Review: Incantation – Sect of Vile Divinities
I encourage you to skip this review like you’re going to skip listening to this album in favour of the next flavour of the week Maggot Stomp dingy.
Some 30 years and 12 albums down the line, Incantation is a death metal institution best known for their classic debut Onward to Golgotha. Their consistency and sleeper hits over the years have placed them on a pedestal where their albums are eagerly awaited like any big band’s album always is. They’ve always offered high quality death metal that still felt current at any given year, beyond a simple nostalgic value, even though they’ve never truly reinvented themselves. Just listen to Diabolical Conquest, the one album Daniel Corchado recorded with the band, it’s follow-up The Infernal Storm or 2012’s Vanquish in Vengeance, or hell, 2014’s Dirges of Elysium, the first of their records to feature a beautiful piece from Eliran Kantor and one of the very few typesets that I’ve ever liked enough to rejoice as they return.
But something happened after that. As the band rejoined Relapse Records’ roster for Profane Nexus, their vitality seemingly drained right out of them. It wasn’t a bad album, actually it was a decent one, but also one where it finally felt Incantation had fallen into the “old band trap”, writing albums as an excuse to tour. It was an album that did not truly feel relevant besides being an Incantation record. And yet, as I said, it was a decent album, even good, if not great, at times. How lucky should we be then, we happy few, that Sect of Vile Divinities continues all the trends from Profane Nexus. That typeset makes another appearance over another Eliran Kantor artwork that’s better than the music, and their plunge into the depths is continued, not as a downward spiral, but as a bottomless well, the lid of which suddenly gave in as the band was standing on it.
Maybe it’s that the people around McEntee have revolved so much; he eliminated the vocalist issue on the early aughts by taking the mic himself, drummer Kyle Severn is on his third round with the band but also splits his time, playing and writing between Incantation and Shed the Skin now, and guitarist Sonny Lombardozzi, who was never credited as a full member before now, despite appearing on both Nexus and Dirges (as well as writing “Obelisk Reflection”, the only new song featured on the XXV compilation), quit more than 6 months before the release of the album, forcing newcomer Luke Shively to finish the lead guitar sessions. Though bassist Chuck Sherwood has stood by McEntee for twelve years, I don’t think he’s ever been credited with compositions for the band.
It’s definitely not that they’ve lost touch with the style that made them good, all of the material here follows the band’s trademark tremolo-riff chains, interspersed with some funeral-styled, doomier sections and even songs. Some of the atmosphere integral to their work has been lifted though and much of the murk and grime has been replaced with cleaner tones that don’t exactly work in Incantation’s favour. The biggest issue though is just plain uninspired material. There’s no great or grabbing riffs, and not a single song transcends its individual parts to rise above their sum. There’s next to no memorable pieces here, and though none of the songs are atrocious in their own right, many of them are even decent or good(-ish) when picked apart from the mass, but put together they blur into a shapeless, pointless, bland mass, something akin to Krusty Brand Imitation Gruel.
The tones favour the slower sections, which retain more of the atmosphere, and do a better work of hiding the lack of inspiration behind the songwriting. In the closing of “Black Fathom’s Fire”, entirety of “Ignis Fatuus”, much of “Scribes of the Stygian” and the first riff from the first single, “Propitiation”, we hear the album’s highlights—the lattermost being its crowning achievement (yes, THAT is its finest moment).
There isn’t much to say about this album, other than it’s as uninspired as it’s uninspiring and I don’t get how anyone is able to pretend otherwise. A by-the-numbers Incantation album should be able to score higher than this, this is just tired. Is it a terrible album? No, but for a band like Incantation it’s so subpar it might as well be. Yet, because of its few better moments, and some songs capable of pulling their weight, I don’t want to trash it just for the sake of it or be too harsh to it—but in truth, I’m just as likely to strip a point away from it as I am to add one.
2/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell