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This band just recently came to my attention, via a suggestion by my co-writer Y. Arkadin. Apparently he has been privy to their existence for some time now, and I am getting into this whole thing late in the game. Better late than never, I guess.
For those of you who are not aware, or who have not really heard much about this band (they seem to have kept something of a low profile - on purpose or not, I can not tell), it includes three former members of Incantation: guitarist/vocalist Craig Pillard, bassist Ronny Deo, and drummer Jim Roe. Did you wonder what happened to them? Apparently after circling through various projects or friends' bands after their departure from McEntee's unit, they decided to officially get back together and start making music again. The result? Excellent, and also very enlightening: both as to the part that Pillard must have played in composing Incantation's earlier material, and the impact he must have had on McEntee's guitar playing - an influence that is still to be heard, if you have listened to the material Pillard's former band has released since his departure.
It is difficult, really, to separate this band from Incantation's legacy - at least for me. Not just because the two groups sound so similar - a product, maybe, of the cross-pollination of influences between McEntee and Pillard; but also because of the strangely near-identical evolution of these two musicians with their separate skills and musical visions. There are differences, to be sure, between the two bands - but they are elements (on the part of Disciples of Mockery) that I don't think are really ready to be examined yet: they haven't evolved fully, and are still in a germ or embryo stage. This is a band that has yet to find its own style, but I am not sure that at this point they have really given that much thought to creating an original sound. As long as Pillard composes the majority of the music, and his personal evolution as a musician follows the path started in Incantation, I think this band will always be compared with his earlier one. Perhaps that doesn't bother them: this CD came to me with a sticker on the front that claimed their status as 'ex-members of Incantation', and their advertisements say the same. I hope that on the next album they will leave that behind.
Pillard here composes in a fashion that will be very familiar to those of you that have followed the career arc of Incantation - his melodicism and aesthetics are easily identifiable (being for the most part original, outside of the connection with his former band), combining a very raw and distorted grinding death metal pace with slow and beautifully simple doom riffs that are layered (with the bass and second guitar) in such a way as to create impressively dark atmospheres. The transitions between these two elements of their sound - the rough, blistering, barbaric speed and the labored pulsings of downtuned distemper - are often very abrupt, but in a way that doesn't create disruptions in their mesmerizing or depressing effect on the mind. The first example of this comes at exactly 2:58 into the lead track, 'Literal Upheaval of the Earth'. Much like his earlier work, the tremelo-picked riffs (almost always backed by a blasting rhythm section) are actually slow repetitions of descending melodies, mirror-images of the slothful, plodding sections in the songs. Because of this, the fast parts never get too technical and so can be absorbed into the general mood, or the intended effect of the material. This is a technique that will be readily apparent to you if you have heard either of Incantation's first two albums.
This music is much more desolate and depressing, in any case, than the earlier Incantation songs. Concentrating in many instances on a much slower, trance-like vibe (very similar to Winter), there is something about the melodies offered here which make the music turn away from the over-generalized attempts at blasphemy or anti-religious sentiment that had marked Pillard's work before into a whole new realm: a bleak, gray, almost emotionless atmosphere void of stirring energy or enthusiasm in any direction, be it religious, idealogical, or political. The last track on this record, the cold dirge 'Rotting Immaculate Like You', is the best example of this utterly dispirited approach. I hesitate to say it is colored by despair, because it hardly ever moves forward to bless it's own existence with an emotional import of any kind. I'll take a cue from the album's title and label it an apocalyptic sound, as it gives rise to images, on my part, mainly of worlds or times where emotions have been so stressed by cataclysmic events that they are rendered slack, unbalanced, and ineffective. If this a new form of melodicism, I would call it the expression of an overwhelming exhaustion, of decay, sterility, and death - the search for fulfillment in a world that can no longer offer you any form of satisfaction.
If you consider yourself in any way an admirer of Incantation's earlier material, or a devotee of the darker sides of metal, then I would suggest finding this album at the earliest opportunity. Support this powerful band and their continuing evolution.
This album is an interesting prospect to review, it's an album I've wanted to review for a very, very long time, and it's one that deserves the most utmost attention and as much love that the world can throw at it, but it's one that is extremely hard to do justice to. Not because of it's glorious artistic work, or because of how nuanced and genius it, instead it's a challenge to review because of how exceptionally simple and to the point it is. It isn't an atmospheric master work, it isn't a technical feat, it's not even intricately composed, it's simply the purest outpouring of tremolos-and-doom death metal riff work imaginable, and elaborating that point to a standard that really justifies a perfect score is a real challenge.
In the most simplistic terms, Disciples of Mockery's eight existent tracks can be described as Incantation without the midpaced atmospherics leaving nothing but uptempo tremolo riffing and doom. It's not a perfect summary of the band, and it does sell them short a little, but honestly, those thirteen words describe the entire band in a pretty acceptable manner, and really doesn't miss the mark by much. In a more elaborated from, Disciples of Mockery play extremely high tempo tremolo based death metal with a strong sense of hooks rather than twisted evil or darkness, with lengthy passages of contrasting doom, based around loud crushing riffs rather than murky gloominess, with occasional phased out out bass drones providing some texture and gloom. It's hard to really put it in much more of a complex way. This album has two modes, they're both riffy as hell, they're both rather identifiable and by the book, and 100% of the brilliance is devoted to the absolute perfection is in the delivery, rather than anything different and surprising the band actually does.
