Incantation joins a legion of bands that have seen their careers markedly improve with the spawn of the Internet. Alongside others such as Manilla Road and Bolt Thrower, Incantation has amassed numerous followers now that their music is more available. In fact, much of the current death metal scene seems to be concerned with just how closely they can imitate Incantation. Unfortunately for us listeners, there is only one Incantation, so a new record is always cause for intrigue. “Dirges of Elysium” marks the band’s 10th full-length record, and largely stays in line with the others (at least, those others that I’m familiar with).
The album gets started with its title track: a short introduction that is so doomy in its death-like ambitions that Autopsy would be proud. This track is driven by a melody of pure evil; it is incredibly dissonant and never strives to resolve the tension in the music. For the remainder of the record, there is very little melody to be had. On “Dirges of Elysium”, Incantation employs a variety of techniques ensuring they obtain maximum brutality, with hints of atmosphere. There are incredibly slow, cavernous moments that let huge down-tuned chords ring out to evoke a disturbing feel. Perhaps more importantly, however, there are also an endless number of speedy riffs complimented by double bass and blast beats. At times, these riffs are reminiscent of other bands (see the final riff in “Debauchery” for some Cannibal Corpse worship, or the pinch harmonic riff in “Bastion of a Plague Soul” for a nod to Immolation), but the majority of the album is very true to the sound Incantation has forged over the years. Vocalist John McEntee manages to get his words so guttural that there is no hope of understanding anything he is saying on the album. This works well during the more crushing, heavier riffs, but it also leaves much of the album quite faceless. Since Incantation spends much of their time playing at a thousand miles a minute, the vocals tend to blur together with the tremolo picking and blasting to create a barbaric mess of death metal. It’s fun for the duration of the record, but leaves little to be desired afterwards. Unfortunately, given Incantation’s lengthy career, this means that “Dirges of Elysium” brings nothing new. It also calls into question why the album ends with a 16-minute track that also sounds identical to the remainder of the album. This is a fun style of music, but the band would get their point across much better in 35 minutes than the 50 they use here.
Whether you like Incantation or not, “Dirges of Elysium” won’t be the record to convince you otherwise. This album will please you if you’re a fan, but if you’re like me, it becomes yet another death metal album lost in an endless sea of releases. There’s nothing inherently bad about this record, but the seemingly directionless songwriting and general inaccessibility make it a difficult listen, and even more difficult to recommend.
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3.5/5 or 70%.
Written by Scott