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Cavernous Death Metal - 94%

The Rite of Darkness, December 16th, 2018

The first observation I had when first listening to Incantation's "Onward to Golgotha" was its massive sound. Sludgy guitars (down-tuned to C-standard) and a rumbling bass create a terrifying atmosphere, sounding as if it was recorded in a cave. The instrumentation also fits perfectly with Craig Pillard's incredible growls, which fill out the sound even more. Despite the muddy production, the fantastic drum-work is able to effectively penetrate through the mix; the double bass drumming on tracks such as "Eternal Torture" and "Profanation" is quite clear.

Drawing inspiration from first-wave black metal (Sarcófago, Blasphemy) and early death metal (Necrophagia, Death, Necrovore, Autopsy), Incantation primarily uses tremolo-picked riffs, which is contrasted with slower, doom-like sections. The instrumentation is surprisingly complex for old school death metal, with riffs weaving in and out of multiple time signatures and tempos. For example, "Immortal Cessation" switches between 11/8 and 4/4, and "Blasphemous Cremation" switches from 5/4, 4/4, and 6/4. These time signature and tempo transitions are very fluid and well written. As for the substance of the riffs themselves, I cannot find a single poorly-written moment on this album. Take the opening track "Golgotha," for example; opening with a quick series of power chords, the guitars quickly descend into madness, with extremely chaotic riffing during the verse. After slightly slowing down the tempo during the chorus section, the tremolo picking breaks out again, alternating between 4/4 and 5/5, with a frenetic guitar solo to top it off. Another highlight is the riffing during "Blasphemous Cremation," notably the transitions. After a minute of rapid tremolo picking, the song slows down to a satisfying groove, followed by a series of doom-like sections. "Rotting Spiritual Embodiment" and "Unholy Massacre" conclude the first half of the album, both displays of excellent song-writing.

The second half of "Onward to Golgotha" is just as good as the first half, if not better. "Christening the Afterbirth" shows much more doom metal influence; aside for a couple brief fast sections, this track is the slowest on the album. Subtly layered keyboards make their appearance for the first time on the album, adding to the oppressive weight of the song. This track is juxtaposed with the next two, "Immortal Cessation" and "Profanation," the most violent songs here. The latter rips at a blistering 220 BPM, dissonant tremolo riffing at full display. The middle sections are rife with mid-tempo arrangements, equally as brutal as the faster sections. Depending on what version of the album you listen to, either "Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies" or "Eternal Torture" bring the album to a close. The latter is a bonus track reworked from the 1990 EP "Entrantment of Evil" and is included on releases after the original vinyl pressing. While "Eternal Torture" is an excellent song, the former song ends the album on a more conclusive note. The juxtaposition of doom-like sections with rapid tremolo picking is seen throughout the album and is brought full circle by "Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies." The song ends by descending into one of the best grooves on the album, layered with multi-tracked growls straight from the pits of Hell.

This disgustingly evil album is a classic of the genre - a truly unique experience.

Highlights: "Golgotha," "Rotting Spiritual Embodiment," "Unholy Massacre," "Christening the Afterbirth," "Immortal Cessation," "Profanation"

One of many guises of badassery - 94%

Gutterscream, December 5th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1992, CD, Relapse Records

“…seraph, let me be immortal like you…”

Badassery. Badassedness. The badness of one’s ass.

This more or less poetically-licensed term and its colorful slang have several definitions which change and grow according to the source. Here are a few covering the broader strokes, taken from both official and off-the-fly sources:

- The Urban Dictionary - engaging in seemingly impossible activities and achieving success in a manner that renders all onlookers completely awestruck.

- The Oxford Dictionary - behavior, characteristics or actions regarded as formidably impressive.

- Superpower Wiki - individuals of power, skills and spirit so great they end up bending if not outright breaking the rules of reality. To achieve mind-boggling feats as if it was a normal thing, whether they are battle-related or mundane tasks.

Full-frontal fearlessness in the face of immense danger or calamity. Unswerving courage under the most improbable of circumstances. To maintain one’s faith or beliefs in the face of unconquerable odds and possibly certain death. To seek retribution with no apparent concern for the cost of one’s own self.