Really the only really surprising tidbit I can think of is that these guys don't actually sound that much like Incantation. I mean, yeah, every element that makes up their sound is taken straight from there, but the whole approach and mood here is totally different, and when you consider that the entire line up is made up of Incantation members who specifically set out to write a "true third Incantation album" after they found Diabolical Conquest not Incantation-y enough, the sizable differences are really quite a surprise. They are definitely close, but not as close as you'd expect, if metal was a suburb, Disciples of Mockery would live on the same street, definitely not next door, but maybe a block away on the other side of the road, and they'd probably get along alright when they crossed paths from time to time, except every now and then DoM would get drunk on moonshine and kick down Incantation's mailbox. And Incantation would just sit there and take it because they're a little tired and unfit from staying up all night enacting satanic rituals in secluded caves, whereas DoM does nothing but pushups all day and throws empty bottles at the school bus when he's in a bad mood.
The most noticeable shifts are in the song structuring, vocals, and overall tempo of the album. Disciples of Mockery more or less pass over the careful and emotionally shifting structures of their former band and pretty much stick to one major tempo shift per song. Most songs will start off fast, blast away for two to three minutes, before dropping a crushing doom bomb on you for the ending, or vice versa. There are no lurching middle points, there is no contrasting back and forth between styles, just pure savagery and pure devastation placed alongside one another. A couple of tracks take it even further, like the blistering “Our Father Who Art As Nothing" or the crawling "An Endless Pursuit for a Satisfying Pain " stick to one mode throughout, but generally, outside of the 8 minute Dogma which does have some back and forth tempo jumping, songs will consist of one major stylistic shift at a maximum. Unlike many of the bands around that have tried to distill that sort of sound down to a baser level, the whole evil ritual vibe has been sacrificed here, and oddly enough it is not missed at all, thanks to the quality of the goddamned riffing here.
With a lot of the moodiness sucked out the sound, the band has made the wise decision to use the tremolo stuff here as a weapon, rather than a mood setter. Not that these riffs are exactly testaments to the adorableness of overweight ginger cats, it's more like they've gone through Incantation's big bag of riffs, dumped out the creepy moody ones, dropped out the evil buzzing ones, dropped out the chunkier ones, and now have just got those overtly hooky yet savage ones left over, and it's as righteous sermon to the glory of death metal riffage as has ever existed. Sure, it means the album is pretty one dimensional; literally every fast part is blast beats and tremolos, and the doom is merely split into two different forms, basic thundering and more atmospheric bass drones, ala Womb, and that's it! There are exactly three ideas for half an hour, but every riff is recognisably different from one another, each one is uniformly headbangable and catchy, and there is not a single misstep on the whole album, and at least part of it is due to the simple minded nature of it. The band never tries to make it murky and evil, so every single riff is busy, with many rapid note shifts and overt, undeniable hooks, and the tempo is consistently higher than the usual tremolo based band, keeping the breakneck energy positively neck breaking, as such, every single riff wriggles it's way into the brain as a unique earworm. The approach is entirely too rocking out based to have any flat moments.
Vocally, Craig Pillard is worthy of some special note, this is something of an anomaly in his otherwise relentlessly deep, cavernous back catalogue. Here he is oddly clear, with every note clearly enunciated, and with a generally higher pitched (for Pillard) and airy aura, which is far less impenetrably thick than his usual, perfect roars. It is likely, in terms of sheer objective vocal quality at least, his weakest effort on any album, since he really is up there as one of the absolute best low ended growlers in the business, but its oddness the style is more fitting for the album. He's high enough that he never gets lost in the uptempo blast fests, dragging behind as a filthy slime left in it's wake, but he's still brutal enough that he delivers enough demented sickness for the immense doom breaks, and finally the airiness means he fits perfectly in with the more spacy doom parts too, without needing to put on a totally different voice to the rest of his performance. He may not deliver what his name usually suggests on the tin, but it works, and his unique performance is just another element that has been tweaked in just the right way to fit the album perfect.
Overall, that's it, that's all there really is to say about the album. And I feel like I've repeated myself enough to not have to go over it again to wrap up the review. This is an album that has simplified its whole niche into it's absolute base form, and has got it absolutely right; even if it did occur somewhat by accident, since this is a fair way from being the logical follow up to Mortal Throne of Nazarene than what the band openly went in with the intention of making, but honestly, the primal riff lover in me thinks it's an improvement.
Where the old Incantation left off, it was continued here, except perhaps even more doomish, by Craig Pillard. This band of his is basically what he though Incantation should sound like. The two bands are very similar in sound and in riff and song structures, so fans of one should definitely check out the other, i.e. all of you Incantation fans need to start listening to this shit. After all, it has everyone form old Incantation except John McEntee, and they continue to spread horror. It is a heavier version of them its true, but they also paradoxically use more blast beats at higher tempos. There is basically less mid-tempo riffage, although you can still find three tons of it on this album. Sounds like Winter and old Incantation on crack. The vocals are straight out of the old Incantation sets, the guitar work is crazy as all hell, and the entire albums sound envelops you like some putrid WOMB, sometimes bedazzling with nice slow melancholic riffs, sometimes harshing your mellow with trem picked blast beat insanity. There is not a lot I can say about this album, because it has basically become a part of my subconscious, I think it is absolutely superb, just as good as the best Incantation records. The riffs seep in and drown out everything else, and the sound is just too cryptic for mention. If you like metal, any metal, you should give it a listen, if you like old school death metal, give Necroharmonic records a call and pick this shit up ASAP. Even if you like new school, this shit should still awaken the atmosphere of death and decay fairly well, too.