Metal Review – Incantation: Dirges of Elysium

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Metal Review – Incantation: Dirges of Elysium
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Incantation: Dirges of Elysium
Death Metal
Listenable Records
June 24th, 2014
Release length: 51:01
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Other than the six year gap between the release of 2006’s Primordial Domination and their previous outing Vanquish in Vengeance, Johnstown, Pennsylvania’s legendary Incantation have kept up a pretty steady release window when it comes to full-length albums since 1992’s Onward to Golgotha. Of course, there have been a good number of line-up changes to go along with the roughly twenty-five year existence of the band too. Like the clockwork before the aforementioned silence, the band returns in 2014 with Dirges of Elysium, their tenth full-length album. But does it live up to the high standards the previous nine efforts had, or is this the first major blemish of their discography?

Dirges of Elysium starts off with the dismal instrumental that is the title track. Slow paced and eerie, the increase in speed and push with some additional complex chords ushers in a haunting sensation of standing in front of an open grave mid-autumn’s night with the hairs on the back of your neck standing up before crashing head first into “Debauchery.” While the first sets up the burdening tone of what’s to come later, this one’s rich sound makes the bursts of steady bass kicks against creepy leads from the guitar all the more tense. There’s a slight emptiness that can be found in those areas as well, feeding into the cryptic underground vibe that the more aggressive bursts of speed meant to get the listener on edge with, all before jumping to the crushing groove filled passage about three minutes in.

“Portal Consecration” may have a downtrodden introduction to some slow, spirit crushing passages, but it’s the madness that hits around the two minute mark that hits the listener pretty hard. The eerie environments crash down around you after a sweet little guitar solo, acting more like the final stroke of frustrating restrictions pent up inside pour out during brief passages of uncontrollable authority soaked rage. “Impalement of Divinity,” however, is a steady assault that isn’t quite as vindictive, but does utilize some blast beats that don’t officially venture into the realm of Grindcore, but the similarities are hard to miss when not bludgeoned with the strong groove foundation early on or after the solo.

But the real pride and joy of Dirges of Elysium are the slower, well-paced mechanics. “Carrion Prophecy” chugs along with burdening simple chords and drum patterns that allow some exploration of all the parts the rig contains. There are times the subtle bass twang and slight static covered guitar distortions push some life into the performance, but these end up short lived, losing the enthusiasm back to the depression once more. Then there’s “From Glaciate Womb,” which starts off a cold and foreboding piece that also jumps between speeds thanks to some truly ominous bridges, steady drums often just shy of blast beats, another creepy guitar solo, and commanding riffs that move with a slower fluidity while the drums maintain a higher speed. While not a truly epic piece for the near eight minute length, the range on display doesn’t get too far out of hand, keeping the deathly atmosphere alive.

Of course neither compare to the near seventeen minute “Elysium (Eternity is Nigh).” The slow start pushed a good amount of emptiness in the music that does find the robust buzzing of the guitar distortion filling the gaps as you go along. The deeper pulse of the bass guitar is a nice addition of gravely despair as well, all leading to a stronger drum presence by seven minutes in that finds the overall speed picking up alongside the growing enthusiasm of the one sinister roaring gutturals. There’s never a single passage that acts like filler, nor are there many moments where the music seems designed specifically to give the band a break if performed live. Thirteen minutes in is one of those few moments. Using held notes with a nightmarish twist in some of the leads, it makes for an incredibly burdening break that exists to let the distant tribal drums move closer to the foreground for the sake of tension. Sadly it doesn’t quite pay off since the explosion meant to get the listener’s head to bang along obediently simply isn’t strong enough. Instead what follows seems to continue being held down except in volume, right up until the bitter end.

Dirges of Elysium isn’t a perfect mixture of forlorn misery and maddening brutality, but it still comes pretty damn close. Primal growling, haunting pieces, commanding grooves from time to time, all set to no one specific pattern other than pushing one hard hitting track after another make up this fifty-one minute offering that is well worth laying some money down for, even if it were just for the extensive “Elysium (Eternity in Nigh).” Long time fans will find plenty of reasons to come back to this release for a long while to come after that initial spin, and much like the rest of the band’s discography, newcomers will have no problem jumping in and knowing exactly what the band is about. The only thing that could make this effort better would be a time machine to add a little more analog traits to the already killer digital mastering. Incantation delivers again with Dirges of Elysium, one of their most well paced and finely crafted albums to date.

01. Dirges of Elysium – 2:16
02. Debauchery – 4:11
03. Bastion of a Plague Soul – 2:46
04. Carrion Prophecy – 4:38
05. From a Glaciate Womb – 7:53
06. Portal Consecration – 3:24
07. Charnel Grounds – 2:21
08. Impalement of Divinity – 3:51
09. Dominant Ethos – 2:48
10. Elysium (Eternity is Nigh) – 16:54
Initial Pressing Score: 9/10

Incantation
Incantation

Digital review copy of this release provided by Listenable Records via Clawhammer PR.