While many real life individuals no doubt fill this rare bill, their names unfortunately ring out less significantly and for a shorter time unless sensationalized by the entertainment industry, most imminently film, comic books and anime. What these mediums do better than embellish real life people, however, is invent and glorify their own recognizable, larger-than-life and ultimately fictitious characters. Oftentimes they are badass.

Tony Montana – Heisenberg – Josey Wales - Det. Vic Mackey - Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting – Rorschach - Anton Chigurh - Darth Vader - Hanzee Dent - Chaney - Jason Bourne - A Man Called Hawk - The Comedian - Venger

It’s probably pretty clear where I’m going with this overdrawn introduction. It’s my way of declaring Pennsylvania-based Incantation, based on Onward to Golgotha’s then, here and now supreme badassery, embody every indestructible element top shelf death metal - first wave and any other thereafter, from my lap to Calvary’s crowning skullcap - wouldn’t be capable of existing without. I emphasize 'top shelf' 'cos anyone can play crappy death metal, however it takes a certain kind of, I dunno, badassedness to play grand scale stuff. FYI and in case it was mentioned in a discussion somewhere, this opinion has nuthin’ to do with a friendship with lung-crusher guitarist Craig Pillard which crawls back to the awesomely eager tape-trading days of the mid/late ‘80s, or my almost decade-long acquaintance with Thunderfoot Roe. It has everything to do with this record’s absolute decimation of normalcy. Period.

Lord Humungus - PFC Jenette Vasquez - Maximus Decimus Meridius - Tywin Lannister - Bullet Tooth Tony - Jules Winnfield - Tommy DeVito - Richard Riddick - Mike Ehrmantraut - Col. James Braddock – Storm Shadow - Marv

Incantation raged through the turn of the decade with some sub-sufficiently-produced demos, a single and an ep before badass Onward to Golgotha exploded in a frenzied blitz from the existing death metal mold that, even in ’92, was like hours-old paint still kinda tacky to the touch. Now, we all know by ‘90/’91 the style was already barreling forward with much smaller thrash-influenced strides than in ‘88/’89, and if you paid as much attention to this particular time’s underground metal as my ‘ol lady did wading knee-deep through early afternoon soap operas, you wouldn’t have had to be run over to get a look at the tire tread full-length debuts from Deicide, Merciless (Swe), Cannibal Corpse, Carnage (Swe), Pungent Stench, Entombed, Benediction +++, as well as discography perseverance by slightly elder panheads Morbid Angel, Death, Bolt Thrower, Obituary, Autopsy, Pestilence +++, were rolling in on.

Boris the Blade - Thundarr the Barbarian - Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Highway – Whitey Bulger - Forrest Bondurant - Snake Eyes - Otis Driftwood - Max Cady - Lono Veccio - Marsellus Wallace - Hammer Girl - Jack Conrad - Quint

Onward to Golgotha spews a din of ever-slightly-settled chaos, of thickly naked, skyscraping sludge bereft of the qualities held onto for dear life by the former heavyweight champ’een, thrash metal. Mountains have shattered trying to bear the brunt of this album’s initial onrush, and pieces are still falling around us perilously. They’re not easy to evade, and many can be heard whizzing sideways past our heads while they’re caught in the gale force of the tornadoes this lp has conjured.

To describe the badassery of violence and its aftermath these eleven songs unleash...christ, give me a minute. On this album’s planet, being flattened by ricocheting boulders “Golgotha”, “Eternal Torture” and personal fave “Immortal Cessation” is a natural hazard, meanwhile the Mach 10 scattershot of debris caused by the crater-making impact of “Entrantment of Evil” and “Profanation” shred like Gau-19/B Gatling gun fire, yet is still an unsurprising occurrence.

Here’s the thing. Since when do descriptive images like these register one iota of surprise when referring to possibly the most indomitable style of music in all creation? They don’t, at least not to us. We’re jaded, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important that there be more to Incantation and their debut than mere straightforward Defecation/Massacre/Mortician. Let’s backtrack in time a few months.

