Incantation – Mortal Throne of Nazarene

December 10, 2014 –

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When people mention death metal bands, they cite a short canon of Morbid Angel and Deicide. If this album had been of higher quality, Incantation would be the third on that list. Following the immensely powerful Onward to Golgotha, Incantation stood poised to take over American death metal with their unique sound and quality songwriting. On Mortal Throne of Nazarene, the band took a huge dive into a lesser category and were as a result bypassed by many fans.

Many factors may have influenced this decision. Relapse Records was at the time trying to grow large enough to be on par with bigger labels like Earache and Roadrunner. Incantation despite having a stable line-up benefited from the contributions of past members such as Paul Ledney and influences from other East Coast bands. Immense pressure was brought to bear on the band to make another Onward to Golgotha two years after their first album, during a time when rumored internal friction caused lineup changes and the semi-permanent departure of drummer Jim Roe and loss of bassist Ronnie Deo. As a result, those two years may not have represented the length of time the band had to write, incubate and revise this album.

Immediately noticeable is the primal flaw of this album: chord progressions and melodies used in fills are more obvious, or cut more exactly from scale patterns, which gives it an almost sing-song vibe at times. Rhythms are less fully integrated which causes the band to attempt ambitious forms but then fall back on relatively brown-wrapper metal tropes. The band incorporated many of these tracks with rhythm re-written on their followup EP The Forsaken Mourning of Angelic Anguish where changes in pacing and arrangement made them far more effective. This confirms much of what listeners felt, which was that Mortal Throne of Nazarene may have been completely written but it did not undergo the revision, editing and incubation process that mellowed Onward to Golgotha into a finely honed shape where no detail was extraneous and all parts worked together toward the impression conveyed by each song. Relapse promoted this album as more “technical,” back when that buzzword was new, meaning that there are additional chord shapes used and some difficult tempo changes, but it was not as well-integrated nor as purposeful.

Mortal Throne of Nazarene overflows with good ideas but they do not work together toward an end, and parts of it like the last half of Suffocation’s Breeding the Spawn sound like chromatic fills in regular rhythms that the band intended to revise later into full riffs with unique modality and rhythms more carefully enwrapped in the need of each song. Vocals are stunning as usual, production is much clearer, and individual performances show musical maturation and the type of learning that comes from having influences among historically important metal bands. Some songs remain standouts even in their partial form like “The Ibex Moon” and “Abolishment of Immaculate Serenity,” which shows the band perhaps coming together at the end of their song process, or having intended those since the beginning to be the bedrock of this album but having been lacking time to make the rest. But unlike Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, this album is not just unfinished but incomplete, and the result shows in the mixture of random and predictable that obscures otherwise powerful songs.

Incantation – Dirges of Elysium

May 13, 2014 –

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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.

Death metal albums of which I will never tire

May 4, 2014 –

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Early death metal (Bathory, Slayer, Hellhammer, Sodom, Master) emerged as an aggregate of the past, comprised of speed metal (Metallica, Exodus, Nuclear Assault, Testament, Megadeth), late hardcore (Cro-Mags, Amebix, Discharge, The Exploited, GBH), classic heavy metal (Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead) and thrash (DRI, COC, Cryptic Slaughter). As a result, most death metal bands exhibited some tendencies more than others, although the founding early death metal bands tended toward the type of tremolo-powered phrase-based riffing exemplified by Slayer.

For example, Deicide on its second album Legion arguably made the album that …And Justice For All wanted to be, with lots of choppy percussive riffing forming intricate textures from which a melody emerged. Early Master sounded more like a punk band with its simple song structures and emphasis on droning, protest-like vocals. Second-wave death metal like Death and Possessed had a tendency to apply speed metal song structures and riff styles. Even advanced death metal like Pestilence often sounded like a more technical and complex version of early speed metal.

But focusing on death metal requires we look at what was unique to it. Getting past the vocals and the intensity, what distinguishes it musically is its use of that tremolo-strummed phrasal riff. This in turn forced bands to escape from riffs integrated strictly with drums, and to as a result put more riffs into the song to drive changes that previous would have been done by the drums. That in turn forced bands to make those riffs fit together, what Asphyx call “riff-gluing,” so that songs avoided the “riff salad” plague that captured later speed metal.

These bands exploded onto the world from 1983-1985, inspired in part by Discharge’s Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing which hit the ground in 1982. Slayer in particular stitched together classic heavy metal and ambient hardcore like Discharge and GBH and ended up with its particular formulation, taking the tremolo and riffs independent of drums from Discharge and matching them to the complex proggy structures of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden with Motorhead speed and aggression. This was what launched death metal free from the shadow of speed metal, which was the first metal genre to break out of underground status despite being — for the time — fast, aggressive and dark.

