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No band sounds quite like Incantation. And, no album sounds quite like Onward to Golgotha. Yet this is not a release without flaws.
The most obvious aspect of this release is the production. When I heard it for the first time, it was like pouring mud in my ears. This might be the murkiest guitar tone I have ever heard. During the blasting sections, riffs are almost inaudible. One riff half way through "Rotting Spiritual Embodiment" sounds random, even after many listens. The guitar tone on later albums is crystal clear in comparison. And yet, the mixing of the album is too clean compared to later albums. It is rather like the cold quality of Morbid Angel's "Blessed are the Sick". The drum sound lacks bass. Yet, they do sound like Autopsy's first 2 albums, if you like those.
Next I will talk about the guitar riffs. Quantity is not a problem. Every song introduces one heavy riff after another. Incantation is best when playing ominous tremolo assaults with huge tempo changes. These bring to mind an unholy monster gradually increasing its brutal savagery on a helpless victim. Less convincing are the slower chugging riffs. These bring to mind a more monotonous Autopsy. Yet, John McEntee has his own riffing style. On this album there is no doubt that Incantation are playing. Not similar bands like Immolation or Autopsy.
The vocals add to the atmosphere. They bring to mind the ambient howls of monsters in games like Dark Souls. "Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies" descends into multi-tracked vocal chaos at the end. It sounds like dozens of Craig Pillard’s growling at each other across a vast chasm.
Highlights include the opening track "Golgotha". This shows concisely the Incantation formula of tempo changes and tremolo onslaughts. "Christening the Afterbirth" is notable for subtle use of sinister keyboards at the end. "Blasphemous Cremation" contains one of the more memorable examples of Incantation's tempo changes. Finally, "Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies" closes the album climatically. All the songs are similar and most transition into the next. This has the plus of better album flow, but the minus of worse track individuality.
In the end, Onward to Golgotha establishes a unique sound that would not grow much beyond this album. However, in my opinion, this does not make it the definitive Incantation release. The guitar solos in particular are weak. But it is the production and weak song variation leads me to my conclusion. This album cannot match the more refined Incantation featured on "Mortal Throne" and "Diabolical Conquest", or even "Dirges of Elysium".
For most Incantation fans, this is a classic of Death Metal and their best. For myself, it is quite an interesting and important album. Nothing really sounds quite like it, even today. But I believe it still doesn't stand the test of time and I tire of it quickly.
The early days of the NYDM were, if nothing else, an interesting contrast from what preceded it. In direct contrast to the still heavily present thrash metal tendencies of most of the prime movers in Florida up until 1992, there was a very sudden and jarring shift in character of sound, arguably ushered in by the more grinding character of Morbid Angel's sophomore effort Altars Of Madness, which incorporated the otherwise occasional blast beat element to the point that it supplanted the earlier, Slayer/Possessed characteristic thrashing one. However, all of that considered, along with the relevant Cannibal Corpse releases that were also moving away from the death/thrash transitional stage, there is one album that truly exemplifies that sudden and jarring leap away from older ways, and that is Incantation's gargantuan wall of sound steeped debut Onward To Golgotha.
Not only does this album break away from the thrash roots of its forerunners, but it also leaves most of the other New York bands that were moving in a similar direction for a realm all its own. Much of this is due to the extremely sludgy and colossal sound quality, which exudes a level of heaviness meshed with murkiness that is arguably only rivaled by that of Crowbar, and has an aesthetic that definitely resembles what a number of death/doom bands would be exploring in the near future. Likewise, the dank pits of extreme groans and growls that vocalist Craig Pillard reaches are precedent setting, even when compared with that of Chris Barnes and Frank Mullen. It's one-dimensional, but it definitely works wonders for an atmosphere that is already comparably dense and dreary. The songwriting also embarks on an uncharacteristically minimalist approach, opting for a duality of extremely slow and loose trudge sections and exaggeratedly paced blast sections, which might come off as stilted and jarring if it weren't for the swampy smoothness of the production.
All of this said, there are still some lingering hints of old school death metal buried underneath the massive pile of putrid flesh and bone that is this album's sound, ones that further push this away from the brutal/technical offshoot that Suffocation was exploring. Most of this is inherent in John McEntee's guitar work, which relies heavily on the haunting, chromatic tonality that Slayer pioneered 6 years prior, either in a blurring tremolo passage somewhat along the lines of what Morbid Angel was doing, or in a slower stomp that is still comparable to that of Obituary, albeit in a heavily distorted way. The short lead guitar bursts that occur are likewise classic examples of the chaotic and frenzied passages typical to many Slayer-inspired shredders in the Florida scene, particularly that of Decide's own Hoffman duo. Granted, given the highly auspicious contrast in production and sound quality, it's difficult to see these trees for the massive forest that obscures them, but it is definitely there.