Felicia Snoop Pearson - Monroe Hutchens - Tong Po - Charlie Prince - Danny Greene - Omar Little - Brick Top - Darth Maul – Filo Betto – Wez - Black Dynamite – Det. Rust Cohle - Nicky Santoro - Dirty Harry Callahan - IG88

From a rusty and pitted ore smelter they, for all anyone knows, dragged into South River, NJ’s Trax East Studio with the help of some Clydesdales, the four-piece poured what sounds like a few dozen anvils hot, thick and lava-fied over the unsuspecting recording equipment, filling the production’s every cranny and nook with such brooding heaviness they needed additional horsepower to get it out the door and into the parking lot. Yep, the mix is meaty to say the least. It engulfs OtG in gruel so sensationally slurpy that tri-state neighbors and fellow deathmongers Immolation, miffed about how comparably sub-par the recording is for the previous year’s Dawn of Possession, allegedly got nabbed hijacking a smelter of their own when their feet got stuck in some hardening ore. Pretty much explains why there was no follow-up for like five years. But can ya blame em? Regardless, the mix is only one third of the story.

Det. Martin Riggs - John Doe - Brock Samson - Col. John Matrix - Clarence Boddicker - Sgt. Robert Barnes – Simon Pheonix - Leon the Professional - Col. William Tavington – Clay Burton - Arthur Fonzarelli - The Car - Chong Li

On that same magnificent day, the fearsome foursome surprised weeping studio owners with a road rally’s worth of magma-filled wheelbarrows they’d hidden in one of the studio’s unlocked filing rooms. The owners’ day grew worse, ‘cos while they rushed to extinguish important tax documents and signed contracts that caught fire in the magma's wake, the guys let gallons of the stuff fly by the shovel full, heaved directly onto their theory of death metal songwriting that in all probability woulda been kinda one-dimensional and speed-tired without it. This extra tonnage heroically prevents a railway of tracks from wilting into that sad fate by pushing the album’s songcraft deeper into a fly-buzzed boneyard where death and lurching doom metal forcibly, yet symbiotically swallow one another upon glorious impact. The detonation rebounds off the freshly unhallowed ground and awakens something already manifested within Onward to Golgotha’s primal psyche. As a call to arms it’s heralded, one that couldn’t be personified more accurately than with the fatefully-trudged, awesomely-ominous intro riff of “Rotting Spiritual Embodiment”, one of my fave badass lead-ins of all time.

Keyser Soze – The Hulk - Grimlock - Victor Creed - Snake Plissken - Norman Stansfield - Thanos - Hannibal Lecter – Lee - Kurgan - Man With No Name – Simon Adebisi – Richie Aprile - Olenna Tyrell - Joey Cusack - Lorne Malvo

Now, if you’re gonna go through with sticking this debut in your ears, be forewarned there’s no escaping Incantation’s adoration for the sourly-shifting, Ent-agile and leviathan-exhaling doom passage - a gift of metallic oppression that in this quartet’s clutches causes the term ‘power chord’ to grab its chest with one hand and a roll of toilet paper with the other. “Rotting Spiritual Embodiment” is not only a swell amalgamative example, it represents another third of the act’s most predominate badass traits that get along like a pair of triceratops laying waste to a mutually-loathed tyrannosaur. Bloody-throated “RSE” roars a summons, galvanizing her doom/death brethren to join her outside the primordial ooze - evenly evil “Unholy Massacre”, frenzy-shifting “Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies” and likely the most unique of OtG’s creations, the beautifully-titled “Christening the Afterbirth”, a track of singular and unusual spirit comparably, one that occasionally haunts its atmosphere with a mournful, horn-like effect, which to my mind could be an off-screen nod to their influences: To Mega Therion-era Celtic Frost avant-garde, Morbid Angel’s “Chapel of Ghouls” and its keyboard spruce-up, or even the emerging atmospheric doom/death/goth thunder of My Dying Bride, Anathema, Paradise Lost, Salem and The Gathering.

