I come to you now with this confession, fully cognizant of the fact it may strip away what little metal cred I may’ve curried while writing for this website: I don’t really like Incantation. I’ve tried, gone back and forth through their catalog and the most I’ve been able to muster is a half-hearted appreciation for Vanquish in Vengeance. So it’s a doubly odd thing when I tell you that Barabaric Retribution, the latest from Australia’s Cemetery Urn – a band whose foundation lays within the muddy filth-ridden death metal Incantation calls home – not only got me to stand up and take notice, but revels in its muck in a way the former band never really got across to my ears.
Having paid their dues in the Australian extreme metal scene for years (at this point I talk so much about how great the Australian music scene is I should be a paid spokesman) the band released their first two albums in 2007 and 2010 before taking a seven year absence. A self titled arose from the depths in 2017 and I somehow missed it, despite seeing it clearly labeled as a promo I was supposed to review last year (sorry, Josh). Listening back to it now over the last few weeks it’s clear the band is not only clear in their intent, but wicked in their execution. Straight off “The Deepest of Graves” hits with the sound of a thousand bloated flies feasting on a rotting corpse, the mix gravelly and decidedly old school. If there’s not a whole of variation across the two tracks it’s made up from sheer intensity of attack.
Barbaric Retribution comes just over a year later, with a revamped lineup featuring new vocalist S. Geoffery and mainman A. Gillon handling both bass and guitars for the recording (Geoffrey handles bass live). Seeing a followup so close on the heels with a lineup change would usually be a concern, but a few seconds into opener “Victim Defiled” and not only do the band live up to the album’s name, but they surpass the previous eponymous record with a tighter, angrier sound that never relents in its attack and all-out worship of the bottomless depths where Incantation and Asphyx dwell. The guitars that open “Death Mask Preserver” sound like they’re coming from the bottom of a well, and when the double kick action comes in with the tremolo line outlining the melody it feels like something dark and wet is scraping your boot.
As great as the fast tracks are, it’s when things slow down a notch that you can really get the evil in your soul. The beginning of “Manifesto Putrefactio” lurches and shambles like a Romero ghoul before moving into a more typical death metal sprawl. Every song drips, and when you have song titles like “Semblance of Malignant Mastery” and “Tendrils of Defilement” you need to back that shit up with riffage that doesn’t feel like a slapped together mash of noise, and Cemetery Urn never fail to deliver.
I know it’s heresy to deny your forefathers when it comes to metal, and as the resident “old dude” at Nine Circles I feel the sting even more strongly. But there’s something about how Cemetery Urn comes at their material that rips into my innards and eviscerates me in a way Incantation never did. Sorry about that. Feel free to discuss my shortcomings as a metalhead and a man (you can join my wife *rimshot*) – in the meantime I’ll put Barbaric Retribution on one more time and let the unholy sounds dig deep into my bowels.