While a defining moment in death metal history, like a number of classic albums, this one is not without a few flaws. It's extremely difficult to differentiate songs because of all the similar ideas going on. A few start slow while a few others will start blasting away at full speed, but this whole album listens like one extended song, and it does wear a bit thin upon repeated listens for anyone looking for a collection of songs with contrasting ideas. This is the antithesis of the Bay Area and Teutonic inspired death/thrash that Death and several other lesser known bands were dabbling in (including McEntee's former band Revenant), and relies more on atmosphere than impact. But regardless, it's something that every old school death metal enthusiast should be familiar with, and something that might carry appeal to a younger crowd that craves the rabid minimalism of brutal acts populating the scenes of late.
This album is a death metal masterpiece. Every single track is some of the best material that any death metal band can offer, starting with the frenzied opener Golgotha and ending with the equally heavy (and especially frenzied) Eternal Torture.
The guitar work by John McEntee is incredible and is one of the best guitarists in all of death metal in my opinion. The bass and drums do their jobs by filling in the gloomy sound of the album during the doom sections, but during the death sections they turn into full blown weapons of mass destruction against your ears. Most importantly, the big highlight of the album is, in my opinion, the vocals. Craig Pillard is the epitome of a death metal vocalist. The man is guttural and at times sounds absolutely inhuman. His vocals are the perfect match for the instruments and the music that is portrayed.
All in all, I give Incantation's Onward to Golgotha a 100% because it is a perfect album and deserves a perfect score. It has everything a death metal album needs, so hopefully my review helped you understand the perfection in musicianship that this album displays. In all honesty, this album is tied with Immolation's Here In After as my favorite death metal album ever released.
I first heard of Incantation while looking for some good old school death metal on iTunes’s store and Incantation came up. I had sort of high hopes for their debut cd, "Onward to Golgotha", and while I was disappointed, it wasn't enough to completely turn me off to the band.
I have two main problems with "Onward to Golgotha". The first is that the production quality of the album is just awful. The guitars, vocals, and drums are mixed to the point that they sound like one big blob of sound that one has to strain to listen to the music that's being played. There's a lot of "noise" in the mix that makes the album difficult to listen to. The guitar riffs can be heard, but because of the poor production quality are hard to hear clearly.
My second problem is the songwriting on the album. Every song, at least to my ears, sounds the same, but in the band's defense this can also be due to the poor production quality. The album does feature some great tracks, like "Rotting Spiritual Embodiment", "Eternal Torture", and "Immortal Cessation", among others. The problem I have is that the songs, while good, even great sometimes, sound too similar to each other, and while listening I'll often forget what track I'm on and the album sounds like one long track to me.
On the good side, I greatly enjoyed the vocals and the band's style of playing. To me, the band's style of playing sounds sort of like a combination of Immolation and Suffocation, both NY-based pioneers in the death metal genre. The vocals on "Onward to Golgotha" are deep, guttural, and suit the dark atmosphere of the music perfectly. Once you get past the poor production and repetitiveness, the guitar playing is actually very good.
Despite its flaws, I enjoyed "Onward to Golgotha" enough to purchase Incantation's second album, "Mortal Throne of Nazarene". Remember that this is a debut album and I've heard very few debut albums that are perfect. Incantation's debut, while not particularly good, is enough to make you come back for more.
I've found many a death act who could steam into my living room and rip the holy hell out of the place for 10 minutes. The problem is keeping it fresh and interesting for the long haul. Onward to Golgotha is seething, evil, monstrous death that pounds you into puddy from the very opening. But that's not the big deal. The fact that it retains its lustre and memorability well into Profanation and beyond? That's a big deal.
The songwriting is premiere-quality. I can't stress it enough. Great material will triumph over all. Songs like Devoured Death hang in my brain for hours after listening to them. Devoured Death contains a fantastic changeup riff in the middle that I can always recall from memory, no matter what. The outro in Rotting Spiritual Embodiment is a haunting slow creep of a rhythm complete with Pillard's sick gutteral vocals riding over it like a shadowy monster unleashing his evil in all its glory. Christening the Afterbirth feels a lot like doom, but with a death metal sensibility and some great atmospherics. Immortal Cessation blasts your sorry ass into a wall and keeps you there while it slows the tempo down, grinding you into a puddle of sludge. I could go on and on.
The Incantation formula is to keep throwing these luscious, deadly riffs at you that are just dripping with atmospheric evil and then pound it home with a sledgehammer. They understand how to use different beats and keep the flow changing. When they hit the blast beats, it works because they don't feel the need to stay with it forever. And you know there's just this ultra-scary death groove waiting to lure you in and destroy you on the other side. It's done with a purpose. And they aren't just a two-speed band. The songs are all over the spectrum tempo-wise. It's a great mix; they're doing just about everything you can imagine, comping on riffs with different tempos, hitting you with complete changeups, flirting with doom-stylings, tremelo picking against blast beats. It's all put together extremely well for a freshman effort. Impressive, to say the least.
