Premiere: Traverse the Underworld at the Speed of Hermes with Incarceration’s Empiricism
Pounding on the earth from below.
Remarking on the earth gods of the Greek pantheon, noted English numismatist C.F. Keary (1882) writes in a footnote in his study on early Indo-European religions, “The chthonic divinity was essentially a god of the regions under the earth; at first dark home of the seed, later on of the still darker home of the dead.” There is a holy connection here between the gods of the harvest and the gods of the dead. In the chthonic realm, there is both the springing root of life and the decaying end to it, and the gods dance on the tip of a seed and all across our graves, strewing blessings and curses alike on our woeful heads. Indeed, Incarceration’s upcoming EP Empiricism is a celebration of those chthonian divine who send up their blackened blessings from below.
Always indebted to the early days of death metal, Incarceration digs even further into the stinking muck of the notorious Swedish sound, drudging up a bounteous harvest that reeks of Nihilist’s slew of demos from the late ’80s, Sadistic Intent’s Resurrection (1994), and Repugnant’s Hecatomb (1999). Fans of the band’s debut LP Catharsis (2016) and their extremely righteous EP Sacrifice (2013) will still find torrid riffs, raucous drums, and lacerated vocals, almost as if new guitarists Pedro Capaça (Violator) and Alex Obscured (Obscured by Evil, Speedwhore) had always played alongside founder/vocalist/bassist Daniel da Silva and longtime drummer Michael Koch. The clean and clear production quality of those earlier records, however, has been replaced with a grittier, stripped-down approach engineered to appeal to “underground extreme 80’s demo-tape worshippers.” I suspect, however, more than just tape-traders and demo-hunters will find ample material to enjoy in Incarceration’s 21-minute onslaught of fiendishly fast blackened death metal.
First single “Chthonic Pulse” in particular feels like Resurrection resurrected as one song. An eerie clean guitar passage opens the album before the band blitzes through numerous amphetamine-laced and tremolo-spiked riffs. By the song’s halfway mark, that opening moment returns, more somber and dolorous than before. Silva barks, bellows, and wails in the leaden gloom, yet this is but a brief reprieve before the band begins to again hammer away at the earth’s crust so that something unfathomable might break out into the open light of day. “Psychic Totality,” the other available single, is similarly blistering and battering. The track barely slows down to let out a screeching, thrashed-out solo before turning back into a frozen ripsaw. Even though Empiricism is encrusted in the echoing filth of a busted bathroom after a sweaty metal matinee, Koch’s drumwork is enthralling, and it is still mind-bashingly clear the fullness with which he attacks the kit.
If the two available tracks have you salivating like a slack-jawed skull swarmed by snakes, the album’s second half will leave a smoking hole in your head. On “Beneath the Chains of Existence,” winding and grinding late ’80s death metal continues to spit-roast your leather-vested corpse. Mid-paced chugs and another flailing, zig-zagging solo give the throttled listener a merciful break to snap their broken necks before a sweet trail of clinks leads into near grindfreak speed territory. The band seems to be daring one another to play faster as the track flies to its end. Finally, album closer “Chasms of Metaflesh” will send Morbid Angel fans running to purchase any of Incarceration’s three gorgeous uglysleeves.
For Koch, Empiricism is “a catalyst from the depths of the subconsciousness.” Certainly, this EP erupts from below, from the language-less underground of the unconscious. If every behaviour, every act, is a form of frustrated speech, then we need not wonder what Incarceration are trying to tell us: life is short, life is brutal, and it is all we have.