were active, let alone get into a show. I was also on the wrong continent.
Of course I knew I’d never get to see Iniquity live even when they came back (MDF was their only North American tour date) and that they weren’t going to release anything new — in fact I’d rather they didn’t — but just the idea that they’re playing their best material as spot on as on record again somewhere, even without Petrowsky, made me feel good.
As one can imagine I felt even more surprised and pleased when I then read that they were compiling and repressing their long gone Entering Deception demo tape along with their ’93 Promo tape on one record. The reasoning is that there is some significant material on both releases that I haven’t heard. The only stuff of theirs I haven’t heard outside of maybe the early Swollen material, which made it into Iniquity’s discography later (‘Cocooned’, ‘Surgical Orb’, “Forensic Alliance”, etc.).
If you don’t know anything about Iniquity, go listen to Serenadium or The Hidden Lore until you’re bleeding profusely from its unique bludgeoning.
What’s special about finally having these two releases back-to-back (aside from the fact they’re on some nice wax and art now) is you get two very distinct phases of Iniquity’s evolution, and it’s a sharp contrast in some respects.
You can clearly hear over the span of both sides when the band found it’s footing, grabbed their truly incredible style, and ran with it. The influence of Petrowsky on their early sound is important especially when you compare it to their later discography which while strong does not leave you reeling in psychosis.
The first side is Entering Deception, a demo tape which came out in 1992 and it’s the band in their infancy for sure. It shows though that Iniquity could carve out some prime death metal even at this stage of their song craft. Not entirely stand-out shit from every angle but it will grip you for the duration of the four tracks in its musty, feral clutches.
If you need some vague comparisons maybe early Cannibal Corpse with Barnes, or Suffocation, Morbid Angel, Dismember, perhaps early Gorguts at times (though not as refined) with that muddy Scandinavian vibe controlling things. Perhaps rising from similar influences as Sweden’s Seance or Candlemass.
While not as prominent here the intricacy they’d later develop can be glimpsed at points: Petrowsky’s writing is solid and building at this stage with a few memorable, grimy moments specifically in “Torn” (probably the stand out); the one track on this side that I’ve heard previously from their compilation CD. It’s just missing a few more elements that appear later but there is no lack of creativity or force.
Iniquity’s form here is definitely more ‘raw’ and filthy, the jagged shank in comparison to the machined psychic scalpel that is Serendium. Songs are generally floating in the three minute zone compare to later material which was generally five minutes without tiring.
The production is clouded much more so then on the other side, suiting the more orthodox direction. Its a little messy with the opening of the first track clipping/shaking a little. Bass only surfaces occasionally while drumming is handled well but not as notable. Lyrical cadence and structure follows a more standard path, subject matter still playing with horror and pain and Petrowsky’s vocals remain a perfect gravelly roar.
‘Torn’, the first song on this side, is the closest in structure to their later releases and showcases immediately the bands vicious intent and ability to craft seething skirmishes of death metal. The opening moments bring a shredding groove that seems to be dragging as the notes ascend, and then into a chunky standard gallop but doubled up; breaking into different spaces now and then.
As it progresses the mashing of riffs and percussion creates a dirty pit of jagged death that reeks of old-school, solo and all. There’s a sick hook near the end before the opening sounds come back: simple, smart, deadly death break down.
‘Mortal Drowse’ is quick and pummeling and the first of which I had not been exposed to beforehand. Following the battering, rumbling pace of the previous track though not as notable. By the time it hits the finish line it’s a ridiculous blur of low end grit with only a moment to breathe.
‘Entering Deception’ feeds off the final moments of the last track but becomes less tangled later on as, especially the slogging breakdown under the shrill solo (channel’s a little far back at that point). It is the shortest track here and it feels like it.
