10 song EP from Edmonton goregrinders Bigorexia. I had done work for this band before, but now they have a drummer that lives in town, so this time around I was able to record everything, as well as mixing and mastering. This came out great, features some Sopranos samples, and just grinds hard.
Genre: Death/Doom Metal | Label: Dark Descent Records
Location: Helsinki, Finland | Listen: Bandcamp
Over the last four years, Krypts’ sophomore full length has cemented itself in my listening rotation. I can’t get enough of its gloomy death/doom atmosphere that is especially appropriate for the long, dark months of winter. This is the second full length from this Finnish outfit, whom I’ve been following since the release of their demo. The first album didn’t really do much for me, as I recall it being a lot more straight forward. Thus, “Remnants of Expansion” really surprised me when I first heard it.
The album opens up with its lengthiest track, “Arrow of Entropy,” which clocks in at 11 minutes. This song takes its time and has a lot of breathing room, but it never feels like it’s meandering around. There’s a build up to some more mid paced, double bass dominated death metal parts. Krypts make good use of dissonant chords that help emphasize the ethereal slow sections between. They layer in some nice lead melodies which further add some more desolate sounds into the mix.
Dark Descent Records has put out some really phenomenal death/doom records over the last decade, including the sole albums by Anhedonist and Spectral Voice. This record definitely has a lot in common with both, yet it maintains a uniquely Finnish sound. The second track, “The Withering Titan” starts off with some ritualistic sounding moans, and similar eerie vocals are used by their labelmates. This song builds up to some blasting sections, but it still has this very ominous tone that keeps it all together as one coherent song. They don’t quite go as full diSEMBOWELMENT like some other bands, but the instrumental title track has traces of it.
Finland has a rich history of death metal that has its own unique characteristics, and Krypts are at the forefront of the modern Finnish scene as far as I’m concerned. Bands like Rippikoulu pushed that heavy Finnish death metal sound into the doomiest of territories back in the early 90’s, and I have no doubt that Krypts take influence from them. Unlike a lot of those classic Finnish albums, the production here sounds more refined, but it retains the proper atmosphere. The drums sounds massive in both the simpler parts, and also cut through well during the busier blast sections, not to mention they have a nice amount of reverb. Likewise, the guitars, bass, and vocals all sound just as huge, utilizing reverb and layers. The last track, “Transfixed,” contains everything from more ominous vocal chants, to more haunting leads, and you can really appreciate how well all these parts and layers breath over each other.
Surprisingly, this album is only 34 minutes long. It says what is has to in a short amount of time, especially for a death/doom record. It offers a lot of variety without any wacky juxtaposition. Instead, Krypts masterfully utilize the momentum of each part to flow to the next, no matter if they’re breaking away to slower territory, or if they’re building towards some pure death metal moments. The artwork for this record perfectly represents what their music sounds like, capturing that dismal feeling from the cold northern skies. The album they released after this is great too, but I would recommend “Remnants of Expansion” over it if you’re new to the band.
Genre: Death Metal | Label: Caligari/PRC Music
Location: Vancouver, BC | Listen: Bandcamp
It’s been five long years since Vancouver’s AHNA released their crushing mLP “Perpetual Warfare.” The band has talked about the “Crimson Dawn” full length ever since the release of that mLP, even including a demo track of one of the songs on the vinyl version. In the meantime, members have been actively involved in a variety of side projects, leaving many fans wondering what was going on behind the scenes. Thankfully, Caligari Records put a tape of it out earlier this year, with the Quebecois label PRC Music putting it on CD this summer. Needless to say, the wait was totally worth it, as the album is oozing with stenchcore tinged death metal.
AHNA has had quite the change in styles over the years, but found themselves settling on a death metal as the 2010’s progressed. This sound was ultimately realized on “Perpetual Warfare” with traces of punk influences, and it resonated well throughout the Canadian underground and beyond. “Crimson Dawn” takes these influences even further into the death metal territory, taking influences from the likes of Bolt Thower and Autopsy, but still keeping some of that thrashy Sacrilege sound. AHNA’s variety of influences help each song stand out throughout the record.
