Blood Incantation – Timewave Zero Review

After releasing a pair of highly acclaimed albums, coupling quality old school death with progressive and psychedelic embellishments and spacey themes, Denver’s Blood Incantation rapidly ascended into a respected, high profile ‘it’ band in the modern death metal scene. As such, any new material is eagerly awaited upon. Hidden History of the Human Race dropped in 2019, rolling the momentum onwards and upwards from their Starspawn debut, again showcasing Blood Incantation‘s innovative and experimental approach to death metal. Well-publicized prior to its impending release, third LP, Timewave Zero, marks a drastic experimental detour, featuring a pair of lengthy compositions of ambient, cosmic atmosphere. Apparently a long-intentioned plan from the band, dropping the metal aspects of their sound is nevertheless a brave and gutsy move.

But surely there are a few heavier riffs or metal moments aren’t there? Nope. What about harsh vocals and deep bellied growls. Nope again. Timewave Zero is purely instrumental, snaffling the psychedelic, cinematic and ambient textures that have previously infiltrated Blood Incantation‘s sound, honing in on these elements to create ominous, minimalistic compositions and dark soundwaves. Timewave Zero hums, blurs, and throbs through its meticulously crafted cosmic soundscapes. Droning ambiance and subtle textures feature across 40 odd minutes, comprising two tracks (“Io” and “Ea”). Expanding on the cosmic themes and spacey spirituality evident on their previous works, Blood Incantation develop an unsettling, yet oddly peaceful atmosphere, spiked with undercurrents of mystery, dread and melancholy.

Everything moves at a languid pace; repetition, subtle shifts, and stark minimalism highlight slow moving, gradually unfurling compositions, perhaps best suited for sound-tracking a silent film, featuring a bleak science fiction adventure, or late night headphone session of deep meditation and universal contemplation. Opener “Io” whirs and drones through its first seven minutes or so before additional sounds and textures are leveraged into the mix, eventually adding some welcome variety and intrigue. It’s a slog, though not entirely unpleasant, despite regularly challenging my attention span. “Ea” fares better as a whole, sounding more dynamic, layered and interesting to my ears, while packing an emotive, mournful punch. Again however, there were times where I found my attention drifting and patience wearing. For listeners not accustomed to long bouts of ambient music, patience and deep appreciation of the musical form is required for full immersion. The sluggish pace and marathon lengths of each song does not help matters.

I consider myself an open minded music fan, and celebrate many different styles and genres, however, I admit purely instrumental ambient albums are not my forte. On paper, it is also one of the least appealing stylistic shifts I can imagine from a death metal band. Herein lies a big problem in wrapping my head around this radical departure and experimental excursion. I admire Blood Incantation‘s willingness to take such a huge artistic risk, potentially alienating their established fanbase, at least in the short term, but cannot get behind what they have created. Perhaps as a one off experiment, and they return to their roots while remaining the boundary pushing death metal act we have come to adore, all may be righted again soon enough. And while I don’t outright despise anything on the album, nor do I have any great desire to return to it. Even taking into account its relatively lean duration, Timewave Zero feels overlong, and the droning repetition and lack of stirring payoffs wears particularly thin.

As a fan of Blood Incantation‘s thought provoking and experimental death metal across their first two albums, unscrambling my confused thoughts of Timewave Zero has been hugely challenging. I can respect the craftmanship and dedication Blood Incantation has no doubt poured into the album, but I cannot fully endorse it. Timewave Zero may hold appeal for avid listeners of ambient music and minimalistic synthwave, and I sincerely hope they find their target audience, however, as a fan of death, prog, psychedelia and the wonderful ways in which Blood Incantation have combined these styles on previous works, Timewave Zero disappoints. Although pleasant in stretches, or as background music, largely I found the album a chore to listen to; a tedious, patience testing slab of ambient experimentation best left for other ears to fully enjoy and embrace.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
LabelCentury Media Records |
Releases Worldwide: February 25th, 2022

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