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Iniquity – Serenadium

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Formed in 1989 in Copenhagen, Denmark by Brian Petrowsky (vocals, guitars) and Morten Hansen (drums) Iniquity was one of the earliest underground metal bands of note in the country. The country’s earliest metal formations of note were Artillery, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate and Invocator. Iniquity released three demos that helped cement its reputation. In three successive years the band released as many demos, starting with “Words Of Despair” (1991), “Entering Deception” (1992) and “Promo 93” (1993), the latter saw the induction of drummer Jacob Olsen. “Serenadium”, the Iniquity debut album from 1996, is special as it is the only in the original constellation.

Regarded as one of Denmark’s oldest death metal bands together with the more groove/thrash metal oriented Konkhra, Iniquity predated perennial underdog Panzerchrist by some four years. Through out these demo sessions Iniquity underwent a number of stylistic iterations, and even a brief period of inactivity, before settling for a primal, technically refined death metal direction. On “Serenadium” Iniquity plays death metal that is primal in its ferocity, but its level of aggression is evened out by its atmospheric inclinations and stellar gloom. “Serenadium” combines the technicality of Sylvain Houde era Kataklysm and Doug Cerrito era Suffocation with the darkness of vintage Incantation.

‘Tranquil Seizure’ opens the album with its deceptive slow build-up and atmospheric embellishments but soon reveals its incredible aggression and technicality. ‘Prophecy Of the Dying Watcher’ has atmosphere break replete with cello and church organs. The title track, and ‘Spectral Scent’ are two of the more technical tracks of the record, effectively foreshadowing the direction the band would take in the future. The former is elevated by the excellent drumming and well-placed guitar – and bass solos while the latter opens with a drum introduction and concludes with a church organ and piano section. ‘Son Of Cosmos’ and ‘Prophecy Of the Dying Watcher’ were written by Mads Haarløv, who was part of Iniquity during its demo era. ‘Spectral Scent’ is concluded by an atmospheric organ and piano section that serves as an atmospheric interlude to ‘Mockery Retained to Obturate’. ‘Retorn’ is a refurbished track from “Promo 93”.

“Serenadium” was recorded at Borsing Recording with Jan Borsing producing. Sporting a production very much the standard of the time, it is very earthy and crunchy sounding. Borsing provides Iniquity with deep bass tones and a thundering low end that would become pretty much extinct a decade later. For the most part “Serenadium” has production work similar to the Monstrosity debut “Imperial Doom” and the 1993 Kataklysm EP “The Mystical Gate Of Reincarnation”. The artwork by Terkel Christensen looks like a budget reinterpretation of Dan Seagrave’s macabre otherworldly vistas. In all “Serenadium” is very much a product of its time from a technical standpoint. The album helped usher in an era of renewed interest in Danish underground metal.

Not only is “Serenadium” one of the more compelling Danish death metal records of its time, but the history behind its conception is equally fascinating. Jacob Olsen recorded all the drums for the album, but quit shortly after its completion. Jesper Frost-Jensen (of local upstarts Nations Of Death) joined Iniquity just before the release. Thus his picture ended up on the album as he inherited Olsen’s position (and later the brand name) as the original line-up disintegrated after the release of the album. The lyrics were a collective effort between Brian Petrowsky, Jacob Olsen and Mads Haarløv. “Serenadium” became the genetic blueprint for all Iniquity records. While the band grew more technical, despite wildly fluctuating line-ups, each record would always take “Serenadium” as an architectural template.

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