Incantation has long been one of the most solid and consistent bands
with all of death metal, and their proper beginnings go back to their 1990 E.P. Entrantment of Evil. While being on
the second-tier, below the early releases of Death, Autopsy, Morbid Angel, Pestilence, Obituary and so on, John McEntee and
his revolving door or band mates remained near the top and ended up succeeding the aforementioned acts and resting upon the
dark throne of truly evil death metal as most turned to nonsensical wankery.
Most of these songs can be heard on the
band's debut full-length, Onward to Golgotha; however, this somewhat more raw approach is certain worth listening to.
The songwriting should not come as a surprise to anyone that has been familiar with Incantation. It consists of a good amount
of evil tremolo riffs and blasting drums, with doom-ridden passages thrown in for good measure. This is rather primitive and
stripped-down, just as good death metal should be. The riffs are ugly and possess a dark feeling, and the vocals (while often
a bit deeper than I prefer) still add to the hateful atmosphere. Even at this point, there is a healthy variation in the compositions
that make them somewhat memorable and easily distinguishable from one another.
The production is fairly decent, though
still would be considered more demo-quality than that of a proper recording. Regardless, the raw and dirty sound adds to the
overall effect. One of the worst things that ever happened to death metal was the over-sterilized production that became the
norm a few years after this (as well as pointless songwriting). Here, the shabby sound benefits the compositions, though still
being good enough for one to follow the riffs. Everything is mixed pretty well, with the guitars having a rough edge to them
while still being heavy and thick. The bass has an ominous tone to it, as well.
If you are seeking solid, old-school
death metal, Incantation is a very reliable band and Entrantment of Evil is well worth the time to track down. This
is dark and doomy death metal with a strong anti-Christian feeling. Unlike the hordes of bands that came along later and showed
absolutely no understanding of what this music was supposed to be about, Incantation is a band that has alwways had a firm
grasp on what they were doing, and did it quite well.
(19 Apr. 2014)
Released in 1991, Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies is the
second E.P. from Incantation. Right from the start, this comes across as a monstrous recording of primitive and evil death
metal. It retains all of the elements from Entrantment of Evil, yet somehow the band comes across as more confident
On this recording, the guitar tone is thicker, the vocals are deeper and the overall sound is heavy
as lead. The slow passages are even slower and the drumming hearkens back to the heaviness of the first Candlemass record.
There are fast-paced sections with blasting drums and wicked tremolo riffs, but they are in the minority this time around.
The doomier parts seem to define the sound, here, especially with the title track. "Profanation" is rather mid-paced as well,
though fails to convey the same sense of dread. The vocals suit the music well enough, though a raspier approach (such as
that heard on the Profanatica material) would have sounded more appropriate and added to the evil atmosphere.
death metal is better suited to having a more raw production with sharper guitars and not so much of a bottom-end, in my opinion,
it sort of works here since there is such a doom influence and just the overall heaviness of the sound. Incantation was never
the greatest death metal band to come out of the states, but they certainly were one of the most consistent and one of the
few that didn't stray into foreign territory as various new trends came along. Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies is
certainly worth listening to.
(22 Apr. 2014)
Already by 1992, death metal was undergoing quite a transformation.
Atmosphere was being replaced by technicality, in some cases. Many were trying to outdo one another, in some idiotic contest
to see who could make the most brutal and pointless music. A lot of bands were changing in the name of "maturity", moving
on to make simplified nonsense or just tackling subject matter that had nothing to do with what this music was supposed to
be about. Thankfully, in May, Incantation's first full-length record was released. Onward to Golgotha is a massive
beast of evil death metal, taking the concepts of the previous releases and really solidifying the band's sound. As a bonus,
the band avoids the common themes of horror and gore, instead conveying a strong anti-Christian sentiment.
is certainly one band that understands that atmosphere comes before all else and this is quite evident on their debut album.
Everything has a purpose, as nothing is played just for the sake of showing off. The fast tremolo riffs build the intensity
and sense of urgency, while the various slower passages add an aura of darkness and utter doom. Each track displays some amount
of variation in tempo and manages to maintain its own identity, yet the changes are done with purpose and not just to disorient
the listener and never seem to become formulaic. Songs like "Golgotha" and "Devoured Death" truly batter your senses, while
the likes of "Blasphemous Cremation" and "Christening the Afterbirth" drag you to the murky depths with doom passages that
really add to the darkened feel of the album. There are times when the drumming is too fluid and adds a sense of groove, when
perhaps the music would have sounded more intense with the primitive type of drumming featured in Profanatica. The one change
that would have benefited this album the most would have been if Paul Ledney had not left the band. His much raspier vocal
approach would have made this much more sinister and memorable, as the super-low vocals sort of blend in with the music and
do very little for me, personally.
