INNER SANCTUM – Legions Awake
“About time eh, chaps?” was my first thought when Inner Sanctum announced their debut full-length release Legions Awake. It has been 6 years since their debut EP Provenance came out and while dwellers of their hometown Bangalore clearly knew otherwise, I honestly thought the band had packed things up. So imagine my surprise when a huge announcement of a new song and lyrics video was made and further details about the German connection (producer Lasse Lamert|LSD Studios) were announced. To top it all off we have the fantastic album artwork created by the band’s vocalist Gaurav Basu a.ka. Acid Toad.
Musically, this album falls into a thrash-ish category but (fortunately) there are almost no indications of the now tried and tested old school thrash metal sound that even the old-school pioneers themselves have all but abandoned. This band likes to throw in a hell of a lot of groove into its music, playing notes to the beat, off them and dancing jigs all around them. The groove clearly drives the songwriting and binds together the several genre influences that this band derives from, most notably thrash and death metal. Inner Sanctum have clearly taken their time to write a debut album the gets noticed and is not too easily forgettable. Everything between their orchestral crescendo opener (‘Incipiens’) to the album’s rich, melodic closer (‘Guardian’) is arranged and performed with misleading tightness, making you believe this album is probably the latest in an already established discography. ‘Wake of Destruction’ is a perfect first song, establishing the band’s template and trademarks. Right off the bat, the riff-writing is just stupendous. As mentioned before, there is a clear thrash influence but the notes are played off the beat, as opposed to just running like a generator while the drummer does his own thing. The way the strings and skins on this album work together brings a smile to the face. There are double bass juxtapositions galore, cymbals crash when the arpeggio lands on a note within the scale, floor toms join forces with the bass drum for the really heavy root note poundings and much, much more. The vocal rhythms are perfectly timed to the beat as well. Gaurav Basu’s vocal tone is the right mix of guttural and high pitch, being a middle path between the death metal and thrash metal trademarks. There are sections of evil, melodious clean guitar notes playing over a note that rings for the whole bar, notably on the title track, ‘Tainted Soils’ and ‘March of the Wounded’.
And then there is, of course, the much talked about ‘Existence Denied‘; the song that features quite an all-star guitar solo line-up of Christopher Amott, James Murphy and Daniel Mongrain. This one kicks of with a frenzied drum roll that heralds the syncopated galloping hook of the song. This song bears the now established band signatures. However,the most exciting part comes at the end where all 3 guest performers actually play a three-way guitar solo death match against each other. The best part of it is how one can easily distinguish between their signature playing styles and guitar tones, whether it is Amott’s more measured style (the Arch Enemy way), Mongrain’s evident technical death metal finesse or Murphy’s almost maniacal pinch-drenched style. The song is a real treat to listen to, just like the entire album. And good god, the production on it! Each instrument is so crisply evident on it, especially the all-pervading bass of Abhishek Michael that really is half the meat of the sound, the other half being the drummer, Abhinav Yogesh. Both guitar players dominate their spaces and the vocalist sits on his nice little throne that the instruments create for him. Lasse Lamert’s experience shines out on this album. This is an album that should be cherished by the members and fans alike, and should work absolute wonders at awakening new legions for Inner Sanctum the world over.