For those that have seen AHNA play live throughout the years, the first three tracks will probably already be familiar. “Run For Your Life” starts off with the sound of galloping horses, distant horns, and screams of agony, before breaking into a Bolt Thrower style riff. The UK influence shifts into a more stenchcore/Sacrilege style, which works well with drummer AS’s vocals. “In Death’s Grip,” which was the song that appeared in demo version on the previous mLP, shows off a definite Autopsy influence that intermingles with a thrashier verse and guitarist GC’s deathly low vocals. The title track gets even darker with more Autopsy like riffs. This song in particular stuck out to me while seeing it performed live, and hearing it in recorded format is nothing short of satisfying.
The production of this record is well in tune with the unsettling sinister atmosphere created by the music. While clear, it feels far from clinical, and it really comes together as one dense piece of metal. The bass has a satisfying amount of string clang, the drums are powerful without any exaggerated amount of click, and the guitar tone is massive. It’s encroaching on murky territory, but not all the way, keeping it cohesive. There’s some interesting layering of lead tones, especially with some that sit more in the back, acting more as soundscaping than lead playing.
Everything about this album just sounds like the apocalypse in audio form. The pacing of the songs, the evilness of the melodies, and just the atmosphere and sounds the band puts forth. The other four songs that I wasn’t familiar with are all refreshing to hear, and all have their own unique characteristics between infectious riffs, frantic pacing, and sinister melodies. They get quite bestial at times, utilizing some war metal style blasting between the more traditional blasting and thrashy punk beats. The dynamics between the two vocalists very different styles gives this album a wider dynamic too.
It’s hard to imagine them making a record like this when I first heard this band during their drone/doom days, but death metal just seems so right for them, and all their work has paid off as far as I’m concerned. From what I understand, “Crimson Dawn” was recorded on three separate occasions, including the initial demo session. The final version was recorded in 2017, followed by mixing and mastering over the next two years. I’m sure the band feels relieved to finally have it out, and they should be proud of how well it turned out. As mentioned, they have kept busy with other bands, so make sure to check out Grave Infestation, Ceremonial Bloodbath, and Encoffinate if you want more music with a similarly evil vibe.
Genre: Grindcore | Label: Earache Records
Location: Birmingham, England| Listen: YouTube
As the 80’s came to a close, grindcore pioneers Napalm Death were honing in on a more death metal oriented sound that came to fruition on their third album, “Harmony Corruption.” Preceding and following that album, the band had some shorter releases that showed the development of this new found death metal approach. “Death by Manipulation” compiles three EPs as well as a split 7″ into a single disc, which is certainly helpful for those who don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on the original vinyl releases.
The compilation starts with four tracks from 1991’s “Mass Appeal Madness” EP. Of the four tracks, three are brand new, and there’s a re-recording of “Unchallenged Hate” from their second LP. The three new songs continue the style of Floridan death metal on “Harmony Corruption,” as it retains the same line up. The recording on here comparable to the aforementioned album, as it is still obviously going after the famed Scott Burns/Morrisound tones that so many death metal bands in the era used, but slightly darker in sound. These tracks are strong, and some have still made their way onto set lists in recent years.
The next three tracks are from the “Suffer the Children” EP which came out in 1990. This EP is really more of a single, as the title track is right off “Harmony Corruption,” and the other two songs are from the same session. “Siege of Power” is a song off “Scum” that’s been re-recorded with a totally different middle section. It’s got more of a death metal vibe than the original version, and manages to be the main attraction out of these three tracks. The song “Harmony Corruption” is an overly long interlude, and something I usually skip. Regardless, having these tracks on the disc is still nice.
Without a doubt, the highlight of this compilation are the six songs from 1989’s “Mentally Murdered” EP. These are the first recordings where Napalm Death starts showing a lot more death metal influence, and it’s performed by the same line up on the seminal “From Enslavement to Obliteration” album. As such, these songs truly do sound like they were crafted between the two albums. There’s definitely that same unhinged grinding that rears its head, but it’s put around death metal riffs in much more elaborate structures than Napalm has ever done before. Bill Steer’s influence and skill are undoubtedly a part of this, as some of these riffs wouldn’t sound out of place on Carcass’ “Symphonies of Sickness” (which came out the same year). Lee Dorrian’s vocals are absolutely brutal, and I think his performance on this EP set the tone for guys like Cryptopsy’s Lord Worm in the coming years. Every song on here has excellent riffing, and you can tell the band is just bursting with creativity with their newly found death metal approach. The title track is a re-recording from the FETO album, and stands out as the grindiest on this recording. The last track, “No Mental Effort,” clocks in at 4 minutes, which is easily the longest Napalm Death song up to this point.
