For a comeback to be truly recognized as complete and thorough, the band attempting it has to produce more than one solid album of material. The comeback trail isn’t necessarily interested in brevity, but for those willing to put in the effort, redemption and more importantly resumption can be obtained. It took INC (or Indestructible Noise Command, speaking of those not into brevity,) nearly a quarter century to attempt their comeback, culminating in 2011’s surprisingly excellent “Heaven Sent…Hellbound,” but that momentum needed to be carried forward in order to re-establish the band’s previously lost legacy. To that end, three years later we encounter “Black Hearse Serenade.”
Starting at the top, this new record is a concept album about the potential warping of religious power, which stays right in line with INC’s penchant for socially aware commentary, even if it is magnified a thousand times through hyperbole and the natural aggressiveness of thrash. The record spins a fine story, cautioning against radicalism by attempting to personify it.
Musically there a couple of new tricks in the bag for INC, as there’s more piano incorporated to address the greater abundance of thematic elements. That sounds completely random and ill-fitting, but it works in the context of the story being told, and the disquiet of piano soliloquy juxtaposed against the heavy baseline riffs nicely highlights the greater abundance of thematic elements. We also see greater use of open space and different schools of metal riff crafting, a stark contrast to the common all-guns-blazing, turned-to-eleven thrash that INC usually brings to the table.
That said, those thrash elements still exist, as showcased in the climactic battlefield of “No Turning Back,” where the album’s story starts to come to a head. As it is, the album’s best moments are largely in the back half when the story gets going and the tempo gets upped. The two song package of “The Lies We Devour” and “Lucky #7,” serves as the album’s best one-two combination, delivering a characteristic overdriven punch accompanied by some of the previously discussed newer flashes.
And yet, for all that, something isn’t quite up to par. “Heaven Sent…Hellbound” was helped along by the guiding hand of producer Fredrik Nordstrom, and his absence may make a difference for “Black Hearse Serenade.” For all that this album showcases intelligence and the talent of the musicians (the artistry of guitarist Erik Barath in particular,) with aplomb, this concept record falls just a little short of the margin-crushing ferocity of the previous effort. Perhaps it’s because it’s a concept record the delivery had to change ever so slightly, but the taste is altered just enough to noticeable.
“Black Hearse Serenade” is not the crowning achievement that “Heaven Sent…Hellbound” was, but what it does is solidify the credibility of that previous record. And let’s not put “Black Hearse Serenade” down too far; it’s an enjoyable record and if you aren’t already familiar with INC, this is as good a place as any to familiarize yourself. In any event, the comeback is now complete and Indestructible Noise Command can continue their renewed march to the fore with the eyes of the metal universe upon them.