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Innumerable Forms - Punishment in Flesh Music Album Reviews

Abetted by a handful of fellow musicians from the hardcore scene, Boston’s Justin DeTore makes thick, impenetrable death metal that’s desolate and filled with tension.

Justin DeTore is part of a prolific group of Boston hardcore musicians updating classic metal styles, most notably as the drummer for Sumerlands and Stone Dagger and the bassist for Magic Circle. Innumerable Forms is his death-metal project, bringing the cold doom of early Finnish death metal stateside. For their debut full-length, Punishment in Flesh, DeTore assembled a formidable crew, bringing on Iron Lung’s Jensen Ward and Austin metalpunk prodigy Chris Ulsh (some of Innumerable Forms’ early shows were essentially Mammoth Grinder with DeTore on vocals) on guitars, Red Death/Genocide Pact drummer Connor Donegan, and the Rival Mob’s Doug Cho on bass.

Innumerable Forms’ demos became cult underground commodities because they essentially took a solo black-metal approach to death metal, trading one frosty, desolate sound for another. (Though it was mostly DeTore playing, it wasn’t all solo—Ward co-wrote songs for a 2016 demo and one of DeTore’s frequent collaborators, Chris Corry, produced and contributed guitar solos.) Punishment in Flesh leans heavier on the doom side of death-doom than the demos did, making it swampier yet even more unforgiving. Right off, the title track breathes in early Sentenced, strips away any decorative fringes and melodic touch, and spits back out total ugliness. DeTore has always had a vision for the thick and impenetrable, and here he has the sound and the personnel to see that out.

“Re-Contaminated,” a reworking of “Contaminated” from 2010’s Dark Worship, tacks on a doomy intro and is a touch slower than the original, yet it’s enough to put the song in another dimension. Before it was a blizzard where DeTore’s riff wall howled over everything else, where now the pummel is more distinguishable, more throbbing. Combined with Donegan’s rolling double bass drum—the drum sound is a huge leap from the demos—the new version is much beefier. It slams their Finnish sound to the concrete. Donegan’s interplay with Ulsh and Ward is key in making the slow trudges all the more agonizing; in “Firmament” there is no sweet release into speed, just hanging riffs and mid-paced torture. They have the capabilities to blast out—“Stress Starvation” and “Meaning” show the band at its most ruthless—but they know you secretly don’t want that most of the time, that the slow bits are perversely satisfying. “Joyless,” another re-recorded track, manages to sound more desolate, its ending churn arid while a disjointed solo, a guest appearance from Corry, pecks like malignant, intruding sunlight.

Convulse’s 1991 album World Without God, a bridge between death metal’s straightforward beginnings and the weirdness of fellow Finns Demilich and Demigod, still remains a principal influence on Innumerable Forms, though Punishment in Flesh also shows a debt to New York death-doom trio Winter. While less effects-driven than Stephen Flam’s solos, the record’s lead work sounds similarly driven mad by extreme temperature shifts, freaked out and angry. “Re-Contaminated” brings the ending solo up in the mix, making what should be an incomprehensible high-pitched tangle fit right in. Innumerable Forms always carried a crushing sense of hopelessness. Even with a full band and fuller production, that hasn’t changed. Winter also found a small following in the hardcore world before metal audiences took any notice; Innumerable Forms, likewise, is made up of dudes with hardcore backgrounds making vital death metal. That makes a record that offers no repentance a celebration.

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