Roundtable Retrospective: Incantation – Three Post “Onward to Golgotha” Favorites

Incantation band
Incantation

Incantation is releasing its latest full-length, Profane Nexus, next month, and what better way to welcome this release by a band easily enshrined in the death metal canon than to discuss our favorite albums released by the band.  Take note that we steered away from Onward to Golgotha to assure that we give due credit to Incantation’s other quality releases, as many are sure to mention Onward to Golgotha to be Incantation’s landmark release, and an album widely considered to be one of the best in metal history.

Onward to Golgotha was one of the first of its kind. The swarm of locusts guitar tone and the catchy riffs that they created were by far in the most numerable on that album.  The riffs were somewhat dissonant, similar to Immolation’s style, and John McEntee’s guitar mastery showcased both technical mastery and accessibility.

The songs on Onward to Golgotha stayed with me for days, and metal peeps in my high school widely considered it one of death metal’s best albums ever.  In fact, many of Incantation’s albums have been overlooked.  The newer albums feature a rejuvenated Incantation, and the latest effort is sure to ignite more debates as to whether old-school or new-school Incantation is better.

Al Necro’s pick:  Diabolical Conquest

Incantation - Diabolical Conquest

Let’s just get this out of the way – when Hell’s Headbangers Records re-released Incantation’s Diabolical Conquest album on LP and it sold out relatively quickly, it wasn’t a surprise.  Diabolical Conquest is one of Incantation’s most underrated albums, and for me, it is nearly as good as Onward to Golgotha.  The band saw little fanfare for this release, and no one knows for certain why Incantation largely dwindled in popularity after its first couple of releases.  While bands like Morbid Angel established themselves at the forefront of the death metal scene, bands that play any similarly to Incantation stayed largely in the underground, and Incantation itself retreated into the underground that spawned them shortly after their disappointing album, Primordial Domination.

They have released new albums recently, both getting the acclaim that the band saw very little of prior to going into hibernation – the very potent Vanquish in Vengeance and Dirges of Elysium.  However, the grittier guitar sounds of early Incantation remain closest to my heart.  Diabolical Conquest features a dearth of quality dissonant riffs and ridiculously fast blast sections.  It balances dissonance and accessibility, and the band occasionally breakdown and groove with telepathic rendition.  You will enjoy this for several repeat listens.

Diabolical Conquest is good from top to bottom.  After the band released Mortal Throne of Nazarene with mixed reviews and disappointing sales, the band sought to recoup with The Forsaken Mourning of Angelic Anguish, a stop-gap EP that showcased some new tracks and some rareties.  Diabolical Conquest assured fans that Incantation’s dissonant death metal attack was still very potent, in spite of the growing popularity Floridian bands like Morbid Angel and Deicide getting most of the media coverage and public fascination.  It’s clearly an underrated album in the band’s discography, so before you check out their latest album when it drops soon, go back in time and re-visit Incantation in its prime.

Here are two of my esteemed colleagues at Nine Circles discussing which post-Onward to Golgotha albums appeal to them the most:

Chris Voss’ pick: Vanquish in Vengeance

Incantation - Vanquish in Vengeance

OK, so here’s the point where I shed 80% of my remaining metal credibility after losing 80% of it acknowledging my love for the new Body Count album:  I don’t particularly like Onward to Golgotha.  That album, and Incantation in general, is something I came to much later in my metal life, so the impact of this dirty, hell-dwelling hybrid of death, doom, and black metal didn’t hit the same way, coming to me after hearing the likes of similar bands.  Even now listening to tracks like “Blasphemous Cremation” and “Christening the Afterbirth” I can hear the quality (although with that muddy production it’s still a challenge) and admire the riffs, but it doesn’t rile the spirit or demand oblations, if you catch my drift…

That being said, I’m not necessarily going to bat for 2012’s Vanquish in Vengeance as a classic of the genre, but it’s the first Incantation album I heard where I sat up and took notice.  For one thing the production is cleaned up immensely, allowing McEntee’s riffs to chillingly rip into you with a clarity the bludgeoning production of the earlier albums lacked (though that mix does have an appeal).  Expanding the core trio from the previous two records to include Alex Bouks gives the guitars that much more bite, which hits my personal metal nerve center a little better.  Opener “Invoked Infinity”  blasts out with tremolo riffs and blasts beats before fragmenting into an almost grind feel, Kyle Severn’s drums high and tight in the mix.  “Ascend Into the Eternal” is even better, moving into a Lovecraftian doom as the songs nears its end point.  At 11 minutes “Legion of Dis” does it all, piling on squalls of feedback and dissonance until you forget for a moment what kind of band you’re listening to.  It’s the sound of a band reveling in playing outside the borders of its established genre even as it continuously dives back in to show you how it’s done.  If you only worship at the altar of the early stuff, do yourself a favor and dive into what Incantation have been spewing forth in recent years – the filth is only getting stronger.

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Vincent Martinek’s pick: Dirges of Elysium

Incantation - Dirges of Elysium

When discussing a band that has as long and storied of a history as Incantation, there are any number of albums one could name that had an impact on the musical climate.  But how many other bands could, in their 25th year of existence, put out one of the most vital sounding records in their career?  Forget the past; look no further than 2014’s Dirges of Elysium to find some of the best work Incantation have ever done.  I can think of maybe one other band that has been around this long that sounds this menacing and full of life in their late-game catalog.  The muscular rhythm section of Sherwood and Severn are the backbone of Dirges, laying the foundation for John McEntee’s signature brand of sickeningly disorienting guitar work and gut churning vocals.  The band moves from churning death doom to all-out blasting fury, sometimes in rapid succession a la “Portal Consecration,” in a way that many young bands struggle with, yet Incantation never miss a beat.  Don’t forget, in all the to-do about the band’s past, that Incantation are still putting death metal acts to shame left and right today as well.

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So, there you have it.  Three post-Onward to Golgotha albums from the band that we love.  Stay tuned for the band’s latest release to be reviewed here soon. For more information on Incantation visit their official website.

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