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!