Once again, Incantation have returned to drop another platter of death metal denser than the Earth’s mantle and more noxious than whatever genetic twist of fate finds us sharing a world with Kardashians. Previous album, Dirges of Elysium, was described by Steel Druhm – the one man guaranteed to bring a gun to a knife fight – as “accessible;” a relative term when discussing any metal band, but particularly one like Incantation. Although having somewhat departed from the pure perdition of their first three records in favor of more traditional rhythms, these genre giants are yet to release anything even remotely incapable of diverting entire oceans. Possessed of a wall of sound ugly enough to see Dorian Gray examining his shoes for all eternity, Profane Nexus, is intent to continue the family business with quicksand viscera and storm-wind riffs.
After almost three decades, it would be something of a reach to expect a veteran act like Incantation to suddenly experiment. As such, Profane Nexus sounds exactly as you’d imagine, and that’s alright by me. These are the kinds of releases you judge qualitatively – not on a propensity for transient genre-play; after all, this is death metal, and it wants only to feed. “Muse” engages the record and manages to be both brooding and utterly crushing, echoing the band’s predilection for bi-polar tempos. Next up, “Rites of the Locust” is signature stuff – barreling rhythms, dissonant leads and a vortex of scything tremolos make for one of founder, John McEntee’s, finest creations. While I’ve always felt his growl leaned a tad towards the indistinct, his vocal performance here is suitably bestial and serves to compliment his insistent sanity-plundering riffs.
The once purgatorial crawl that informed the band’s identity has since been refined into a less claustrophobic, but more traditional, doom element that catalyses the deathly riffing. “Incorporeal Despair” drags at an almost funeral pace, though never overstays its welcome, and makes for a fine pallet cleanser before “Xipe Totec” tears through just over sixty seconds of furious barrage. It’s a great track, but the fact remains its purposefully brief tenure feels somewhat redundant, especially when “Les Sepulcri” takes the blistering baton and utilizes it to such superior effect. Similarly, the two-minute instrumental that precedes “Messiah Nostrum” is entirely unnecessary – the time spent would surely have been put to better use had it been attributed to “Xipe Totec” for more fully fleshed fare. It’s easy to forgive, however, when the quality of the material is this high. “Messiah Nostrum” boasts just about everything one should expect from this band: primitive thunder-riffs that intersect with diseased dirges and enough trilling leads to raise the veins. Incantation aren’t peddling facsimiles of their glory days here – a claim some of their peers can’t confidently make… Profane Nexus follows the band’s recent trend of attention-worthy releases by unfurling material the result of 30 years of experience, content to leave the aping of their classic sound to their legion of suitors.
While this is a band with no need to rely on studio wizardry to cultivate an inhospitable environment, Profane Nexus is possibly the band’s most polished record to date, which was unsettling upon first inspection. Bassist, Chuck Sherwood, does his bit, haunting each riff with bass-lines that insistently wander off the beaten track, spidering all over the monumental cuts ensuring the song structures remain unpredictable. This is a record that builds on its immediate predecessors, brandishing doom thematics honed with some of the band’s most memorable riffs. “Omens to the Altar of Onyx” opens with semi-melodic guitar lines before lapsing into a seriously catchy mid-pace. Make no mistake, however, increasingly indelible though the rhythms may be, this is only within the context of the band; this is still death metal in its purest form and Golgotha remains just a heel click away. Album closer “Ancients Arise” exemplifies this, lurching into cold oblivion and drawing the record’s last dreadful gasp.
Profane Nexus is, in many ways, business as usual. Its quality and delivery certainly aren’t unexpected, but I’m grateful that one of death metal’s most consistently sickening acts remains as true to the genre as they are true to themselves. Heaving riffs, Polyphemus-like in their scope and intent, take their worth without skipping a beat, and induct Profane Nexus into a relatively immaculate discography. Superlatives aside, Incantation haven’t strayed far from the bloody blueprint, but in truth, did they ever really need to? Surely not when their conquests remain this diabolical.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Relapse Records
Websites: incantation666.bandcamp.com | incantation.com | facebook.com/incantationofficial
Releases Worldwide: August 11th, 2017