If you want to get to the core of death metal, these albums might help. They’re albums I keep returning to year after year because they have enough complexity and that unquantifiable quality of having purpose and being expressive, perhaps even emulating the life around them and converting it into a beast of mythological quality, which makes them interesting each time I pick them up. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, the players….

Slayer – Show No Mercy

While Hell Awaits has more expert composition, South of Heaven better control of mood and melody, and Reign in Blood more pure rhythmic intensity, Show No Mercy captures Slayer flush with the fervor of youth and the belief in big concepts. As a result, it is an intensity mystical album, uniting a narrative about war between good and evil with the actions of people on earth. It is not like Hell Awaits more solidly situated in a single mythology, nor like Reign in Blood and after an attempt to explore the dark side of modern existence in a literal sense. Instead, it is a flight of imagination mated to an apocalyptic vision of a society crumbling from within. As a result it is musically the most imaginative of Slayer albums, creating grand constructions of visions of worlds beyond that stimulate the fantasy dwelling within our otherwise obedient minds.

Massacra – Enjoy the Violence

Another early album in very much the style of Slayer but with intensity cranked to the ceiling, Enjoy the Violence shows a band intent on conveying intense energy through their music. To do this, they rely on not only near-constant breakneck speed but also vivid contrasts between the types of riffs that are used in a song, welding a rich narrative from riffs that initially seem simple like the scattered twisted bits of metal left after a battle. The result is closer to epic poem that punk music and blows conventional heavy metal and speed metal out of the water with the sense of unbridled aggression and lust for life that surges through its passages. In addition, it carries on the mythological tradition of Slayer but adds a Nietzschean spin whereby constant war for supremacy and domination is the only path not only to victory, but to personal integrity.

Morbid Angel – Abominations of Desolation

Most prefer the more refined versions of these songs from Altars of Madness and Blessed Are the Sick, but my ear favors these nuanced and unsystematic detail-heavy songs which feature more of a blending of textures into what sounds like a communication from another world heard underwater or through the croaking voice of a medium. Trey Azagthoth’s solos were best when he used his half-whole step leaps to make solos that sounded like the creation of gnarly sculptures, and these songs powered by Mike Browning’s drums and voice have more of an organic jauntiness to them than the later mechanistic tanks-crushing-the-shopping-mall sound of the full albums. In addition, this combination of songs strays from the later more interruption-based riffing this band would attempt and instead brings out their inner desire to rip all ahead go at all times, creating a suspension of reality like war itself.

Incantation – Onward to Golgotha

When the idea comes to mind of death metal at its essence, this album will be mentioned because it creates a sound unlike anything else. Incantation took the Slayer riff and song formula and slowed it down, doubled the complexity, and focused on alternating tempos and riff styles to create a building mood of immersive darkness. The result was not only aggressive, but melancholic and contemplative, like a warrior looking out over an abandoned bullet-pocked city. Detuned riffs collide and deconstruct one another, resulting in a sound like the inexorable flow of black water through underground caverns as civilizations collapse above. This rare group of musicians achieved a triumph here that none have been able to repeat individually, suggesting this album was born of a magic confluence of ideas more than a process (ham sandwiches on a conveyor belt).

Carnage – Dark Recollections

If you want “the Swedish sound” at its most powerful, Dark Recollections offers every component synthesized into a package that has not yet had time to become self-critical and neurotic, and thus is an unfettered expression of the thoughts of precocious adolescents translated into sound. The components of Swedish death metal are the modified d-beat, the use of melody to expand song development, a gritty electric explosion of guitar sound, and a tendency to write songs that are half searing budget riff and half horror movie sound track.

Sepultura – Morbid Visions/Bestial Devastation

The first EP in this two-EP package is the more classic death metal version and packs a solid blast of inventive riffcraft staged with theatrical precision into songs that form narratives of the topics denoted in their titles. But the riffs are instant creations of their own, shaped from raw chromaticism and whipped into fury by two levels of rhythm, both in the change of chords and the texturing of the sounding of them. The result owes quite a bit to Slayer, Bathory and Hellhammer, but also to the punk hardcore underlying those acts and a good knowledge of dark metal of the time, and yet is still its own animal. Nothing sounds like this except it, and by giving itself a unique voice, it conjures a power of revelation that endows these songs with lasting enjoyment for the listener.

