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Incantation - Onward to Golgotha
Review: Grasping isolation through an enduring musicality which encodes the experiences leading to the decisions that make complacency inaccessible, and thus guarantee alienation, this album is like a Paradise Lost for underground metal, putting together the most base techniques of metalcraft with the highest abstractions of thematic abstraction paired to a biological sense of self-identification.
It is this self-identification more than the walls of layered distorted stringed instruments that immerses the listeners in this onrushing of sound that makes the thought of rejoining the herd hopeless; subtler than almost all death metal, it selects tempos and riff shapes to convey a sensation of being in a situation, more than trying to summarize the situation itself. As a result these riffs are nearly wallpaper: too simple to stand alone, they form recombinant strings which work like mathematical formulas, combining several concepts and translating them into a series of matrices of possibility that eventually distill to a final theme which, conveniently, pairs with the core melody of each work. And while it is not obvious to most, since often these riff pairs are only a few notes away from chromatic, the essence of this work is melody, which underlies the complex phrasing rendered columnar in texture by lightning tremolo strum: there is a narrative of note patterns moving toward independence through a field evenly laid with conceptualized exploits and riffs that just sounded cool and so got worked into the string of explanatory and declamatory slamming, thundering tokens. On top of it solos are thrown like high-speed slang, careless in sound but precise in effect.
Not only do tempos have great variation, moving between a dirgelike trudge and a midpaced energy-building momentum toward a lawless rip so fast it seems to have no context in normal listening experience, but individual riffs have internal rhythms, both in the dopplerlike acceleration and deceleration of wristbending tremolo strum and in the tugging, nudging, organic pace with which chords change and left-hand effects are rendered upon fretted chords. When the music charges, it does so with an irrefutable synchronicity of bassy sound that overwhelms like a march of massed troops in unison, dropping inexorably into a cadence both infectious and threatening in its regularity. Fortunately, the percussionist here is adept at minimizing his role when appropriate, or using his basic but inventive beats to lead a pattern out of the frothing primal chaos of colliding sounds that births it. The band as a whole hold together tightly but without giving away the imminence of changes, or allowing their work to be melded into a single motion; it preserves its internal oppositions as well as its external opposition.
The demonic voice of Craig Pillard, resonating in cavernous architectonic constructions of low-end sound, harmonizes with the ratcheting explosivity of power chords played percussively at the end of a sequence of lengthy phrases without hard edges, adding texture to the list of opposites employed by this band to make a sound detached from all human worlds, something feral like nature but focused and lucid like a demonic entity. Riffs terminate themselves abruptly in the simplest possible counterpoint, or extend in decreasing intervals until harmonic entropy is reached; no technique is too base for this band, but no technique exists alone, being instead woven into a mesh of both the complex and the basic, the obscene and the abstract. Like most phenomenal metal albums, this grew organically in layers, and was refined to the point where every instant is as deliberate and stripped-down as the winding of a canyon carved by millions of years of waterflow. It is the best from Incantation, and an essential volume from the early years of death metal.