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.