A review of Incantation’s new album, Profane Nexus
On their tenth outing, the death metal veterans continue down a path of guttural vocals, ever-shifting tempos and riffs so sludgy they’re practically filth.
Death metal’s like your favorite restaurant – the food’s good, you know exactly what you’re going to get and, occasionally, the chef throws in a little twist that makes you say, “Damn, I didn’t know I needed this in my life.”
Case in point: Incantation. Ten albums in, these guys still produce death metal that’s equal parts dependable and surprising. Opener “Muse” begins with blast beats, guttural vocals and chainsaw guitars – your normal day at the death metal park – before descending into the proverbial bog about three minutes in.
Tempos slow to a crawl, the riffs get so dirty they might as well come with their own parental advisory, and vocalist/guitarist John McEntee sounds like he’s chewing on broken glass. The double bass returns to close out the song, but the impression is lasting: this is a band that’s not afraid to throw out a few curveballs.
The follow-up track, “Rites of the Locust” adds to the primordial stew with some economical leads from Sonny Lombardozzi – including an honest to Ba’al guitar solo – before collapsing in on itself in a frenzy of kick drums and sick riffage.
But if there’s one place where the album suffers, it’s the production. There’s this idea that death metal needs to sound disgusting, and anything with crisp, audible bass and vocals is “overproduced.” Incantation sets its foot firmly in the camp of “dirtier is better.” Bassist Chuck Sherwood is barely present in the mix, stepping out of the sludge only during the quiet moments of “Visceral Hexahedron” and the appropriately evil introduction to “Incorporeal Despair.” That’s a shame because Sherwood’s tone, when you can hear it, complements the chaos around him.
Bands like Decapitated have proven that bass deserves a starring role sometimes, but, then, there’s something to be said for a rhythm player who can hold down a groove. They can’t all be John Myung – especially when virtuosic playing would do a disservice to the music. This is swampy, doom-laden death metal, after all – not progressive rock.
And, ultimately, there are enough surprises – tempo shifts, engaging leads and sickening riffs – to keep a listener invested for the long haul.