Inhalo — Sever
Dutch alt-rock proggers Inhalo have released what may be the most pleasant surprise of the summer with their debut album, Sever. The album is a blend of atmospheric heavy rock with a distinctly modern style, influenced by recent generations of progressive metal. The band comprises Fons Herder (vocals), Roy Willems (guitar), Peter Cats (bass) and Pepijn Gros (drums). While this may be their debut, the members have many years of experience working with bands such as A Liquid Landscape, Ivy's Dream, and The Heaven's Devils, and touring with Karnivool, Riverside, and Marillion.
The album is bookended with two short, mild piano-driven tracks that demonstrate the balance Inhalo bring to their music. They may start and end on quiet notes, but they bring the heat on the rest of the record.
Subterfuge has a Tool influence with a pounding, repetitive wall of crunch and lightly distorted vocals. Mirror Door and Last Vestige have a similar sound, especially with the galloping bass on Mirror Door. The build up to the towering wall of sound near the end of Sisyphan is stunning.
Whether you want to call this rock or metal, it doesn't really matter when the result is this good. The atmospheric swells of the drums and guitars mixed with the soaring vocals reminds me a lot of TesseracT, which is certainly a good thing as they are a band I have really come to enjoy over the last year. Inhalo don't have quite the heavy edge that TesseracT have, but there are a lot of similarities. The vocals are very similar to Daniel Tompkins. They also mix the heavy with the quiet in similar ways. The biggest difference is the lack of "djent" in Inhalo's heavy passages, as well as the lack of heavily distorted vocals. But when you boil it down, I've found myself enjoying Sever for many of the same reasons I enjoy TesseracT.
Pretenders similarly makes use of a TesseracT-ian soundscape with the vocals and the way they are layered over passages that slowly build from quiet to a crescendo, with a heavy guitar solo, before dropping back down to finish. Inhalo also include elements throughout the album that remind me a bit of some of the work Haken or Riverside have done. It's interesting to hear a band blend various modern influences in a fresh way.
Eventide again finds the band building up to a magnificent heavy wall of sound by the end of the song. I only wish that high would have lasted longer, because it's a great moment. The vocals could have also used a little more finesse at that point in the song. Perhaps a heavier degree of distortion would give the vocals the punch needed to match the wall of guitars, bass, and drums that clammer for attention at that point in the track. All the same, Eventide is an enjoyable song.
I appreciate how the instruments are all played to particular moments in the songs. The drums can be heavy and bombastic when they need to be, yet delicate and calm at other points. The same can be said of the guitars.
Sever drew me in at the first listen. For a debut album, the band certainly display excellent songwriting and soundscape abilities. I look forward to future albums from them, as this one will likely be making my top ten list at the end of the year.
Well this came as a bit of a surprise. You never know with debuts, but on investigation there is a pedigree behind the new Dutch band Inhalo. Its members have played shows in bands such as A Liquid Landscape, Ivy's Dream and The Heaven's Devils, as well as supports for the likes of Karnivool, Riverside and Marillion. So, after working behind the scenes, they have finally stepped forward with the outstanding Sever.
They mix heavy progressive rock with alternative touches and some hard-rock influenced riffs that add massively to their sound, making it a cousin to the likes of Deadwing-era Porcupine Tree and the prog bands already mentioned, but to Marillion only in reference to Inhalo's melodic sense.
As Sever is an album that deals with theme of dealing with one's fears, and the possibilities that can grow from dealing with them, the music on it reflects the swirl and rush of such emotions. These are illustrated by some of the best riffs I've heard since the last Motorpsycho album. Sometimes ruthless, sometimes consoling and always melodic, this is a marvellous exploration of the hinterland where heavy-prog bleeds into prog-metal.
All four members are on top of their game, individually and collectively, heard clearly through the mix by Forrester Savell (Karnivool, Dead Letter Circus) and the production by Jochem Jacobs (ex-Textures). The details of the band members are a bit scant on their website, but I have gleaned that Inhalo is Fons Herder (vocals), Roy Willems (guitar), Peter Cats (bass) and Pepijn Gros (drums), and someone also plays keyboards at times. And the cover is great too.
They open and close Sever with two short and quiet instrumentals of piano and guitar that has a kinship melodically with the Steven Wilson track The Raven Who Refused to Sing. The opener segues in to the swirling riffs of Subterfuge, heavy bass and drums and some superb vocals and vocal harmonies, sung clean throughout. It is a crunchingly powerful statement that gets re-enforced through the rest of Sever's tracks.
The closest they get to prog-metal comes with Sisyphean's fierce guitars and double kick drums which is eased by the vocal melody and soaring vocal harmonies. They take a breather with the loping bass-line and acoustic guitars on, possibly, the best song Pretenders. It also has one of the album's few solos, with its sliding, wah-wah guitar section. Inhalo don't go in for long or intricate soloing; they have invested in the power of the riff instead.
The pace and intensity return on Eventide and its great use of a loud/quiet dynamic. Mirror Door's distorted bass leads the riff-groove until a vocal break unexpectedly breaks the flow. On this and on Last Vestige there are some short, growly, spoken-word additions, but don't let that put you off, as Last Vestige shows Inhalo at their best, with monster riffs, overlapping vocals and a punchy guitar solo.
The two-sides-of-vinyl-run-time of Sever leaves you wanting more and invites many replays. Inhalo have produced an album where nothing is wasted and nothing gets in the way of the crisp songwriting. This is perfectly-sequenced, smart, inventive and above all melodic heavy prog. Inhalo have come out of the shadows with a statement of intent that is brilliant and hard to ignore. Investigate immediately!