Leonidas - Capt. Ronald Speirs - The Hanson Brothers - Margos Dezerian - Col. Hans Landa – John Shaft – Benjamin Martin - Sallow - Brother Mouzone - Det. Alonzo Harris - Isaiah Bone – Manfred von Richthofen - Jake Lamotta - Emil Mătăsăreanu - Colonel Nathan Hardy

Despite lots of blast-beating and doomed crawls, many of Incantation’s best and most badass times actually rev somewhere above neutral and below the redline, with their music often finding enlightenment in brutality by churning ornery, mid-throttle stanzas, unorthodox half-speed arrangements and grim-tempoed exposition where “Profanation”, “Entrantment of Evil” and prized opener “Golgotha” work their necromancy. Such rhythmic bridges are also known to showcase John McEntee’s two-story soloing scaffold - one compelled by quick chaos, the other by an atonally structured and audibly warped sense of Trey Azagthoth.

Finally we get to Craig Pillard’s badass behemoth bellow n’ deep gutter drawl; it’s an unambiguous presence (lyrical decipherability notwithstanding) of unnervingly elongated and at times overlapping verses that seemingly originate and fade within the same nightmare. Few peers can corrode a microphone like this guy when it comes to truly unapologetically inhuman pipes, which are this slab’s final vital jigsaw piece.

Tom Jackman - Tanner Howard - Dan Paine - Seth Gecko - Max Rockatansky - Travis Bickle - The Joker - Yuri Boyka - Achilles - Wendell Bud White - Reginald & Ronald Kray - Galactus - Wah Sing Ku - Khal Drogo - Larry Phillips Jr. - Bradley Thomas - Lucas Hood

Of the tons of death metal fallout that’s plunged to Earth in the last who-knows-how-many years, Onward to Golgotha is one of my most gone-to meteors, whether it’s to irradiate the non-death metal inquisitive or to burn those bored with what they know as the same ‘ol bedlam. Music truly doesn’t get any heavier than the gravity of this album, and even while Mr. Pillard has admitted to me that in hindsight some of its songwriting coulda been better, to unearth a more entitled spokesalbum for death metal would surprise whatever badass is in me.

Some Fun Screwin' Around: tell me the barrage of metered power chords at the start of “Rotting Spiritual Embodiment”, lengthened or looped by like thirty seconds or so, wouldn’t be cool-ass-perfect entrance music for some worthy pro wrestler – in my day, the no doubt badass Road Warriors, Hawk (RIP) & Animal…The Warlord…The Barbarian…or both as The Powers of Pain…Abdullah the Butcher…Big Van Vader…The Undertaker selling his original impervious deadman shtick…Chief Jay Strongbow…The Haiti Kid….

As a side note on entrance music, from 1992-1993 I trained at Iron Mike Sharpe’s school of professional wrestling in Brick, NJ. Turns out it wasn’t quite for me, but before hanging up my trunks I agreed to one match in front of a crowd at a school-promoted show. My gimmick was a barbarian-type heel called Lord Bane. Since it was my swan song, I lost to fellow student Super Nova, who'd in time become somewhat of a name and eventually simplify is handle to Nova. He entered the ring to Queen’s “We Will Rock You”. I entered to My Dying Bride’s “Sear Me”, forty-two seconds from the start as soon as the second guitar kicks in.

Badasses listed that don’t Google so well:
- Chaney – Charles Bronson’s character in ’75’s Hard Times. He was 54 at the time.
- Sallow – Rutger Hauer’s character in ‘89’s The Blood of Heroes.
- Lee – Bruce Lee’s character in ‘73’s Enter the Dragon. Doubt a clip is necessary.

Laughable, silly, and downright ridiculous - 0%

Need4Power, November 19th, 2016

For the first few measures or so, the band catches your attention and makes you curious to hear more of what might come up this odd, unorthodox, strange approach to metal music. And for a short while you find yourself a bit intrigued. However, the music immediately becomes dreadfully repetitive, totally devoid of feeling, and downright ridiculous. Nowhere in this scattered shitstorm of noise will you find anything close to a coherent musical idea, or anything remotely worthy of musical value. Nor will you hear any single melody that will catch your metal ears.

