Review: Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race
Now’s your chance, do your dance to some space slams.
Time has become something of a strange beast in the last 3 years. It’s hard to say if it’s a byproduct of getting older, relentless depression, the slow heat death of all things or, most appropriately for this review, time displacement from some kind of cosmic event. The weeks are a year and 10 months ago was yesterday and last night never even happened. Time is but liquid in a centrifuge and it can be hard to keep track. I mention this because it most certainly has not felt like 3 years have passed since Colorado’s underground darlings Blood Incantation released their debut, Starspawn, an album that has become an underground essential and one that made the band’s every move worth watching. Just over 3 years later we find ourselves on the cusp of the release of the hotly anticipated follow up, the incredibly titled The Hidden History of the Human Race, and the wait has been at once agonizingly slow and remarkably short. So, was the wait, whatever it wound up being for any of us, worth it?
The album opens with the absolutely ferocious “Slave Species of the Gods,” a Morbid Angel-esque riff whirlwind that helps prepare you for what you can expect from Hidden History, but does so with maximum force. Solos are traded between Riedl and Kolontyrsky like Pokémon cards between grade schoolers (am I showing my age here? Leave me alone), the notes coming and going in tremendous bursts. Something new shown here is the influence of Suffocation on the band’s sound as the song builds towards a devastatingly catchy slam riff that builds speed just before a bass break sends the whole song plummeting back to Earth.
“The Giza Power Plant” is a much less straightforward affair, though it does come out of the gate swinging with some of the chunkiest riffs on the album and Isaac Faulk absolutely losing his mind on drums (his work on this album is fantastic and borderline inhuman). It doesn’t take long for things to take a hard left turn as everything screeches to a halt and the song transforms into a psychedelic Middle Eastern doom epic. I suspect the closing track will, deservedly, get most of the attention but “The Giza Power Plant” really shows that Blood Incantation are just on an entirely different level than their peers when it comes to songwriting and meshing styles together.
The next track, “Inner Paths (to Outer Space)” serves as something of a palate cleanser before the grand finale. This is the band at perhaps their most melodic and experimental, opening with some new age sounds and eventually finding its way to slamming brutality and blast beats as Demilich’s Antti Boman unleashes a lone growl. It’s an excellent and expertly placed change of pace that feels refreshing before the monstrous 18 minute closing track.
Yes, that’s right, half of the album’s 36-minute running time is dedicated to album closer “Awakening from the Dream of Existence to the Multidimensional Nature of Our Reality (Mirror of the Soul)” (a song title that brings back memories of Riedl’s black metal project Leech and their Against Leviathan! demo). It is an idea that sounds absolutely insane on paper, and is insane in execution, yet plays out as the perfect gamble. The band takes a kitchen sink approach here with riffs coming and going at an alarming rate. Influences are shown and dropped on a whim, a flash of Demilich here, an ode to Timeghoul there, and then the whole thing fades into a whirring, dreamy ambiance. Things remain dreamlike for a minute and the whir becomes a swirling hum until the band fully kicks back in in one of the most satisfying and grin-inducing moments in recent death metal memory. From here it’s a flanger-soaked technical sprint that evokes Sound of Perseverance-era Death before things begin to slow in the home stretch. Everything slows to a chug at first before dropping down into full-on funeral doom mode, complete with soaring leads over a somber clean guitar. It all withers away leaving just the sound of a lone acoustic guitar and the desolate winds. It’s all beautiful, bonkers, unreal and hard to imagine any other death metal band pulling off something quite like this.
I started this review off by talking about how time no longer makes any sense, and I think Hidden History of the Human Race is an excellent example of that. Every song is its own journey and can stretch on for days while simultaneously being finished in an instant. The album comes and goes but never ends, each riff lasts for days but was three songs ago. It’s an incredible trick to make an 18-minute song feel like it breezes by as quickly as a five minute track, but Blood Incantation are keen to government secrets and alien technologies that we just simply can’t comprehend.
I’ve been trying to square away how I feel about this album in relation to Starspawn, and I think it’s become pretty clear: Hidden History of the Human Race is a clear step up from Starspawn in damn near every way. Everything present on that album is here but bigger, better, more badass and just plain weirder. It’s a time-warping instant underground classic from a band discovering how to fully flex their muscles. The Hidden History of the Human Race has been revealed, and its ancient truths are powerful beyond measure.
5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Hidden History of the Human Race drops 11/22 via Dark Descent Records. You can preorder a copy here.