Incantation – “Carrion Prophecy” from Dirges of Elysium

May 1, 2014 –

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Foundational death metal band Incantation have released the first single off their upcoming album, Dirges of Elysium. Entitled “Carrion Prophecy,” the single showcases Incantation widening the extent of their genre limit and leaning in the direction of modernity’s post-death metal doom/sludge marketplace.

While half of the song creeps by in this fashion, which is far below the par of structural arrangement Incantation has demonstrated in the past, the track picks up whenever this riff fragment concludes. Here, the band plays more to the level of their ability of merging torrential bursts of arpeggiation alongside their unique rhythmic signature of straightforward American death metal alongside the more dextrous, syncopated “push-pull” structures that easily identify bands from that original era and location, including Immolation alongside Incantation.

Incantation’s throwback to their past discography along with more mainstream song structures lends credence to the notion that Dirges of Elysiumwill be similar to their last album, Vanquish in Vengeance, which surpassed the artistic vision of many contemporary releases but ultimately fell short of the artistic heights of the past. However, we here at DMU headquarters remain hopeful that this track is merely intended for commercial distribution and does not necessarily reflect the tone of the entire album.

Dirges of Elysium will be released, in the US, on June 24th via Listenable Records.

Funerus – Reduced to Sludge

September 20, 2013 –
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funerus-reduced_to_sludgeComing from the tradition of thunderous American death metal that incorporates doom passages, Funerus write European-style melodies through their songs and as a result create an architecture of moods that gives us song a distinct presence.

Reduced to Sludge uses rolling rhythm riffs, upset by longer fretboard-walking riffs that set up a more complex rhythmic expectation, and then as these riffs repeat modifies them to bring out a melody. Often this is a simple riff that, like a rebuttal, speaks back to the verse-chorus arrangement and expands its two and three notes into a whole melodic phrase.

Funerus shows its influences strongly from all over the map. The easy ones to pick out are Asphyx, Cianide and Entombed, and it’s foolish to expect this band to avoid some influence from Incantation from which its guitarist is loaned. Its faster riffs are simpler and evoke more of a NYDM feel, while its phrasal riffs sound more like the Incantation-Revenant-Profanatica-Demoncy spectrum of cavernous occult doom-death.

While Reduced to Slude demonstrates a range of powerful death metal riff archetypes, its vocals emerge straight from the early days of death metal, sounding both gruff and breathless without being fully guttural while also avoiding the rasp of black metal. These guide the onslaught of riffs when intense, and as it slows the textures meld, creating a sonic veil from which the listener gradually emerges.

Although Funerus stays with a classic death metal sound and thus does not offer a quirky or unexpected aesthetic, the result is that Funerus stays true to its roots and has a voice it is comfortable with. The result is an album of shorter songs that feel like longer songs, and despite being rudimentary and using similar techniques, avoid boredom by staying true to their essential mission of creating a dark and thunderous mood.

Incantation – Mortal Throne of Nazarene LP re-issue

September 15, 2013 –

incantation-mortal_throne_of_nazarene_lp_reissueThe good thing about the transition to two decades of operation is that a genre may benefit from advances in technology and funding to re-release its classics in restored or originally-intended form. Through this channel a burst of classics on vinyl has emerged over the past five years.

Mortal Throne of Nazarene is Incantation‘s most controversial album. People either love it or hate it, and a huge part of this is the simple fact that it’s impossible to follow up to Onward to Golgotha. That album walks the earth like an ice giant or Norse god, crushing all in its path. How to top that?

Part of what makes this album so controversial was its original production which captured a searing guitar tone but also managed to blend the vocals and guitars to create a stream of noise that often made it impossible to discern chord changes. It wasn’t terrible, for the time, but it made it harder to listen to the music under the vocals.

The LP re-issue of Mortal Throne of Nazarene fixes these problems. Not only are instruments clear, but the vocals are also present with great force. Not only that but the warmth of vinyl is put to good use preserving the color of distorted guitar, bass and drums, which fleshes out this album. It does it all without losing volume, making this an intense compacted flow of sound.

As far as the album itself, my supposition is that the controversy will never die. It has its inspired parts and flashes of genius, but large portions of the rest feel incomplete, like they got sketched out but never fully adjusted and shaped to serve at optimal power. Much of those are lengthy chromatic connective passages that seem to repeat where they would have branched on earlier releases.

It’s reminiscent of Suffocation’s Breeding the Spawn in that way. For confirmation, listen to the Forsaken Mourning of Angelic Anguish EP which follows this album and adjusts details of many songs such that they work together instead of divergently. Several LP songs are on that shorter release at greater effect.