And the good material lasts all the way into the latter parts of the album. There's no weakness to be had on Onward to Golgotha. These guys set out to get bloody, from start to finish. There wasn't any of this "oh screw it, we've got 6 good songs just fill out the rest" crap. You get the full deal when you sign on to the Onward to Golgotha experience. Maybe Eternal Torture is a little heavy on the blast beats. Maybe.
I've heard some sloppy death productions in my time, and Incantation certainly flirts with it here. The mix on Onward... isn't exactly stellar. There's a lot of mud happening in the lower portion of the midrange, and I can't really hear the bass drum in the way I would like. The entire spectrum has a noisy feel to it. Precision isn't the order of the day; rather we're talking sludge-ridden blasting and pounding. At least it sounds original though. I haven't really heard an album with this tone. It's unique, even if that uniqueness is coming from a less-than-perfect mix. There were so many death albums produced and mixed by the same house back in 1992. The fact that Onward to Golgotha sounded nothing like any of those albums wound up being a net positive.
The bottom line is this: when I think of truly evil, sick sounding death metal, this is one of the first albums that comes to mind. It achieved its intent in a grand, disgusting way. Onward to Golgotha exists as a unique slab in a genre where it can be extraordinarily difficult to stand out. Furthermore, if you really needed an album to scare the living fuck out someone, I'll bet for many of you this would be the one you pull out from your shelves. Oh, yes. If some country music fan needed to be shown the door, I'm betting you'd be grabbing Onward to Golgotha, turning the volume to 10, and enjoying the horrified expressions as people ran from the room screaming.
Perfection. A single word that I often associate with this album. In 1992, death metal achieved it's most evil, heavy, brutal and all around addicting album to date, and that comes in the form of "Onward to Golgotha". Death metal was leading up to this brilliant juxtaposition of fast and slow, complete with down tuned guitars and even lower vocals. Taking these elements and combining it with superb song writing and a natural sense for evil riffing, Incantation proved themselves as one of the most important bands in death metal.
The first track can pretty much sum up all the elements of what there is to find on this album. The production favors the low end nature of this album, as nothing gets buried. The bass can be heard rumbling behind everything, while the guitars are effectively crushing in slow parts, and like chainsaw when tremolo picked. There's no trickery here, that's for sure.
Anyway, aside from the production, it's obvious these guys understood how to write songs well. A motif will be introduced, and as it's developing, counterpoint motifs of half times and double times come into the picture, creating songs with lots memorable parts. These two motifs always seem related and never awkward when put together, so these guys obviously weren't pulling riffs out of their asses and sticking them anywhere. It also helps that the riffs they do come up with are of high caliber, they always seem to manage to be relevant and memorable to the song. John McEntee wrote some stellar riffs without a doubt.
Speaking of writing, Paul Ledney seemed to have a hand in some of the riffs in this album, as one will notice them on Havohej/Profanatica material. In this case, the Ledney-like riffs do have more of a death metal edge on them, mostly due to the performance.
Certainly the performance here has a lot to do with why this record rules so much. Jim Roe has an excellent sense of rhythm and often offers interesting beats that are catchy in their own way. Not to mention his blast beats are pummeling and really set the standard for Incantation. The rest of the band plays with a lot of conviction too.
A good portion of the songs on this album had been released already demos/EPs, but one will notice that it's a different line up playing them here. Songs like "Profanation" sound even more crushing than previous recordings, and Craig Pillard's vocal performance on this album certainly has a lot to do with that. His low guttural vocals are not to be missed, as Pillard probably has the best grasp on this style of vocals.
This album really took all the best elements of death metal and expanded on them, creating a varied yet brutal album, one that still stands up to this day. It's a shame that the line up here only recorded this album together (and that recently released recordings from 1991). Although, sans-McEntee, they would meet again in Womb/Disciples of Mockery which is recommended for fans of this.
New Jersey’s Incantation was not only one of the long running death metal bands to emerge in the music’s post-Morbid Angel second wave of world domination for the genre, but also one of the most creative and best. Led by guitarist (and sometime vocalist) John McEntee, the band have, despite a constant revolving door of membership changes, made some of the heaviest and darkest music ever laid down in praise of Thanatos (the god of death, not the Dutch band), always in the band’s inimitable style.