The production is a bit more polished than necessary, but not to an irritating
level by any means. However, the compositions would have really come across better with a more raw sound that placed more
emphasis on the guitars. Unfortunately, around this time, death metal was changing and everything was going lower; i.e. lower-pitched
vocals, lower tuning on the guitars, the prominence of the bass and drums in the mix. These things work against the sort of
vibe that death metal is supposed to have. That said, Incantation still managed to create something very worthwhile, here.
Onward to Golgotha is a definite classic of death metal. It is unfortunate that Incantation suffered so many
problems with lineup difficulties and with their label, as this material is far stronger than most of the other albums from
this era that regularly receive so much more praise. For example, and album like Tomb of the Mutilated is widely known
and has had tons of praise heaped upon it for two decades, yet it has been my experience that Incantation is not as highly
regarded as Cannibal Corpse, despite being a better band. Nevertheless, this album is highly recommended to any fan of the
old school death metal sound, back when it was supposed to create a feeling of dread, darkness, death and evil, rather than
being a wanking contest between attention whores with no clue what this music was meant to be. Seek this out if you do not
already own it.
(23 Apr. 2014)
Upon the Throne of Apocalypse (1995)
The recording sessions for Incantation's
sophomore effort, Mortal Throne of Nazarene, marked a difficult time for the band. The members were not all on the
same page, creatively speaking, and they suffered the presence of an overbearing engineer that tried to shape the direction
of the album. At one point, John McEntee went to the label with a rough mix of the album, seeking more funds to finish things
up. The following year, in August 1995, Relapse decided to release this alternate mix under the name Upon the Throne of
was actually my introduction to the band, so I had no real idea of what I was getting into when my friend put the CD in his
stereo. My idea of death metal was mostly based on albums such as Scream Bloody Gore, Altars of Madness, Deicide,
etc. Upon first listen, the only thing I could really liken this to was something like Broken Hope's Swamped in Gore
or Tomb of the Mutilated from Cannibal Corpse, as those were the only things that I'd heard, by that point, to feature
such deep vocals. Of course, Incantation was unlike either of those, something that was quite clear after I've gotten back
home with the dubbed cassette copy and listened more closely. Compared to a lot of the death metal that I was listening to
at the time, mostly older stuff from the late '80s and early '90s, this was a lot to take in. The slower parts were easy enough
to follow, but when things kicked into high gear, everything sort of blended into a wall of sound, which sort of just beat
me over the head like a giant club. It's strange in a way, since this album sounds so far removed from the earlier death metal
bands, yet one can definitely hear a bit of Possessed influence, still tying it to the old days.
The sound is quite heavy and possesses a claustrophobic
quality, making the listener feel as if they've been buried alive and that each riff is another shovelful of dirt being tossed
down onto their coffin. I generally prefer for the guitars to be higher and the drums to be lower in the mix, which I later
found to be the case on Mortal Throne of Nazarene; however, this rough version just works better. Even as some of the
tremolo riffs struggle to break through the murky layers of reverb and echoes, as on "Demonic Incarnate", it helps lend something
to the overall oppressive feeling of the album. The added distortion and chaos kind of give the impression of the music emanating
from some deep cave, perhaps from the very bowels of Hades. It definitely works to the benefit of the slower, doom riffs.
For instance, "Abolishment of Immaculate Serenity" is far more crushing and menacing in this form, as opposed to the version
that was originally released.
With most death metal coming across as extremely sterile and dull, by the mid-'90s, Upon the Throne of Apocalypse
proved that it was still possible for the genre to give birth to something that possessed a darker atmosphere. While many
of their peers were focused on technicality of 'brutality' for its own sake, Incantation succeeded in maintaining a feeling
of evil and dread, which is something far more essential to this form of music than showing off technical skill. Some have
said that this particular release was unnecessary and pointless, and maybe I am biased since I heard this version first, but
I disagree with such a sentiment and think that Upon the Throne of Apocalypse is certainly worth checking out.
(10 Oct. 2013)