Death Metal Underground

Incantation – Dirges of Elysium

by Jon Wild
May 13, 2014 –

incantion-dirges_of_elysium

For over two decades, Incantation has been one of the leading innovators of death metal. Although it never received the public accolades worthy of its contributions, Incantation represented a titanic figure in the underground scene that created works of more consistent quality than that of its contemporaries, although as with all bands from metal’s golden age there’s been a noticeable tiredness creeping into its work.

On Incantation‘s latest album Dirges of Elysium the tiredness reveals how it has spread to composition. While the traditional core of recognizable Incantation shines through at times, audible indications of decline present themselves on every track. The band did not attempt to create something to move either upwards or forwards, but instead sullenly sinks back into uninspired riffs and concessions to the contemporary marketplace.

Incantation displayed willingness from its very beginning to stretch the realms of death metal, particularly with slowed-down tempos of doom metal; however, when the band did this it was well-placed within the order of the present track and was synonymous with the expression of the blistering assault book-ending it on either side. On this album, this expert sense of structure is greatly reduced. Rather than being weaved together in an organic whole, riffs are placed parallel to each other with little to bind them together. While some riffs are competent, the lack of any unifying cohesion to the album leaves them stranded as brief moments of interest.

Although the core of the album remains as death metal, there are also hints where the veneer cracks: straightforward speed metal riff fragments signify the lack of imagination present and the simplistic pounding of palm-muted riffs occasionally approaches the knuckleheadedness of post-hardcore bands. The speed metal influence as inherited through its hybrid with jazz-lite and math metal in metalcore presents a subtle but pervasive decline to the integrity of the palette Incantation uses. When throwaway riffs and foot-tapping crowd pleasers become acceptable random h’ors d’ouvres among the meatier riffs, chaos has overcome order.

It is also worth mentioning the final track as a case study in decline. Clocking in at almost 17 minutes in length, this song completely dominates the album in terms of proportion. While this author was excited to hear this composition, the fact is that this track is extraordinarily difficult to listen to. It is the entropic decline of the entire genre expressed: a reduction of everything to faux-angst, lazy generalities that signify no individual artistic direction. A modern mess and doom/speed metal disaster, it is very hard to imagine that this track (and album) was composed by the same band that released some of the best death metal albums of all time.

Readers are advised to temper their expectations before listening. Dirges of Elysium will be released on June 24th via Listenable Records.

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20 comments

  • Nito

    Completely disappointed by that song. It sounds like something an underground styled Triptykon would make. I haven’t heard the album itself, but their Blasphemy album was lazy.

  • Tralf

    The root note chugging (speed metal) passages in this song were very dull. Otherwise it was not wholly terrible.

  • eman

    Does Incantation have anything worth owning beyond Diabolical Conquest? That was the last Mcentee-fronted albu that impacted me.

    You should review Wakedead Gathering – The Gate and the Key. It is one of the handful of recent DM albums that seems worth digging into.

    1. Redman

      You should certainly try everything from Decimate Christendom onwards. McEntee’s vocals have taken on an identity of their own, much different from the previous guys, especially in those disgusted highs and mids. Primordial Domination showed ever so slight touches of an Autopsy influence with generally shorter song lengths. Vanquish In Vengeance had their cleanest sound job in ages and also a far more pronounced artfully melodic edge in the soloing department but the album retained their traditional grittiness. I will obviously check this out but as even this short song suggests, Incantation have been anything but stagnating over the past decade. There have been conscious efforts at breaking out into newer grounds and I appreciate them for it.

        1. eman

          My mistake. I saw McEntee’s picture in the booklet and assumed he did the vocals. Kind of hard to tell just by listening, since he has a really high voice when speaking normally, and it’s pretty amazing how deep he gets when growling. Anyway, DC is my 2nd favorite album, but VIV and what I hear from Dirges turned out to be a major snooze cruise. Incantatins 2nd guitarist just eft recently too, so they are turning into a different band altogether anymore.

  • asdfgh

    Harsh review. This isn’t Onward to Golgotha but it’s also not the McDeathmetal that CC/Hail of Bullets/Behemoth/whoever else have been pumping out late in their careers either.

    I always thought this band’s genius was in the implication & gesturing of simple parts rather than their composition, and from what I’ve heard this album isn’t much of a departure from that. Need to hear it all before I reach a verdict of course.

    If anything lets down most recent death metal for me it’s the overly processed, digital sounding production.

      1. asdfgh

        Which should hold true to responses of reviews too, right? So there’s no harm in pointing out it is indeed rather harsh, and may not be helpful to more forgiving listeners.

      2. trystero

        Few things should deservedly be harsh, reviews should be fair. Is this a harsh review? It seems disappointed to me, desiring Incantation to do better.

        1. fenrir

          you’re right. They should be fair rather than harsh.
          But people complaining about a review being harsh are usually just complaining because they are more “forgiving” as asdfgh said. Not that they are more “fair” but just that they are more willing to let bullshit pass in order to enjoy whatever it is they want to enjoy. So, if the options are “forgiving” and “harsh”, I’d go with harsh.

          1. Brett Stevens

            They should be fair rather than harsh.

            Often “fair” overlaps with “harsh.” When something isn’t up to par, there’s no kind way to say that.

            “Forgiving” reviews mean lower standards in order to please friends, bands, labels, etc.

            At that point, if the material isn’t up to par, the reviewer is complicit in defrauding his readership by encouraging them to buy something that’s below par.

    1. Wild

      “Well, it’s not as bad as these other bands” is not a compelling defense.

      This album sounds like something they whipped up over a 3-day weekend, came up with a title, and rushed to the presses.

      It may not be McDonald’s, but it may be Burger King – and I don’t want to eat at either.

      1. asdfgh

        I really have no problem with this site’s darwinist approach; I’ve had enough albums grow off me to realize it’s a waste of time and money not to be a bit ultra-discerning. I can’t help but realize a lot of anus favorites embody some of the recurring criticisms here, though, like this quote:
        “Rather than being weaved together in an organic whole, riffs are placed parallel to each other with little to bind them together.”
        … and manage to rise above despite that. There’s no music theory justification to appreciating something like Sarcofago’s INRI, it is Is.

    2. Brett Stevens

      This isn’t Onward to Golgotha but it’s also not the McDeathmetal that CC/Hail of Bullets/Behemoth/whoever else have been pumping out late in their careers either.

      Reviewers usually use an ABCD scale like happens in school grading.

      On this site, the only thing to really care about are the B+/A releases. Newer listeners (or less discerning listeners) will have different criteria.

      McDeathmetal may be an F; some recent albums are clearly Cs or B- level material.

      1. UltraBoris

        However, this one succeeds where The Infernal Storm had failed, as that one was neither as above, nor so below. It was not the evil hard-hitting “all poseurs must be trowelled in the cunt… if they did not bring their own cunt, one will be provided for them” deathfuck of Onward to Golgotha.

        1. EDS

          The Infernal Storm was no failure thats for sure. Onward to Golgotha stands as their pinnicle along with their second album. Diabolical Conquest is great but some of the song writing feels as though it needs closure. The Infernal Storm is where this band created well constructed and flowing songs, thus they perfected the song writing technique of Diabolical. The indvidual riffs are better and it is the only album that successfully melds their doom moments into their death metal. Yes the vocals are’nt so hot and the poduction is to perfect, but damn…those riffs…some of the best they ever wrote. I wonder though, how much of that album was written by Rob Yench?