The riffs sound extremely lazy, powerless, and poorly recorded. Backing the riffs is a spasmodic drummer who mindlessly delivers blast beat patterns that sound completely unfocused and uncoordinated. It must be that the drummer is so overly eager to showcase his hand speed that he completely lost his hearing in the process. None of his beats, fills, or crashes are tasteful or fitting. They are fast and chaotic merely for the sake of being fast and chaotic. It doesn't work and only ends up making them look and sound dreadfully awful and silly.

By the third song you find yourself wondering, hoping for maybe some variety of sound or musical delivery. It never comes. You find yourself baffled how the band never once consolidates any of their ideas into a single workable musical concept. Once you've heard the first minute of this album, you've heard the entire album. Don't hope for the slightest bit of variety, melody, feeling, or coherence, because you'll just be chasing a wild goose. You might think I'm exaggerating. I'm really not. This album truly is devoid of even the slightest amount of melody, feeling or emotion.

Now let's talk about the vocals. Just what in the fuck is he saying? There might as well not be any lyrics, because nothing that comes out is in the least bit decipherable. Vocals that are indecipherable are one thing, but when every single syllable that comes out of the guy's mouth sounds EXACTLY the same, you wonder what the fuck is the point of even having vocals at all. None of his low-pitched gargling delivers the slightest degree of passion or power. As for the tone of the voice being used, it resembles the sound of someone puking. It is absolutely horrible and intolerable to listen to.

Is there any redeeming quality to this flaming pile of shit? Unfortunately, no, there really isn't. Sometimes, even when a bands completely SOUNDS like shit, they retain a redeeming factor in that the riffs and solos they play actually take skill or dexterity. That isn't the case here. No demanding technical skill is to be found. The most you'll get is some fast right hand picking, but unfortunately the right hands seem to be totally out of sync and out of communication with the left hand on the fret board. Very little solos are found within this album, and when they actually come, they are short, spurious, and devoid of any passion whatsoever.

In conclusion, it was a complete waste of my time to check out this shitty album. It truly deserves a 0/100.

Onward to Fucking Perfection - 100%

Crypticide, September 7th, 2016

In 1992, Incantation released Onward to Golgotha establishing not only the band itself but also bringing more attention to the New York scene of death metal. This album is considered a classic in death metal and rightfully so, because this album is one of the most awesome metal albums of all time. Yeah, that's right, this album is a masterpiece of death metal. Every single second from Golgotha to Eternal Torture is some of the darkest, most evil, and otherworldly music ever made. This album conjures up an atmosphere of pure evil. This is helped by the production which has a very raw and muddy sound. Despite this fact, the production succeeds in matching the darkness of the music itself. The guitar sound is perfect, the drum sound is awesome, and the bass is very grindy and loud and helps the guitars to make the atmosphere work.

Now, anybody even remotely familiar with Incantation has probably heard the name Craig Pillard before. That's because he was probably one of the most guttural singers in death metal at the time. His vocal performance is absolutely fucking phenomenal. It's also very fun to sing along with him on songs such as "Rotting Spiritual Embodiment" as well as the opener Golgotha. His vocals are so low, sometimes when I imitate them I have a gag reflex.

Now one of the things that is notable about this album (especially at the time) is the doom influence on the death metal. Listening to songs such as Blasphemous Cremation (The middle section, of course), Christening the Afterbirth, and Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies, one can definitely notice a doom influence. To be honest it kind of reminds me of Disembowelment for some reason, hell, I've even spotted similar sounding riffs in Acid Bath songs.

Another thing I have noticed is that there are some very catchy moments in these songs. Especially about 14 seconds into Immortal Cessation as well as the opening section of the following track Profanation. Despite the glimpses of melody, this album is brutal as all hell. Listen to the song Eternal Torture and try to tell me that it is not one hell of an intense listening experience.

Overall, this album is a goddamn classic of death metal and should be recognized as such. So listen to this album now because if you're anything like me you'll find yourself listening to it just for the hell of it. This album is the epitome of death, evil , and all-around depravity.

100/ 100 fucking perfection.

