Review: Incantation ‘Unholy Deification’

It takes a lot these days for a band with a legend status to it retain its position amongst the legions and legions of copycats, tributes and downright worshipers. The uncomfortable sway and pummelling brutality of New Jersey’s Incantation has been of much influence for decades at this point, but since their debut Onwards To Golgotha, theirs has been a signature voice in the damned choir of death metal. So, it is we come to their thirteenth full length in their thirty-plus year history and Unholy Deification is out now through Relapse Records.

Incantation 'Unholy Deification' Artwork
Incantation ‘Unholy Deification’ Artwork

The mighty swagger of Offerings (The Swarm) IV clocks you immediately with a prime slab of what the band do best. Pummelling death metal fury beset by a titanic doom influence, but this is never death/doom despite their hand in inventing the genre all those years ago. This is always pure death metal, just it gets a little slower here and there. Discordant melody snakes throughout Megaron (Sunken Chamber) VI, while the battering of Chalice (Vessel Consanguineous) VIII is an instant classic moment for a band that has nobody to prove themselves to, yet continually appears to be striving to do just that.

Their previous record, Sect Of Vile Divinities, was a favourite of mine despite its ‘cleaner’ sound. Unholy Deification seems to have brought back a little of that miasmic murk to Incantation‘s work, the ugly dissonant tones of Homunculus (Spirit Made Flesh) IX have definitely been dredged up from somewhere horrendous. It does not smother the sound, but more provides a suffocating base for spiralling riffs and guttural roars to emerge from.

Unholy Deification shudders with an unseen power, an album you can feel trembling through your bones…

My absolute favourite track is Convulse (Words of Power) III, however; a track that feels both brand new and thirty years old at the same time. Just a purely classic death metal track from masters of their craft. I’m also going to issue a correction to myself on a point I made earlier on this never being death/doom. Obviously, I wasn’t talking about the uncomfortably leaden weight of the stunning Altar (Unify in Carnage) V or groaning closer Circle (Eye of Ascension) VII, although there’s a lot of Obituary in that last track too. Always healthy to admit when you are wrong.

It is cliché at this point to refer to legendary bands these days as ‘still relevant’ when their legacies will remain relevant until death metal dies in the death of the universe. But Incantation have no interest in just retreading their classics, continuing to push their blasphemic fury as hard and as fast as possible. Unholy Deification shudders with an unseen power, an album you can feel trembling through your bones. Incantation‘s work has remained at a consistently high level for a long, long time and it is their commitment to their vision that has always helped this. Unholy Deification is a worthy addition to a discography that contains very few weak points.

Label: Relapse Records
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Scribed by: Sandy Williamson