In some ways, it’s difficult to write an album review for a band like Incantation, especially when you don’t come from a position of ignorance of their previous output. Incantation is similar to consistent acts like Slayer, Goatwhore and Iron Maiden in that their style from album-to-album doesn’t change much. Sure, they write new songs and arrange the notes in a different order, but the core elements of their sound doesn’t shift a whole lot. So when considering Incantation’s new album, Profane Nexus, you’re not wondering if it will be “a good metal” album as much as “a good Incantation album.”
This introduces another level of complexity, however, in that being a massive fan of the band will color your judgement to the point where the band can “do no wrong.” This happens to be the case with this reviewer. I happen to think it’s highly unfair that the band tends to be remembered for Onward to Golgotha and “everything else” (perhaps Diabolical Conquest too if the publication is feeling charitable). Lesser-known albums like Decimate Christendom and Blasphemy contain some of the band’s finest work (e.g. “Dying Divinity,” “Crown of Decayed Salvation”) and should not go ignored by fans of dark, haunting death metal. So if you like the style they play, which begat bands like Dead Congregation and Drawn and Quartered (and place them as sonic cousins to black metal bands like Profanatica and Demoncy), you might be ok picking up whatever these guys throw down.
However, it would be hard to deny the upswing in quality Incantation has produced with their last two albums, Vanquish in Vengeance and Dirges of Elysium. These albums have better writing and production than much of the band’s mid-career work (2000-2006), and this trend has absolutely continued on Profane Nexus.
“Muse” is a well-constructed, crushing opener. Songs like “Rites of the Locust” and “Les Sepulcri” represent the band at their best, with massive riffs and a perfectly honed atmosphere that places them right alongside classics like “Unholy Massacre” and “Essence Ablaze.” These are the songs John McEntee was born to write and perform.
Additionally, the band throws in a few less expected treats for the attentive listener. “Incorporeal Despair” is a slow and spooky terror-fest, featuring some excellent bass work from bassist Chuck Sherwood. As if to compensate, “Xipe Totec” is a quick, no nonsense rager that clocks in at one minute and two seconds. The band even uses some unexpectedly melodic guitar lines to open “Omens to the Altar of Onyx,” along with some dissonant solo work.
Perhaps most importantly, Incantation never overstays their welcome on any of these songs. At their weaker moments, the band has sometimes over-indulged on the slow songs, making them unnecessarily long and thus missing their point and boring the listener. There was no good reason to make the last song on their previous album go over 16 minutes. Luckily, the band makes no such mistake here.
It’s genuinely thrilling to hear a band sound so good so many years into their career. Perhaps there’s something in the water that’s pushing bands like My Dying Bride to make albums like Feel the Misery, or pushing bands like Paradise Lost to make albums like The Plague Within, or pushing bands like Incantation to make albums like Profane Nexus. Whatever it is, let’s drink up and praise Incantation’s delivery of horrific prophecies.
Favorite songs: “Muse,” “Rites of the Locust,” “Les Sepulcri,” and “Omens to the Altar of Onyx”