The closer for this side ‘Worlds of Despair’ opens with some sampling, muffled creaking and banging, screams, and a warped series of tones like a clock chime — and then the raspy scream and torrent of wiry tremolo riffs. At around the two minute mark a bridge emerges with a nice climbing lead breaking in between the scratchy turmoil, leading to the reversal of said guitar on the channel until a fade out.
When you flip to the second side you’re faced with something entirely different. In fact it is almost like a different band, that’s how drastic the evolution is.
First the keyboard element which is far more pervasive than even in Serenadium. And like said album the keyboards are put at the perfect moments to increase the doomy or spectral atmosphere of their already intensely eerie death metal sound exponentially. You may be (wrongly) expecting cheese but there is none — however sometimes for whatever reason I flashback to that movie Phantasm when I hear the strong wailing currents this aspect works with.
If you can’t tell I don’t consider it a bad thing. Actually it feels obvious it was a necessary element to make the track’s aggressive swells so much more dynamic even though there’s usually a stigma that’s attached with the instrument. It’s different chimes for example in ‘Retorn’ and ‘Bound By An Absent Mind’ sound like they should be hacky but come out in the uproar heavy and intoxicating, really enriching an already towering song.
This element was handled by Carsten Nielsen, I’m unaware as to who wrote or placed shit for the instrument on this record, I don’t think he’s on Serenadium but his input definitely carried over. Overall this aspect of their promo is both fundamental the their sound here and yet it doesn’t feel like you’d need to tag a “symphonic” on it, they’ve found a strange and very pleasing middle ground that I’d imagine is difficult to do.
Aside from the above, the next thing that will strike you is the complexity of the songs and their smooth flow; the guitar and drums specifically. You’ll also notice the low end is a few notches higher with the bass right up there with everyone else, an element that’s often missing in the genre but something Iniquity nails on this, Serenadium and The Hidden Lore.
The guitar tone is far more ruthless, sticky and deep especially coupled at the hip by that ugly bass ripping bellow; another element missing in the previous demo. I don’t think it’s tuned as low as later records just from comparing different recordings.
Songs are all a lot longer and more engaging, approaching the level of brilliance on Serendium at many points. In fact as perfect as Serenadium is in my opinion, you could’ve added any or all of these four tracks to it and the quality would not be tarnished, and only climb higher.
The added emphasis on the bassist’s position in the mix is another noteworthy change, becoming a far more key element to the song structure here than in Entering Deception. Not just in terms of being heard and often give space on brief solos, but in terms of the parallel technical work and amount of power to the punch of each note. This is also the case when alongside the copious synths in slower moments not just coordinating with the guitar riffs.
Percussion is more involved with Jacob Olsen on the drum kit. He is responsible for the complex destruction you hear on Serenadium so it’s at this point that a key element of what made their next record so strong is introduced. It’s unfortunate left right after Serenadium was recorded and only messed around in Swollen for a little while later on because here you get a glimpse of some strong skills right at the start.
On to some of these tremendous songs.
The first blow you’ll receive from this gem comes in the form of ‘Bound By An Absent Mind’, uncanny keys in the beginning pumping in the atmosphere when the guitars tear their way into the song, a thoroughly chunky opening riff before the vocals, bass and drums come in. Iniquity’s style is on full display and it shines so fucking bright it’s blinding. The ghastly synths linger all over this track and it is only a good thing. Varied effects on the guitars and bass (good use of phaser).
Multiple moments throughout there are pauses for the bass or keys to blast alone. Preceded by a phenomenal solo the middle sees a bit of a switch in pace for a time. In fact during the last quarter of the track a little more of their earlier sound returns but far more refined and layered, breaking down into more slow, synth supported, marching and bouncing. The outro synth is a bit on the delicate side.
‘Entagled’ is the first track on this promo I’ve heard previously. Another blistering technical song injected with copious amounts of horror-esque atmosphere, and a flurry of piano keys near the end that breaks up the thorough pounding that is bewildering enough; ending with a classical guitar/piano outro (handled by Clause Zeeberg, not Nielsen).
