Incantation – Sect Of Vile Divinities (Album Review)

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Evil lurks amid the decrepit earth.

With so many death metal bands upping the ante by achieving greater brutality via more highly compressed productions, it’s refreshing to see that some of the early progenitors of the style are sticking to their guns and continuing to churn out a more vintage mode of brutality. Nowadays it’s difficult to say where in the world the style is enjoying its apex of output, but back in the early 90s, there were few places delivering the necrotic goods in the most intense of fashions outside of the United States’ east coast, with Florida and New York being the focal points. Though it’s debatable as to which scene had the edge in terms of raw aggression, there was a clear distinction in character of sound which saw the northern side of this clash moving further away from the style’s extreme thrash metal roots; and though closely associated with the seminal death/thrash pioneering act Revenant, New Jersey’s Incantation arguably set themselves apart from their northeastern contemporaries by veering the furthest into dark territory.

While this outfit’s career has ebbed and flowed a fair bit since the exodus of their seminal front man and inhuman growler Craig Pillard, there has been minimal deviation from their signature early 90s sound save for greater clarity in the production department, and their 2020 excursion into the bleak world of occult-based horror “Sect Of Vile Divinities” is a case study in translating the death metal sound of 30 years past into the present. Their tried and true formula of sharp, jolting sectional contrast via grinding blast segments comparable to Florida forerunners Morbid Angel and dank, slow-trudging doom moments that dovetail with the dreariness of Autopsy, combined with some mildly thrashing yet muddy elements might seem a tad archaic, but is masterfully accomplished to truly horrific results. It’s a cohesive tapestry of tortured dissonance with no slouches to speak of, though front man and lone founding member John McEntee shines as the dominant force, much as he has since he took over vocal duties in 2004.

True to form, this is an album that lives by crushing heaviness alone, offering little in the way of atmospheric respites from the auditory carnage and sticking to what can be described as a fairly methodical formula. Things start off with a fairly conventional, quasi-thrashing crusher in “Ritual Impurity” that largely runs along a similar path as what one might expect from an up-tempo Cannibal Corpse romp, but with a denser guitar sound, a solo that’s more in line with Trey Azagthoth’s brand of shredding chaos and a more groaning and agonized bark out of McEntee. Similarly fast yet symmetrical offerings such as “Black Fathom’s Fire” and “Shadow-Blade Masters Of Tempest And Maelstrom” take a similar path of balancing a cohesive structure with even more brilliant fits of flashy guitar soloing. Yet out of all the moderate lengthed and conventional offerings to come raging out of this album, closer “Siege Hive” proves to be the most memorable by taking a slightly more grooving path while still peppering the listener’s ears with brilliant bursts of unhinged six-string shredding.

“Sect Of Vile Divinities” Album Artwork

Be this all as it may, there are also some interesting deviations from a well-rounded, old school approach to undead ferocity that deserve consideration. More compact offerings such as the almost melancholy and melodic dirge “Ignis Fatuus” actually comes off as catchy in a musically conventional sense, functioning as sort of an overt death/doom interlude in what is otherwise a largely by the book retread of vintage New York styled death. The equally short yet more chaotic offering “Guardians From The Primeval” takes a brief moment at its inception to channel some of the haunting atmospheric aspects of the early 90s Swedish sound with a brilliant keyboard and clean guitar intro before beheading the listener with a blasting fit of unhinged violence. But the chapter in this anthology of dread that truly showcases this band firing at full blast is the 6 minute journey through oblivion “Unborn Ambrosia”, which throws about every trick in the book into the cauldron and stirs it into a looming, largely slow-paced march into the metaphysical wastelands.

It remains unlikely that this veteran death metal institution will ever top the likes of “Onward To Golgotha”and “Mortal Throne Of Nazarene”, but relative to what they’ve done since John McEntee took over the microphone, this album really holds its own and shows a lot of these newer Old School Death Metal revival acts how it’s done. The nostalgia factor for those who remember the days when this style was actually featured prominently on MTV circa 1992-94 is about as blatant as it can be, and while no accompanying video footage is necessary to convey the sense of disquiet that this music conveys, a truly creepy music video for “Entrails Of The Hag Queen” has been making the rounds for the past couple weeks and underscores the grotesque beauty that lay in store here. For those who like their brutality served up dark, cold, and with a bit more of a technical edge than the average old school template, this is one of the better offerings to come out this year.

“Sect Of Vile Divinities” will be released on CD, LP, and digital formats. Physical pre-orders can be found here and digital downloads and streaming services at this location.

Released by: Relapse Records
Released Date: August 21st, 2020
Genre: Death Metal

Musicians:

  • John McEntee / Guitar, Vocals
  • Sonny Lombardozzi / Lead Guitar
  • Chuck Sherwood / Bass
  • Kyle Severn / Drums

“Sect Of Vile Divinities ” track-listing:

1. Ritual Impurity (Seven Of The Sky Is One)
2. Propitiation
3. Entrails Of The Hag Queen
4. Guardians From The Primeval
5. Black Fathom’s Fire
6. Ignis Fatuus
7. Chant Of Formless Dread
8. Shadow-Blade Masters Of Tempest And Maelstrom
9. Scribes Of The Stygian
10. Unborn Ambrosia
11. Fury’s Manifesto
12. Siege Hive

8.6 Excellent

The old ways prove to be the nastiest, and few scenes can hope to compare to the putrid, sonic filth of the New York area’s death metal scene, with their dankest adherent rolling out a truly vile opus to reanimate the deceased

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 8.5
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