One-man black metal may as well be its own sub-genre by now. Whether or not one actually plays every instrument or recruits the help of session players or drum programs, there is no shortage of great music coming from the mind of one single individual. And it’s a rather attractive venture, is it not? It’s DIY to the max, and there’s no need to worry about butting heads with other band members. Simply press a few keys on your GarageBand app, and boom! You’re the next Panopticon! Well, I hate to burst your Burzum bubble, but it’s really not that easy.
For every The Ruins of Beverast and Mare Cognitum, there is a slew of Bandcamp squatters that range from “meh” to “bleh.” As opposed to passionate expressions of true talent, embarrassing and forgettable one-man projects are almost always the result of someone simply jumping into the fray just to get their piece of the pie. With his debut album Innate, Austin French of Undoctrinate is the latest one-man band to throw his hat into the ring. So, into which side of the spectrum does the album fall?
I suck at keeping things a surprise, so I’ll just tell you. It’s good. Very good. Hailing from the other Salem (the one in Oregon), and currently sporting only double-digit likes on his Facebook page, Undoctrinate is about to become your best-kept secret weapon. Innate immediately transcends its solo status within the first track “Sculpture of Ash.” Opening with a swaying riff section and programmed drums that could just as easily have real hands holding the sticks, the song pummels you into submission with crispity-crunchity production, progressive songwriting, and snarled vocals. The song continues on this blistering warpath all the way up to an incredibly powerful outro melody that smoothly calms down into acoustic territory. And that’s just the first song.
While there are only six tracks on the album, each one offers plenty of unique moments and variance, resulting in an incredibly diverse experience that doesn’t know the meaning of the word “stale”. The track “Awaiting Death” displays both dissonant, uppercut-like waves of instrumentation as well as sections of brutal vocal and guitar rhythms sure to snap necks. “Labyrinth of Reality” ebbs and flows through some of the more sinister melodies on the album, while “Disregard” breaks things up into chugging, bouldering riffs. The final track “Viral Creed” may be the longest, clocking in at nearly 10 minutes, but the masterful songwriting and smooth transitions make it feel as snugly clamped down as the five tracks that precede it. And yes, I purposefully skipped over discussing track five, because that surprise I will actually keep. Let’s just say that it is easily one of the best metal tracks I’ve heard all year.
I knew absolutely nothing about Undoctrinate before going into their debut, as I’m sure will be the case with most of you, so I didn’t feel bad about expecting Innate to go sour immediately after opening. Instead, I was proven wrong with one of the most riff, melody, and rhythm-heavy releases of the year. Any individual with the most basic equipment can take up space within the metalsphere with their uninspired, one-man projects, but Undoctrinate proves many times over in each and every song that there is good reason for him to be here. Innate deserves to be cherished not just for beating the odds, but for doing so with veteran prowess. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go Google free recording software…
Innate was released July 30th, 2017 and is available digitally through Undoctrinate’s Bandcamp page.