Death metal played on flute and double bass sounds like a rehearsal-room goof, something classical musicians with broad tastes might do to amuse themselves before heading onstage to perform more traditional repertoire. But in fact, the Barcelona-based duo of flautist Pablo Selnik and bassist Àlex Reviriego, who record as Inhumankind, are very serious about what they do, and the music they make—joined by female vocalists Celeste Alías and Marta Valero, with occasional death growls from Moonloop‘s Eric Baule—is intense and powerful in its own way.

Reviriego’s bass playing is extraordinarily forceful; his pizzicato work (plucking the strings) sounds like he’s going to yank the strings right off the frame, while his arco work (bowing) shifts between floor-shaking drones and tormented shrieks that sound like they’ve been fed through a distortion pedal, though there are no effects being employed at all. Selnik’s flute is equally intense, displaying a fierce commitment and prodigious instrumental technique. Most pieces on Inhumankind‘s debut album, Self-Extinction, feature unison flute-and-bass passages which often recall the 1970s work of Anthony Braxton in their speed, complexity and aggression.

Indeed, if these pieces were entirely instrumental, they’d be filed under avant-garde jazz or modern composition, even with titles like “Annihilation of All Inferior Thought-Forms,” “Antinomic Self-Cosmogony” and “Eternal Sleep.” (The latter two, in fact, are instrumentals.) What ties Inhumankind‘s work to metal is the vocals, and even then, it’s Baule’s contributions that push things in that direction, especially when he’s fed through electronic distortion on “Annihilation of All Inferior Thought-Forms” and “Against All Odds.” Alías and Valero are mostly there to interject quick unison phrases, which they do in an almost breathless upper-register style that recalls Magma. (They’re singing in English, though, not Kobaïan.) On a few tracks late in the album, they also do “ooh-ooh” cooing that gives the music an eerie atmosphere like something from a Dario Argento movie. The final track on Self-Extinction, “Eternal Sleep,” features clattering percussion added by producer Colin Marston, pushing the music even further into a zone between manic loft jazz and abstruse modern chamber pieces.

Lots of records are described as “unique.” It’s rarely true, but this time it is. Inhumankind‘s music sounds like nothing else in the metal or avant-garde realms, and anyone with sufficiently broad-minded tastes should be listening.

Phil Freeman

Stream/buy Self-Extinction on Bandcamp:

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