Review – Incantation: Profane Nexus

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  • Bio: "INCANTATION is set to prove - once again - that their vertigo-inducing, ever-spiraling blackened mass of death metal malevolence is as expansive, infinite and bleak as the coldest, darkest reaches of our universe." - Bandcamp
  • Label: Relapse Records
  • Release Date: August 11th, 2017
  • Genre: Death Metal
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

Incantation, death metal’s most prolific proveyors of profane punishment, have built their name around unrelentingly brutal material one release after another. Including 1992’s debut outing Onward to Golgotha, they have issued ten full-length efforts among a myriad of miscellaneous recordings, and have seen a number of line-up changes as well including the fairly recent departure of Immolation guitarist Alex Bouks in 2014, the very same year of the group’s last studio offering titled Dirges of Elysium. However, it’s now 2017, and we find the entity moving from Listenable Records to Relapse Records for the release of Profane Nexus, their eleventh opus of nightmare fuel. But have the past three years and aforementioned line-up alteration further refined their beloved sound, or has all of this only crippled an otherwise crippling experience?

Profane Nexus is certainly not an album for the weak-willed. “Muse” reintroduces long time fans to the slower procession that is Incantation, imbibing in random bouts of speed for added aggression and a ruthless atmosphere. Meanwhile there’s “Rites of the Locust”, one of the more precise cuts of the recording. The haunting riffs and dominating bass chords offer up a far more refined experience, not to mention more of a subtle technicality thanks to the second of those two instruments. Even though there’s a lot going on throughout the just over three-minute piece, it doesn’t try to be anything more than a solid death metal track that hooks you as soon as you get in, and knows just when to get out, all with a surprisingly laid back feeling that make it perfect to throw on for any occasion or mood.

“Xipe Totec” stands as an unrelenting barrage of traditional death metal values and grinding speed. Hard hitting guitars with a solid bass support go straight for the jugular, ripping out the throat with a stellar grindcore fuelled hatred that is nothing more than an introduction for the similarly visceral “Lus Sepulcri”. Infectious leads breathe both an uncrompromising attitude amid the burdening subtle melodies many would expect more from your typical swedish death metal outfit. Of course the technicality in the guitar work cannot be overlooked either, complimenting the often simple, yet unrelenting march to one’s own demise that is the constant drum presence of this composition.

There is one glaring problem to be had with Profound Nexus, however, and it is the clarity behind some of the tracks, forcing a reliance on an unsetteling atmosphere more than a crushing one. “The Horns of Gefrin” has plenty of speed in the double bass kicks, but even with the more explosive bits you can’t help but feel as though you are slowly plodding along in a thick marsh. The bass guitar holds its own well enough, and the intensity jumps between the traditional Incantation pummeling to the enthusiasm you’d find in the chorus to “Systematic Elimination” by Cannibal Corpse. But once the pace slows about three minutes in, you can’t help but wish the sharp buzzing of the guitars were a little deeper to further the loss of sanity as the speed picks up, not having the necessary impact to properly wrap things up.

IncantationThis is something that also stands as the fault behind “Incorporeal Despair” and its drug addled nightmarish psychosis. Even “Messiah Nostrum” suffers from it too. Again, hints of a psychedelic hell can be felt in the slower passages of this track, and when the mid-tempo pacing is met with a cryptic melody in the guitars there’s no denying that underneath the crisp audio there is a brutalizing powerhouse of a performance to be unearthed. But that’s just it: It’s too clean. The sharper guitars don’t really have the strength here to make the song as a whole feel as rich and powerful as it could have been with a deeper tuning.

It’s very rare for Incantation to come out with an album that doesn’t really live up to the general expectations of their fans. To an extent, this new offering is no exception. Even with the album being a bit on the sharper side, Profane Nexus offers a wide range of material to indulge in, reaching out to all walks of death metal fandom. Between pulverizing slabs of hopelessness, attitude driven assaults, right down to an affinity to grindcore hostility, fans and newcomers alike well find something to sink their teeth into. While the variety is a bit much, it’s at least paced well to make it a far less turbulent venture than it would have been otherwise. Sadly, that same consideration can’t be said about the audio that is just a bit too sharp for the traditional Incantation experience to leave the most long-lasting of impressions, which is the one thing most fans will be turned off by when it comes to this latest venture.

IncantationDigital review copy of this release provided by Relapse Records.