I am likely the least qualified individual here when it comes to the ways of Olde and yet, here I stand, holding in trembling hands my second YMIO article for the year. Rest easy, weary traveler, for this isn’t another block of top-shelf sympho-cheese. You see, I do listen to other genres, unlike some people (ahem, Twelve). No, today I flash my official AMG “We Gave Him This Badge So He Would Shut Up” Hall Pass to spread awareness for the band that convinced me that old-school death metal was actually good—Incan-muthafuckin-tation—and their sophomore record, Mortal Throne of Nazarene, released on March 11th, 1994. Happy Belated 25th Birthday!
Incantation‘s journey first began in 1989, in New Jersey. Like many bands then and now, the quartet released a small collection of tracks across a couple of EP’s and a demo until leveling the death metal underground with their legendary debut, Onward to Golgotha, in ’92. It didn’t take long before pundits and patrons alike were hailing them (along with Immolation) as one of the foremost pioneers of the New York and New Jersey death metal scene. Two years and a bassist changeover later, Incantation released the tighter, doomier follow-up Mortal Throne of Nazarene. And thus, the group solidified their place as a titan of the death metal pantheon.
You may be asking yourself how anyone could possibly earn such lofty status after only two records. To that I respond by reminding you that not everyone is, or even can be, Incantation. From the opening tremolos of “Demonic Incarnate”—picking up precisely where Onward to Golgotha left off—to the final death rattle of “Abolishment of Immaculate Serenity” it’s clear the band’s debut was no fluke. Mortal Throne of Nazarene is a purposeful record, direct and brutal in its execution of cavernous death, etching in eternal brimstone Incantation‘s longstanding reputation for consistent quality.
Guitarist/bassist/founding father John McEntee deserves the bulk of the credit to that end. Being the sole original member had its perks, not the least of which was clarity of vision and intent for his creation. He, along with guitarist/bassist/vocalist Craig Pillard, scribed in sacrificial blood some of the nastiest riffs of the day (“Demonic Incarnate,” “Emaciated Holy Figure,” “Ibex Moon”). Drummer Jim Roe handily supplemented those riffs with furious blasts and plodding dirges, whatever the music required (“Blissful Bloodshower,” “Abolishment of Immaculate Serenity”). Though only a newcomer, bassist Dan Kamp felt right at home devastating the nether realm of the sonic spectrum, texturing this putrefied platter with an oppressive crunch (“Iconoclasm of Catholicism”).
Just over a month ago, I had the immense pleasure of seeing Incantation live, five minutes from my lair no less. It struck me during their set that the compositions from this album have serious flow. This is, I think, where Mortal Throne of Nazarene separates itself from the rest of the group’s discography. Onward to Golgotha may be my favorite Incantation record, but some of those songs could shuffle around and few would be any the wiser. Conversely, the same isn’t true of Mortal Throne of Nazarene. It needs to be played in its entirety, in order (or in the exact reverse order, as the reissue of Upon the Throne of Apocalypse demonstrates), lest you invoke the wrath of the metal gods themselves. Each song leads thematically to the next, the doomier passages especially enjoying intimate relationships with the surrounding bouts of blackened death-vastation. The end result is a smooth, dynamic experience that’s all too easy to repeat into eternity without fatigue.
Now that I have just about finished waxing on about Mortal Throne of Nazarene, I suddenly realize that it may actually be my favorite Incantation release, despite me claiming otherwise for just over 600 words. It remains less immediate than Onward to Golgotha, but punches just as hard if not harder thanks to incredible cohesion in songwriting and overall execution. It saddens me that I was only three years old at the time of its release, as I completely miss out on reminiscing what it was like to hear this record when the sound was new and fangled. Alas, I must accept my lot, barely treading water in an overfilled reservoir of old-school and cavernous death metal look-alikes. Thankfully I can return to this ever-reliable buoy for a not-so-gentle reminder that none of those mimics would fucking exist without Incantation and, for the sake of this article, Mortal Throne of Nazarene.