A rotting embodiment of death metal - 100%

mikey22, June 26th, 2016

Everything that gives off an image of death metal is present in this very album. Heavy guitars - check, lyrics about occultism and gore - check, demonic vocals - check. Now, I consider this album to be flawless - that's right, there is nothing wrong with this album at all. Why, though? Well, this album is death metal perfection and is still one of the foulest, most crushing, and most oppressive releases of metal ever spawned upon the earth. The heaviness of this album cannot be described by words alone. The heaviness of this album is like being trapped in a swamp full of mush and below that swamp lies an evil that just sucks your soul in to never return. That's the best way I could describe how oppressive and dark an album like this is.

The first thing we have to discuss are Craig Pillard's monstrous vocals. His vocals are easily the most powerful I have ever heard in the old school death metal scene. His vocals are extremely high in the mix and his poetic lyrics give off a vibe of pure evil and apocalyptic chaos. While powerful, he is also extremely guttural, having some of the deepest growls recorded (on Mortal Throne of Nazarene his vocals got even deeper) along with Joe Ptacek and Chris Barnes. Craig somehow manages to sound like Cthulhu combined with Satan himself to give off one of the most devastating vocal performances ever laid on record.

The guitar work by John McEntee and Pillard were once described by an interview with Pillard as sounding like "1000 violins playing at once", and after listening to this record many times it holds true. The guitar tone is very swamp-like and devouring. This doesn't have the Morrisound Studios guitar tone that sounds like a muddy buzzsaw; it sounds entirely different. Nothing released back then has a sound that this album possesses. The guitar riffs are made up of very doom-laden sections and tremolo picking madness. For example, in the song "Rotting Spiritual Embodiment" it starts out real slow, then at the minute and a half mark it just speeds up to a very fast tempo and then the tremolo-picked riffs come in. Another example of this is "Unholy Massacre" where it starts out very slow, then speeds up again. The only songs that are completely slow throughout are "Christening the Afterbirth" except the first minute and "Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies." The guitar playing by McEntee and Pillard creates a very heavy swamp-like tone and very memorable riffs. Hell, there isn't a single bad riff or weak riff on this entire album. The solos played by McEntee are mostly chaotically fast guitar runs that were clearly influenced by Slayer and early Morbid Angel.

The rhythm section provides a very solid foundation to the monstrous guitars and vocals. Jim Roe does a good job keeping the time for the music. The drumming here isn't technical like fellow New York death metal bands Immolation and Suffocation, but just straightforward drumming made for time keeping purposes. The bass playing by Ronnie Deo has an immense presence. His tone is extremely thick, just like the guitars, to give the music a lot of weight and his bass lays a strong rhythmic foundation and backdrop to the guitars and vocals.

Overall, this is a perfect death metal album. There are no flaws and everything about it is perfect from the guitar tone, to the fitting solos, to the drumming, and the bass playing. It all fits together perfectly like an elaborate puzzle.

Incantation have still been going strong for the past 25 years and they show no signs of slowing down with other great albums like Diabolical Conquest and their latest efforts, Vanquish in Vengeance and Dirges of Elysium. Even after Craig Pillard left, John McEntee has held incantation together wonderfully and they remain on of the most consistent death metal bands in the whole scene. This record is easily one of the top 5 greatest death metal records ever. It is really that good.

Highlights: "Golgotha," "Rotting Spiritual Embodiment," "Profanation," and "Unholy Massacre".

An unholy baptism of auditory mud. - 77%

Lvondas, May 3rd, 2016

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.

Spells cast amid the black marsh lands. - 84%

hells_unicorn, September 19th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1992, CD, Relapse Records

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.

One of the Essential Death Metal Albums - 100%

Dead By Dawn 15, January 24th, 2012

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.

A Flawed Debut - 73%

PKendall317, November 22nd, 2011

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.

Can't Get It Out of My Head - 87%

soul_schizm, July 24th, 2011

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.

Death metal the way it should be - 100%

orphy, July 29th, 2008

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.

The Apocalypse Begins Here - 90%

brocashelm, April 20th, 2006

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.

An Overlooked Classic... - 90%

Cynical, October 8th, 2004

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.

Way too monotonic - 75%

Black_Metal_Bastard, November 18th, 2003

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.