In contrast with the death metal material, the next six tracks come from Napalm Death’s side of a split 7″ with Japanese grinders S.O.B. Again we have the FETO line up, but they’re at full grinding force here. It opens up with a new version of “Multinational Corporations,” which sounds eerily similar to “Half Life” by no-wave band Swans. The next five tracks grind by in typical old school Napalm fashion, and they even included a 7 second micro-song. These tracks are honestly pretty good, but if you’re only a fan of the grind era of Napalm Death, they hardly make buying this compilation worth it. I feel they’re a welcome addition, as the original split is hard to find, and it’s also the first material recorded after FETO, so it makes sense to include it.
Some versions include three live bonus tracks from the “Live Corruption” album. These are kind of pointless, but at least they’re decent enough sounding live tracks. It feels weird including them since it’s not the full set, but some of the between song banter is amusing. I usually skip these tracks myself.
The amount of material packed in here is great, and I regularly listen to “Death by Manipulation.” It’s a great way to own some crucial releases by the band without having to shell out lots of cash. As far as I’m concerned, Napalm Death from ’88 to ’91 is some of the most prime grindcore/death metal, and they really struck gold during the those transitional years.
Genre: Death/Doom Metal | Label: Dark Descent Records
Location: Denver, CO | Listen: Bandcamp
Death and doom metal are the two genres that when combined can create some of the gloomiest, most ethereal sounding atmospheres in all of metal. The great diSEMBOWELMENT is a shining example of how dynamic the combination can be, as well as how truly desolate it can sound. Their landmark album in 1993 set the bar as far as I’m concerned, and very few bands come close to achieving such monumental music. One of the bands that does justice to the sound is Denver’s Spectral Voice, and their debut album “Eroded Corridors of Unbeing” is by far one of the finest examples of the genre in modern times.
Spectral Voice formed in 2012, breaking out with their 2015 demo in addition to a couple split 7 inches before unleashing their debut album in 2017. In the three years since has come out, I’ve yet to get bored of it. For its genre, the five songs clocking in at 45 minutes is lean, but I feel they greatly benefit by not overplaying their hand. That being said, the second track is 14.5 minutes, so there’s no shortage of embellishment here.
Quite honestly, it’s no surprise that this album is great, considering 3 of the members are also in Blood Incantation. The songwriting is vastly different here, as there is obviously more focus on atmosphere, but there’s no shortage of riffs, nuances, and creepy melodies. Much like diSEMBOWELMENT, there is a variety of stuff going on here. From full out blasting tremolo death metal riffs, all the way slow sections with clean guitars, Spectral Voice commits fully to the exact kind of characteristics that make death/doom so great, and do so with convincing execution.
The aforementioned longest track, “Visions of Psychic Dismemberment,” covers plenty of territory over its lengthy duration. There’s some cool vocal effects that pop up here and there to compliment the tortured vocals of drummer Eli Wendler. He hits some deathly lows, but varies it up with yells, moans and almost chant like sounds, helping create a lot of dynamics. This kind of variety is echoed in the various textures of the guitars. As mentioned, they utilize clean guitars in some parts that sound really desolate. There’s also lots of lead melodies that have a nice use of modulation effects and echoes/delays. These effects make for such a rich listening experience and really help the band dive deep into the depths of doom.
“Eroded Corridors of Unbeing” was recorded at World Famous Studio in Denver, the same place that their sibling band Blood Incantation has been recording at. The record sounds massive, but it has a certain dark rawness to it, especially the drums. The kicks aren’t clicky like a lot of modern death metal records, and it feels like there’s a lot of room echo coming out nicely from the kit. A more polished drum sound would just not work as well. There’s also quite a lot of layering going on at times through out this record as songs build up, with different melodies and effects on top of each other. It comes out clear and smooth, so credit to the engineer for a job well done.
