Blood Incantation – Starspawn

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It’s pretty rare for any band to really effectively blend old and new together. Sometimes these elements clash too much or the band’s ambition outweighs their talent. Whatever the reason, it makes it pretty remarkable whenever I find a band or album that has clear inspirations from the past but also is looking forward in such a drastic way. Today’s album, the debut full length from these death metallers from Colorado, has been getting a whole lot of buzz in the metal review world, so I knew this was an album I would have to check out eventually. I am incredibly glad that I chose sooner rather than later because this album kicked me repeatedly in the stomach, demanding I grant it the respect it so clearly deserves.

As soon as I looked at the album, I was a bit surprised that an album that is very much rooted in classic era, early 1990s, death metal, that it only had five songs for a 34 minute album. Classic death metal isn’t exactly known for their long, meandering songs. Many classics of the genre are short, brutal, and fast. Blood Incantation throws out the death metal rulebook and goes for broke, with the opening song Vitrification of Blood (Part 1) being a 13 minute monstrosity that travels the gamut of extreme metal.

We start with strong classic death metal riffs, slowly traveling to a land of slow and crushing funeral doom, before closing us out with a clean atmospheric section that wouldn’t seem out of place on an Agalloch album. The band really creates an almost alien atmosphere while utilizing many of the classic tropes of the genre. The slow, creepy Meticulous Soul Devourment is entirely devoted to just getting under the listener’s skin in the best way possible before launching into the pummeling closing track, Starspawn.

The dual guitar work of Morris Kolontyrsky and Paul Riedl is one of the highlights, which Starspawn and Hidden Species (Vitrification of Blood Part 2) really show off. There are plenty of old school death work but also some really interesting progressive riff work and even a few points where they get incredibly melodic. They run the gamut of death metal guitar playing and it is really impressive to hear.

That’s not to leave the rhythm section out, Isaac Faulk’s drum work is very impressive as well and he knows just how to back off enough from the speed to let the atmosphere really flow through you. Jeff Barrett’s bass is a steady undercurrent, giving a constant driving force for the song and usually following the guitars in their complex melodies. Isaac and Jeff really show off with both brutality and melody on the aforementioned ambitious opener and it works phenomenally. The part that is right around the 4 minute mark is particularly impressive.

Honestly the only downside I can really see here is Paul’s vocals, and it isn’t even because they are bad. They are very serviceable and get the job done admirably. It’s just with the incredible songwriting and instrumental work on display, they are overshadowed due to how ordinary they are. They aren’t anything new and his death growls won’t be a genre leader, but they certainly don’t distract or detract from the rest of the tapestry of extraterrestrial sound on display. His strongest suit is probably his long and guttural screams, which are often shown off again on the ambitious Vitrification of Blood (Part 1) or Chaosplasm.

This album really came out of nowhere for me, and if it wasn’t for the hype and buzz I was hearing, I probably would have passed on it due to it being yet another classic death metal style album. If you were for some reason thinking the same as I did, you are making a mistake. These guys are ambitious and talented musicians and I really want to see what they do in the future after launching off from this incredible album. Death metal doesn’t get much weirder or better than this.

Grade: A

Must-listens: Vitrification of Blood (Part 1), Starspawn, Hidden Species (Vitrification of Blood Part 2), Meticulous Soul Devourment

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