What this re-issue of Mortal Throne of Nazarene will do is to fan those flames of controversy by letting us hear this album with a production on par to that of Onward to Golgotha. This means that with this LP re-issue, the band separate controversy over production from controversy over composition, and let the underground see this album in a new light.

Glorious Times team producing benefit show for Jill Funerus

September 7, 2013 –

jill_funerus-funerusFirst, a quick update on Jill Funerus and her health challenges. She had 100% blockage in one artery and less in another, but the damage was still extensive enough to cause a heart attack and kidney problems.

She went into surgery about 22 hours ago. However, she does not have health insurance and neither does her husband. Thus, she’s going to face some heft medical bills when this is all over.

To counter those bills, the Glorious Times team have partnered with death metal bands across the world to throw a fundraiser. Bands will donate items for a raffle, and perform, with the proceeds going to Jill for payment of her medical bills.

If you, dear reader, wish to help her out in this time of need, you can send funds via PayPal to info@funerus.com. Here’s the list of bands who have pledged donations for the Jill Funerus benefit:

  • Cardiac Arrest
  • Gravehill
  • Repulsion
  • Rottrevore
  • Insanity
  • Embalmer
  • Mike Browning (Incubus)
  • Cianide
  • Druid Lord
  • Impetigo
  • Wehrmacht
  • Master

If you are a band, label or distro and want to help out with the Jill Funerus benefit, please send an email to glorioustimesdeathbook@gmail.com.

Otherwise, check back here or on the Glorious Times Facebook.

Den of Sin – Raid Your Soul With Cutthroat Rock N Roll

May 15, 2013 –

den_of_sin-raid_your_soul_with_cutthroat_rock-n-rollThe metal/hard rock tyrants in Den of Sin unleash their demo Raid Your Soul With Cutthroat Rock N Roll via online stream in a style of old school metal that owes the most to NWOBHM and American hard rock, but also incorporates punk and speed metal riffs.

Composed of members from other bands, Den of Sin claims to be influenced by Motorhead, The Runaways, Girl School, Saxon, Krokus, Acid, Venom, Warlock, and AC/DC, and it shows in the sound. Rushing energetic verse riffs run into swiftly falling choruses underneath the energetic vocals of LiLi Le Bullet.

The band is rounded out by Chris G. Mezzadurus (Goreaphobia) on guitar and Jim Roe (Incantation) on drums, with Robin Mazen taking on bass duties. All members are remaining active in their respective bands but continuing Den of Sin as a side project.

Raid Your Soul With Cutthroat Rock N Roll aims for the days when metal and hard rock were less serious, more about having a good time, and also gave people a sense of musical aptitude without the pretense. Merging punk rhythms, metal riffs and hard rock attitude, Den of Sin invokes those older times in a new age.

For more information, watch this band on Facebook.

Incantation announce US tour dates in support of Vanquish in Vengeance

May 9, 2013 –

incantation-vanquish_in_vengeanceNew York Death Metal band Incantation embark on a US tour in support of last year’s Vanquish in Vengeance starting in July.

Released last year on Listenable Records, Vanquish in Vengeance features over 50 minutes of the band’s trademark dark and occult death metal. Recorded at the infamous Mars Recording Compound with Engineer Bill Korecky and mixed and mastered by the legendary Dan Swano at Unisound studios, the album explores the genocidal nature of religious conflict.

  • July 18 – TBA
  • July 19 @ The Ottobar – Baltimore, MD w/ Acheron, Deceased Visceral Disgorge
  • July 20 @ Fete – Providence, RI w/ Acheron, Bog of the Infidel, ChurchBurn
  • July 25 @ Magic Stick – Detroit, MI
  • July 26 @ Brauerhouse – Lombard, IL w/ Cardiac Arrest
  • July 27 @ Foundry – Lakewood, OH w/ Embalmer, Soulless, Cardiac Arrest, Sodomized
  • August 10 @ SUMMER SLEAZE FEST OPEN AIR @ Scooter’s – Johnstown, PA w/ Funerus, Mausoleum & many more
  • Sept 20 @ INDIANAPOLIS METAL FEST – Indianapolis, IN
    w/ Funerus, Acheron, Decrepit Birth & many more.

The band commented, “July marks a number of shows for us throughout the States. We’re poised to devour your souls on our ‘Will of Vengeance’ tour. Label mates and brothers in battle Acheron will join us for the first wave of carnage. You’ve been warned!” This release and more band merch can be found at the band’s newly relaunched webstore at www.incantation.com.