It’s one thing to play slow, but it’s another to understand how to integrate hooks into dismal music like this. Spectral Voice sprinkle in a ton of lead melodies in these songs, and that’s apparent with the instrumental track “Lurking Gloom,” as they hit us with some real cold and creepy leads one after another. The final track, “Dissolution,” displays this a lot as well, and again they do some multiple layers as the song approaches its end. They couldn’t have picked a better track to close the album out, the last couple minutes are pure death/doom ecstasy.
I can say without hesitation that this is one of my favourite records of the 2010’s, and as much as I enjoy Blood Incantation, I’ve found myself enamored with Spectral Voice. Comparison between the two bands isn’t really fair, and I wouldn’t entertain the thought if they didn’t share three members. It would be more fair to compare them to some of the excellent death/doom bands we’ve had in the last decade like Anhedonist, Krypts, Sinistrous Diabolus, and Void Rot. All those bands have made some powerful death/doom records, but I think Spectral Voice has best captured the essence of the genre that diSEMBOWELMENT laid out so many years ago.
Genre: Death/Thrash Metal | Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Location: Bergenfield, NJ | Listen: YouTube
Formed in 1986, Revenant was a death/thrash band hailing from north New Jersey, making them one of many involved in the New York death metal scene. Revenant stood apart from their peers in the sense they didn’t subscribe to more brutal side of death metal laden with breakdowns. These guys thrashed a lot harder, and threw a lot of twists and turns into their music as well as some real finger twisting riffs. A lot of fans, including myself, discovered Revenant due to early members forming two better known bands – Incantation and Profanatica. I couldn’t have imagined what this band sounded like basing it on their alumni’s later work.
After a string of demos and an EP, Revenant finally recorded their only full length album, which was released by Nuclear Blast in 1991. “Prophecies of a Dying World” has seven songs, where as the CD has an extra two tracks, pushing its length near an hour long. Although it is a lengthy listen, it’s somewhat forgivable considering that it’s their only full length, and there’s also a commendable variety of riffs and memorable hooks that can hold one’s attention for its duration.
As mentioned, this album is much more in the thrash realm of death metal. It reminds me a lot of Incubus’ first album – it’s ripping fast, and the vocals are definitely are on the higher register of screams compared to the guttural vocals that dominate most NYDM bands. The lyrics are fairly decipherable thanks to this approach. There’s far more extravagant songwriting on here though, with several tracks going beyond 6 and even 7 minutes. In addition to Sepultura like thrash pacing and even faster blast beat sections, Revenant lets loose into some slower and mid-paced riff to help establish creepy atmospheres and build ups.
Speaking of build up, the sheer speeds that build up during “The Unearthly” kill me every time – and it starts off fast. I usually show people this song if I want to give them a quick introduction to the band. In addition to just being savagely fast, the “thoughts devour thoughts” vocal hook rules, and there’s a nice ripping guitar solo too. Tracks like “In the Dark of the Psychic Unknown” sound like a Lovecraftian Morbid Angel, further adding more variety to the pot. “Asphyxiated Time” has probably the catchiest riff on the album, and the way they arranged the song around that intro riff is phenomenal. The last track, “Degeneration,” is probably the most straight ahead and brutal song on the album. It was written by John McEntee before he formed Incantation. Again, it doesn’t sound like an Incantation song, but keep in mind who wrote it when you listen to it!
The production is a little dry, especially the guitar. The bass is fairly easily heard, but doesn’t have a lot of clanky string attack to it. The drums sound fairly typical of death metal, fairly compressed but with a nice amount of reverberation to create space. It was recorded by the same guy who did fellow New Jerseyans Ripping Corpse, who might be the closest NJ band in style to Revenant.
There’s a lot of great songs on this record, and anyone who wants a platter of different riffs will definitely find themselves listening to it again and again. Revenant had a pretty unique sound and approach that really let them stand out among their NY/NJ peers. All things considered, I think this record has aged pretty well, although it is unmistakably from the early 90’s in sound. It is a shame they only had the single record, but that gives it a little bit more uniqueness and more reason to hunt it down.