Two seven inch singles preceded the band’s debut proper (Entrantment Of Evil and Deliverance Of Horrific Prophecies) and thus we underground troglodytes were well primed for the appearance of the band’s official digital debut. First off the sound job is raw like hunks of bloodied Christian limbs in a Roman amphitheatre. This, in itself, was a relief because by 1992, the number or death metal bands receiving safe, super-processed sound jobs at the Mecca of studios, Morrisound in Florida was getting predictable, out of hand and depressing. But not so for Incantation, who preferred a distinct but crusty noise to lay their tracks down onto. Secondly, the songs themselves are deftly limber, despite their downright leaden weight, shifting easily from blast beat viciousness to slow, slithering doom with remarkable ease. In fact it actually the slowest cut on hand “Christening The Afterbirth” that hammers home the band’s point with the most evil intent, although “Golgotha” and “Unholy Massacre” also feature riffing and structures of fearsome mass.
It must be said that in a glut of bands trying to perform ever more brutal and blasting death metal, Incantation have always maintained their identity. Sure their music is as wicked and gruff as death metal has any right to be, but it’s also (un)blessed with eerie structures, memorable anti-melodies, and an ever present, nearly tangible sense of doom and desperation. Which is something a Morrisound production job could almost never conjure, no matter how good their stupid mixing board was.
When people speak of classic albums of the brutal death genre, usually names like Suffocation, Immolation, or Gorguts pop up. Incantation rarely gets mentioned in such discussions, which is a real shame- this album is definitely one of the best brutal death albums in existence.
The focus here is on the riffing- and in the riffing, there’s a sampling of all sorts of brutal DM styles. It’s got Immolation style “part harmonic-based chord, part lead” riffs (see the first riff in “Golgotha”, and the riff 30 seconds into “Blasphemous Creation”), it’s got the insanely twisted atonal riffs of Gorguts (see the first riff on “Rotting Spiritual Embodiment”, the riff at 2:32 of “Golgotha”, and the first bit of “Entrantment of Evil”), the somewhat more straight-forward Suffocation style riffs with some thrash melodies underneath (most riffs on Devoured Death being good examples), as well as Suffocation’s doomier style (second riff of Rotting Spiritual Embodiment), mixed up with their own style of brutal but melodic riffs and even a touch or two of early Morbid Angel- all delivered with a flair of originality and a more evil sound than most of those bands, except for the Immolation- those riffs tend to have a slightly grittier, dirtier texture than those in Immolation. Pace wise, it tends to be mid to fast paced, with occasional doomier sections thrown in. Leads don’t tend to stick out in front of the rhythm lines so much as they do on most albums, and are somewhat closer to typical metal traditions in their note choice, rather than using the insane atonality that's popular among the NYDM crowd.
Drums don’t “overplay” in the least- they can go fast and frantic when called for, but through the slower riffs they either tend to resort to more complex, slower patterns that work quite well.
Vocals are a bassy roar- not so inhuman sounding as Suffocation, but sort of in between that and the more human-grunted sound of Immolation. Bass isn’t much of an issue, as it’s hardly distinguishable from the guitars, and basically acts to back them up.
Structurally, it’s similar to Suffocation- songs are made up of two opposing motifs that are juxtaposed against each other, and those two motifs evolve while still contrasting each other, with reprisals thrown in at logical places, helping to keep the whole thing unified. These guys do it even better than Suffocation, though- songs flow much better and are more unified than Suffocation’s, and have a stronger unique identity than Suffocation’s songs tend to.
Production is what can be expected for this sort of thing- thick, murky, low pitched guitars (although it still captures tone better than the production of most other NYDM from this time period), vocals and drums fairly flat in the mix along with them.
All this combines to create an album that truly lives up to the term “death” metal- unlike most “aggressive oh-so-brutal” band, this truly succeeds at conveying the imminence of death. As the title of this review notes, it’s an overlooked classic that should be in the collection of anyone who likes brutal death in the least.
This is the debut album by Incantation. It is packed full of aggressive riffs, pounding drums and vocals that sound even lower than Mortician(seriously), but in all reality, this is not outstanding, nor is it even great. This album is average.
This is very brutal. It just crushes your skull in, but at the same time, the brutality comes through as being just a wall of noise. The guitars are almost non existent because of the drums being mixed way too high, and when you can hear the guitars, they aren't really doing anything great, kinda boring actually. Sluggy riffs that all sound the same. Seriously, I thought that every song was the same. Each song has the same elements, played exactly the same.
I have been bashing this album too much already, so I will mention the good things, and there ARE good things about it. The vocals are great. I'm a sucker for the low guttural growl, and this album sure as hell has guttural vox. Craig Pillard sounds like an even lower Will Rahmer. He pukes and belches his vocals out and makes it sound really vile in the process. They should have stuck with him doing vocals. The bass is audible at times, and it seems to be doing some interesting things. The musicians are talented, but are just not writing too good of songs. Songwriting is something that this release seriously lacks IMO.
Bottom line is, if you like your DM this way, then you will want to have this. I like most kinds of Death metal, and don't get me wrong, I do like this, but it's just not as good as say, Diabolical Conquest. That album is GODLY.