Review: Invocation – The Mastery of the Unseen
The Chilean scene just keeps heating up!
In case you didn’t get the memo earlier this year (both actually), Chile has one of the most promising new communities of morbid, graveyard-dwelling, subterranean death metal with a distinctly austere, sombre, and often occult sound that stands unrepentant and proud amidst the now well recognized American, Swedish, and Finnish schools. Compared to the old school approach of other lesser known examples like the Polish, Mexican, German, and Dutch schools, the Chileans are considerably stronger now than during the 90’s. Emphasizing sinister tremolo melodies often with a blackened nature (coinciding with the heavy presence of blasphemers like Nihilifer, Henosis, and Dead Moon Temple, some of which are partially death metal) and a deliberate, ordered approach to songwriting, the Chilean approach manages to be as ominous and otherworldly as groups like Grave Miasma or Dead Congregation yet as rooted in a genuinely riff driven militancy that avoids empty atmospheric showboating. The Mexican sound is the closest I can think of to them but even then only from a very general standpoint.Invocation are a strong example of its strengths, taking classic riffing ideas whose lineage can be traced back to the still thrash-infested primordial waters of the then larval death metal genre yet they’ve removed all of the bounciness and eliminated the chugga-weedle staccato, blending them into surging rivers of molten tremolo riffing that can turn the choppiness of thrash into a near uninterrupted veil of semi-minimalist texture and morphing melody. It’s definitely blackened in that sense but you won’t exactly hear sudden Mayhem or Dissection segments. The black metal influence in that sense is moreso in intent and execution than lifting directly out of that genre, using lengthy phrases of tremolo over fluidly changing tempos that emphasize less crushing impact and moreso a directed, guitar-driven ambience at once hovering and misty yet direct and merciless in its deathgrip on song direction. In that sense it’s also emblematic of many of the better newer death metal bands who hearken back to not necessarily a darker time as much as a sense of mystery, revelation, and gnosis associated with the classics that only recently is moving away from its status as a lost art.
Subsequently, the way the songs are structured reflects this sense of ritualistic practice from its use of repetition to what familiar motifs and themes build up and reveal a grander picture. Both tracks begin using a strong tremolo pattern that establishes a particular melody that serves as a thematic keystone that the song will break apart and reform to achieve. They then drop into a series of sharper disjointed riffs carrying fragments of similarity in phrasing and shape, building up familiarity and a sense of interconnectedness between them. They are then connected and bridged by a longer and more cohesive riff, resolving their tension with a kind of minimalist elegance that binds the fragmented strands that preceded it into a powerful, singular voice resolving tension through absolute unity.
It’s a very simple set-up and execution but the stark simplicity of their technique combined with their sharp eye towards distinct melodies knowing when to stretch them and when to pull away betrays an attention to detail and pacing that would be lost on many of their contemporaries. When both songs do return to their earlier themes, they both tend to throw one last curve ball. “Ouija (Mystifying Oracle)” drops back into a modified version of the strum-strum-high-note riff from earlier but rather than fully returning it throws forward a short but highly satisfying blasting semi-thrashy lead riff. The lengthy tremolo section around halfway through “The Spirit Trumpet” gets broken up by sudden rhythmic interjections and a modified, snappier lead capping off the riff before morphing into a short low-register strumming section gradually revealing itself as and returning to the opening tremolo melody.
While they might not have the raw compositional scope of bands like recent practitioners of obscure damnation such as Obliteration and Ritualization, Invocation are a considerably easier band to follow and work with effectively self-contained songs that know how to draw a great deal of mileage out of simple concepts. Yet simple as they are, they link together to form very tightly written songs that can seemingly stretch out into the obscure, forbidden realms beyond human perception yet never truly become drawn out or overlong even when they go for lengthier patterns, mostly due to excellent melodies that bring a great degree of character and having subtle but effective ways to repeat earlier concepts without truly copy-pasting them or even breaking from them with abrupt and frenetic detours. While the songwriting doesn’t necessarily always feel complete with both songs using a bit more fleshing out rather than depending on a particular lengthier riff to do most of the work of explaining and capitalizing on mounting suspense, the songs themselves demonstrate a very strong understanding of death metal compositional fundamentals and how to implement black metal influence without really falling into the usual expectations of blackened death. More importantly, in their concise approach they’ve create a distinct sound that captures much of what is great about Chile’s burgeoning scene and without falling into a “clone” category.
Personally I think we may have to wait a few more EP’s to a full length before we hear the full strength of this band. These two songs are well made but as much as they demonstrate skill they also hint at greater knowledge and revelation behind their compact frames. For fans of Horrifying, Pentagram (Chile), early Morbid Angel, Sadistic Intent, Atomic Aggressor, Vampire and other bands who dwell in the realms of mystery and impious lurking terror in the genre’s deep, Invocation can safely be welcomed as initiates into the cult of death and promising seers of what coming years will bring.