Genre: Death Metal | Label: Grind Core International
Location: Chicago, IL | Listen: YouTube
Formed in the Chicago area in 1990, Morgue’s first and only album was released on underground label Grind Core International. Although they were from the mid-west, their sound fused European flair together with the unhinged American brutality common among their label mates. 1993 was near the end of death metal’s golden era, so it’s easy for this one to fall through the cracks. Upon revisiting this record after many years, I’ve really found myself sinking my teeth into it more than I had in the past. A lethal combination of riffs and overall maniacal performance makes Morgue’s sole record worth hearing for any death metal fan.
Morgue waste no time, diving into a Pestilence style death/thrash riff to start the album off, and then immediately jump into some tremolos and blast beats. They also show some thoughtful fretwork between the two guitarists, layering in octaves on some riff tails. The song breaks down to an Autopsy-esque death/doom part with a tasteful solo. The variety of riffing and feels flow into each other with ease, and that sets the table quite well for the rest of the record.
There’s definitely some typical mid-western mid-paced death metal parts that can be compared to fellow Chicagoans Cianide, alongside some of the slower riffs. “Random Decay” puts this on full display as it chugs and crawls, demolishing all with its heaviness. Again, they pull out some more Autopsy influence with the melodic approach during these slow sections. Despite all the doom, the drums keep the energy frantic as it goes on, throwing in a lot of quick drum fills.
For its time and place, “Eroded Thoughts” has great production. It’s not gassy sounding as a lot of mid-western death metal tends to be, and is honestly one of the better sounding records on the Grind Core roster that I’ve heard. Being the early 90’s, there’s definitely a lot of compression on the drums, but it sounds like what you’d want in a death metal record. The kicks are really up front, the snare snaps nice, and the toms crush. The guitar tones are decent enough, and the bass isn’t really up front but can be found filling in that bottom end pretty well. The lead tones are great, and really showcase those guitar chops.
There’s some fine lead playing here, which again can lend itself to that European flair. “Plagued Birth” really pushes this on both the solos and its frantic riffing. There’s some cool phaser effects that pop up on that song too that could very well be on a Death record. After delivering a cut throat ripper, they serve up the album’s longest track, “Severe Psychopathology,” which builds from a death/doom crawl up to an apex of death/thrash speeds.
“Eroded Thoughts” is just over half an hour long, and it manages to cover a lot of ground in its 7 tracks. There’s some straight ahead brutality, but there’s also some more complex songs that show off the band’s musical prowess. By no means does this cover any ground that hasn’t been covered in death metal by 1993, but it is well executed and has plenty of varied riffs to sink your teeth into. Perhaps this band could’ve had more recognition had they put out some more records, but at least their only album is a certified crusher. The diversity of riff styles and tempo changes spearheaded by a savage death metal approach makes this one worth seeking out.
Genre: Grindcore | Label: Century Media
Location: Birmingham, England| Listen: YouTube
Five years have passed since the release of the last Napalm Death album. They’ve never had this long of a gap between albums, but considering this is their 16th album, it’s not like fans don’t have an excess of material to keep them occupied in the meantime. Between “Apex Predator – Easy Meat” and now, a lot has happened in the Napalm Death world, and this can be felt on their newest record. “Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism” pushes in the same direction as their 2015 effort, but with more influence from post-punk and noise rock.
The increased usage of these post-punk and noise rock influences can be directly attributed to the absence of Mitch Harris’ songwriting for this album. He only co-wrote one song, with everything else written by Shane Embury. Pretty much every Napalm Death album has been a sum of two or three main songwriters, with the Embury/Harris duo having a fairly even spread. Harris’ death metal tremolo riffs and thrashy down-picked riffs are no where to be found. However, this doesn’t translate into an album feeling like it’s missing something. It feels like Embury purposely filled those gaps in by not trying to imitate Harris, but by expanding more on the dark, dirge-driven sounds that have always been present on their albums. Songs like “Joie De Ne Pas Vivre,” “Invigorating Clutch,” and especially “A Belly Full of Salt and Spleen” (the one Harris co-wrote) focus more on brooding atmospheres that you’d expect out of a no-wave record. Then you have songs like “Amoral” which seems to borrow a little more on the noise rock side, and it’s really catchy.
The no-wave influences were to be expected, quite honestly, especially after the band put out a 7″ earlier this year with a Sonic Youth cover on it (which is also a bonus track on some editions of this). Of course, this album still has plenty of speed and intensity that you’d expect from Napalm Death. That’s evident from the get go with the first handful of tracks. Embury’s punkier songs are there, as are his grindier songs with some death metal influence. Overall, it makes for a very balanced album that is remarkably diverse but complementary to itself. With Embury writing the bulk of this record, and for it being as dynamic as it is, it only makes sense that it took them more time to write this. They very well could’ve just banged out a bunch of songs, but I think that really shows the amount of care that went into it.
The production is great. Russ Russell once again was responsible for engineering it, so there are no surprises in terms of sound compared to their last handful of records. He does a great job making the fast songs sound heavy and clear, as well as ensuring all the dark tones are preserved in all the left-field influences. The vocals at the beginning of the title track sound so perfect, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else putting these records together for Napalm Death. Fans who only prefer their early grind years will probably scoff at how this record sounds, but that’s their loss.
I’ve seen a lot of people compare this record to “Diatribes,” which I think is a very poor comparison. The mid-90’s Napalm Death focused more on groove, while this is obviously influenced by a lot of the strange music coming out in the 80’s that the Napalm guys have always had an affinity for (especially since a lot of it was UK based), and there’s still a fair amount of grind. With all this in mind, they’ve managed to put out yet another excellent record, showing that they can still sound fresh after almost 40 years of existence. Hopefully Mitch Harris is able to return to the band, as he’s been an integral part of their songwriting for so many albums. Embury really pushed himself to make up for it, and even played half of the guitar tracks, making this a unique album in the vast Napalm Death discography.
Genre: Death Metal | Label: Candlelight Records
Location: Johnstown, PA, USA| Listen: Bandcamp
Incantation’s fifth album was a landmark for the band. They left Relapse Records to sign with Candlelight, Kyle Severn returned to the drum kit, and Joe Lombard joined the band on bass. This line up (along with Mike Saez returning as just a session vocalist) put together a very straightforward death metal LP that I consider a much more worthy follow up to “Diabolical Conquest” than “The Infernal Storm” was.
John McEntee has stated that this is his favourite Incantation record, citing the return of Severn as the main reason. Indeed, these songs feel more fleshed out, but they’re not by any means overly extravagant or fancy. Instead, we have really focused sounding death metal with zero fat. We get the tremolo riffs you’d expect from an Incantation record, alongside some doomier sections. Each song clearly has its own motif going on, but with the sequencing, some of them bleed into the next. This is evident right away with the transition between the first two tracks, with a mere bass slide breaking up the two. This happens again with the gloomy “A Once Holy Throne” going into the high speed “A Crown of Decayed Salvation.” Two very different songs, but they just seem so right next to each other, a theme that runs throughout the entire record.
The production on this album, as expected, is great. This was the third full length they recorded up in Cleveland at Mars Studio, and Bill Korecky always did a great job getting the best sounds out of this band. The guitars sound huge, every part of the drum kit sounds powerful, and the bass sits nice in the mix too. There are a few parts where Lombard’s bass line introduces a section (such as the intro to “The Fallen”), and his finger playing adds a nice percussive texture to it. There’s also that quick solo drum fill in “His Weak Hand” where Severn runs through several toms, and each have a well balanced boom and appropriate attack. If you’re a nerd like I am about audio engineering, you’ll appreciate how crisp they sound.
Plenty of hooks can be found throughout this records, right from the title track all the way to the end. “The Fallen” has a nice hook with some rest notes in the riff, balanced with the vocal pattern. “Rotting With Your Christ” is bound to stick in your head with its infectiously doomy chorus. Their signature contrast of tempo/feel really help these riffs breathe and stand out among each other. Later in the album, the doom elements are really expanded upon in “Uprising Heresy,” which builds up nicely over its 8+ minute duration.