I mean if you’re not knocked over by that starting section then give up. It’s something that only appears right there, no repeats. Petrowsky’s growls in tortured disgust burst forth, the slow down after it punctured with bass, then that brilliant rupture of soft tones through the grumbling, powerful licks, a slightly depressive and funeral feeling. This gets thrown in near the end with even more aggression especially from Olsen on that snare.
Another great section? The explosion at 1:30 which does repeat multiple times to my delight, and then the slow unraveling afterwards that tumbles into more strangeness. This one’s just packed with enrapturing moments: right around three minutes in, the working of those pinched harmonics and slides making things sound quite tense.
This song is not only impressive in it’s variation and writing, it’s fucking memorable and addictive — I have the final minutes of the slow break down and synths run though my head long after it’s gone.
‘Dawn… The Epitaph’ crashes down directly after Entagled with those ghostly synths putting in a ton of work again to great effect as the chunky bass and guitar fly through climbing riffs and thick grooves, occasional galloping rhythms. Again their early form returns redefined. It’s punched up again after by those synths which seriously make a difference, only breaking for a sick solo and then a collapse of busy percussion and riffs.
The slower procession that hits the mid point is heavy on atmosphere once again and resembles a few moments from their later work. Funeral and dark a quick sweeping solo sears the brain and then leaves for the atmosphere to regain control. Sometimes this short promo kind of feels like what twilight-zone Emperor might have sounded like if death metal was the shade they fell under.
After the outro from ‘Dawn… the Epitaph’ which is sort of a reworked outro from the track prior, we have one of my favorite tracks. ‘Re-Torn’ is the closer, a kind-of sequel to “Torn” I would guess. This one actually appears on Serenadium but this is a different and far more awesome version than even that beast. Never thought I’d say that . I’m pretty sure it’s not tuned as low as the Serenadium version and it’s a bit faster at a few key points.
There’s many reasons this track slays hard outside of the raw creativity and energy behind it on a base level. The keys and bass elements stick out far more than the final version and the layered vocals (Petrowsky’s deep gravel roars and higher screams) are a nice touch at points especially at the climax before the solo near the end. The intro gives the false impression this song could be a little bland or paint by numbers but these fears are dashed immediately.
It’s easy to point out various parts where the changes increase the grip this song has exponentially: for instance the ‘chorus’ if you will right after the repeats of the intro riffs (around :50 in) is so fucking sick and makes another appearance at the end.
Bass and keyboard are working together deliciously, then when it circles back around for a second go at 1:22 in it’s undeniably flattening and spellbinding: the break for a brief whisp of cymbal work and then an eruption. The chime of the keys with with all that ferocious artificial-harmonic-filled writhing layered with crushing percussion behind it come together to create an absolutely mind-blowing sound.
The breakdown afterwards is great as is that thick bass solo. It gets a lot slower with an ugly depressive groove made all the more sour with the piano in the back, utilizing more of the pinched harmonics that they wield so well. The layered, slow closing torture in the best way on all fronts.
Conclusion? I could not recommend this record or band more to anyone remotely interested in death metal. It might be the only ‘new’ release we get from Iniquity but it’s delicious. This was their earliest manifestation and in two releases they made huge leaps in their sound.
It’s like getting new material with the bonus of if Petrowsky came back for a few minutes. The only thing better would be a vinyl pressing of Serenadium but it seems the label won’t allow that.
There are still two versions of this available, the standard black wax version and a black/white swirl which is limited to 100 copies: only available through Serpent Pulse in Europe. I picked up the black version from Dark Descent Records (photos below) but to be honest I’m probably going to cave and pick up the limited one at some point.
Both versions have some nice cover art by Phoebus A.D. Moreleon reworked from their old promos. There’s a two page gatefold insert/lyric sheet loaded with scanned images of the original cassette art and lyrics, promo photos, flyers, and ticket stubs with a huge version of the Promo 93 art work on the front of it.