The only problems I have with this album are the cover art and the bonus tracks. Former drummer Paul Ledney (of Profanatica) provided the 3D rendered art, and it just looks tacky. It’s kind of like how Iron Maiden used that horrific 3D art on “Dance of Death,” but not quite as errant. Meanwhile, I really don’t understand the purpose of including the “experimental”/ambient outro tracks, which clock in at a ridiculous 26 minutes together. Allegedly, these were a shot at Relapse Records and the bands they were signing at the time. Even though they’re trying to take a stance against that kind of stuff, it’s still showing up on the record, and I still have to skip these tracks.
“Blasphemy” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it is a refreshingly powerful death metal record that checks all the boxes for what a fan would want out of an Incantation album. It also sets the table for the next couple albums, as McEntee would end up taking over vocals and the band would function as a power trio. I feel like Saez’s vocals provided the template for McEntee’s approach. This is the only Incantation record that hasn’t seen a vinyl press, and I can only hope that with the band working with Relapse again, that’ll change (and hopefully with the outro tracks excluded). This is easily one of the best Incantation records, and I highly recommend it if you’ve already sunk your teeth into the first three.
Genre: Death Metal | Label: Relapse Records
Location: Johnstown, PA, USA| Listen: Bandcamp
It’s hard for me to overstate how much I love Incantation. They’ve been my favourite band since I was a teenager. With the release of their 11th full length this year, I’ve found myself diving into the depths of their discography – not exactly a rare occurrence for me. During this time, I’ve found myself listening to their fourth, and perhaps least talked about album, “The Infernal Storm.” I used to consider this album my least favourite of theirs, but I never thought it was a terrible record. The fact it’s sandwiched between two of their better albums is likely why this record is so underrated.
Incantation’s lineup has always been unstable, and this album was probably recorded during one of their most unstable periods. They released “Diabolical Conquest” in 1998 after relocating to Cleveland, and that album is often cited as a favourite of many fans, including myself. When it came time to put together a follow up record, Kyle Severn was no longer with the band due to substance abuse issues. I feel this is the biggest factor as to why most fans overlook this record, and John McEntee himself states this is his least favourite due to the rushed development of the recording.
There’s nothing that really stands out as bad about this record. The production sounds great, as the band found themselves at Mars Studio once again with Bill Korecky as their engineer. So in terms of audio presentation, it certainly sounds like an Incantation LP. The band’s line up sees the addition of Rob Yench (of NYDM legends Morpheus Descends) on bass/lyrics, and Mike Saez (of Deathrune, a demo band from NY) on guitar/vocals. These two members both have a couple songwriting credits alongside McEntee (with Saez writing an entire song himself), which fit fairly well into the Incantation sound, but are also different enough to give this record its own identity. Likewise, Saez has a vocal style that works perfectly for evil death metal – there’s a reason they brought him back as a session vocalist on the next record!
As I alluded to earlier, Kyle Severn was absent from the recording of this album, but he does have a songwriting credit on the closing track (which you can hear an earlier version of on the ’96 promo). In his place is Dave Culross, a well known drummer in the US death metal scene. According to the liner notes of the 2015 reissue LP, he was brought in fairly last minute, and they didn’t spend much time with him working on the songs, but he does a fantastic job all things considered. That being said, there are definitely some parts and transitions that make me wonder what they’d be like if they had time to develop them with a drummer a little more. I can only imagine how Severn’s playing would alter some of these songs, but that doesn’t take away from the fact there’s no shortage of killer riffs to be found here.
If “The Infernal Storm” was released by some new death metal band, I think it would probably have a better reputation. It has plenty of evil tremolo riffs and crushing doom sections like you’d expect form Incantation, but it also has some parts that probably would’ve sounded more in line with their discography had their defining drummer been available. With that in mind, this album has aged well for me, and I am more inclined to put this record on than some of their 2010’s material. It’s no “Diabolical Conquest,” and it’s also no “Blasphemy,” but it still satisfies as far as death metal is concerned. Hell, half of these songs ended up on the live album they did a year later, which includes Severn on drums, so it’s not like they put out a dud. “Blasphemy” sounds more like a proper follow up to “Diabolical Conquest,” but “Infernal Storm” shouldn’t be overlooked!