This strangely named mysterious Norwegian Black Metal duo came out of nothing on past year 2016 as a new addition to continuously growing Terratur Possessions roster. I say mysterious because I have no info at all about the two guys involved in the band, V. Einride (taking care of all instruments) and K.R. (managing the vocals), as apparently they’ve had no previous musical activities, but knowing they are from Trondheim, I will guess they’re just close friends from other acts related to their label such as Celestial Bloodshed, Mare and Kaosritual/Dark Sonority.
I still have my doubts though about their lack of past experience, as the skills shown on ‘Whoredom Rife’ since the very first riff starts are definitely not those of some youngsters doing their first spins. They sound not only clearly oriented and defined composition-wise, but also very confidently played.
Although maybe I should start by speaking a bit more about these Norse cultists music, which is definitely influenced by their place of origin, and I’m not speaking about Folk music here. I’m speaking about the already legendary second and third waves of Black Metal, as Whoredom Rife songs are very much inspired by (especially) the likes of Satyricon ‘Nemesis Divina’, Immortal’s ‘Battles in the North’ and some of the first Emperor and Dimmu Borgir grandiose atmospheres.
As you can guess by those comparisons, they combine an aggressive, raw and cold pure Norse Black Metal sound, which is the core of Whoredom Rife’s songs, with lots of very intense blastbeats and lacerating riffs, creating that ice storm type of wall of sound, as well as some more atmospheric and even slightly melodic/progressive arrangements to make everything more interesting. From that already very Norwegian inspired basis we can even include some additional, less obvious, references (or hints), as these guys also show their taste for first Enslaved aggressive and epic mid-paced cavalcades, some of the first Arcturus experimental side and even some of that dehumanized coldness of Thorns (on the last self-titled track).
The thing is, despite all these external references, the duo has produced some very convincing thing here, with four solid songs (alone and as a whole) gathering everything that attracted me from that golden era of the genre, with lots of great captivating and catchy riffs (not just the topical over-burnt shit we’ve all listened to a thousand times), still possessing a certain macabre and violent feeling (but which are quite grandiose at the same time), with melodies and disharmonies enveloping everything in an ice-cold feeling and expanding as a cloak of shadows, and some clever arrangements to keep everything more interesting and varied. Far from being only one of those copycats infesting the Black Metal scene with nothing to say, Whoredom Rife build up a very strong sound as a basis of their sound, which might still need to evolve but at least does it from the right place, and do not excuse of hide their lack of musicality or ideas in the usual "kvlt" or "raw" rant.
Actually, on the production side, for a debut recording, I must say they did an almost perfect job. They attended Rune Stavnesli’s Godt Selskap Studios (where several of last Manes and Keep of Kalessin works have been produced, as well as Necrophagia’s ‘The Divine Art of Torture’ if I’m not wrong). The record sounds pretty clean, very axed on the high tones, in a very Norwegian way of doing things too, but very powerful and intense too, with a very good mix that allows listening to every detail. However, despite the forward positioning of the drums in the mix that infuses a lot of energy to the record, I do not enjoy very much the sound of the double bass drum, which, unless I'm wrong, is triggered.
All this is presented on a gatefold vinyl (black or limited edition in red) with a strongly attractive (even if slightly topical nowadays) cover by Hathrul (José Gabriel Alegría Sabogal, who previously took care of Morbid Slaughter’s ‘A Filthy Orgy Of Horror And Death’) and a very professional layout by Polish Kontamination Design (who have worked with Blaze of Perdition, Slidhr, Voidhanger or Demonical, amongst others).
'Whoredom Rife' is an almost perfect debut, which ends up being a bit too short and with its flaws on the personality, but perfectly taking care of all the rest. So I have big expectations for the continuation, which they already announced recently through an advance track as a full-length to be released in 2017.
I must say it, Blood Incantation's first effort, 'Interdimensional Extinction', wasn't that special. I know it got very good reviews and comments but, taking into consideration the high level Death Metal is taking back in the last years, I didn't find anything remarkable on that recording. I didn't dislike it either, as their dark brand of Death Metal could hardly unplease me, but that's it. So it took me some time to finally decide myself to check 'Starspawn', despite the extremely good comments (again) I read.
And the first reaction I got was way better than expected, why would I deny it. It was actually truly surprised. As ‘Starspawn’ is a real step forward for these four guys from Denver. And I mean it at all levels. I needed a few listens to start digesting the album and going beyond that first impression of a twisted a too varied sound and end up enjoying all the rest (the dark atmosphere, the otherworldly feeling and the amazingly capturing progressions and flow of their songs), which is what should really matter in a record of this kind. Once I had a more or less a global view on ‘Starspawn’, I dissected the album into its different parts and I was able to analyse its sound, form and extension in more depth, everything started making more sense and became way more interesting. A lot I should say.
One of the things that I usually get surprised by when reading reviews and opinions on bands on the net is who they get compared to, as often those comparisons are (to say it in the kindest way) quite far from reality, and in the case of Blood Incantation it became even more evident. In their case, I've read (among others) about Death, Morbid Angel, Gorguts, Incantation, Nocturnus, Demilich, Timeghoul, Immolation, At the Gates, Slayer, Suffocation, The Chasm, Atheist, Mithras, Dead Congregation, Sarpanitum, Deathspell Omega, Vektor ... I mean, if we added Entombed, Grave, bolt Thrower and Autopsy we could have all the possible amalgams of Death Metal together. And even Pink floyd was mentioned!
Well, I can't say I agree with most of those comparisons, and there’s actually a few that sound miles away from them to my ears (although I would be open to listen to any clarifications on the matter). On one side because, despite Blood Incantation are a technical band to some extent, I don't think they achieve (at any level) the twisted complexity of some of those bands, as their technicality is quite delimited to certain type of parts and arrangements and a lot more focused on the songs structures than on showing off how good musicians they are (even if there’s still some of that on a lower level, like a few guitar leads, some tapping or similar, etc … which does not hurt anyone). On the other, because I think their sound, despite some more experimental (or simply outsider) details, as well as winks to this and that band, is quite well focused on a very enclosed style and sound, which is Death Metal in the old American way of doing it. And I guess some of the comparisons come more due to the fact they have a big sci-fi influence on the lyrical side, but that’s all.
Maybe the first Gorguts could be a good reference though if we speak of a major influence on their writing, as they were one of those bands introducing some level of complexity in a still dark and pretty obscure sound, as well as Death (if we look at the more melodic/technical guitar parts (but not so much the riffs I would say). If we mix them both, we could actually very well add Disincarnate to the formula. Morbid Angel should also be mentioned as an unavoidable influence on their sound, although it would be mainly due to the dragging mid-paced parts which were masterfully perfected by Mr. Azagthoth and are so effective when tempo slows down, at to a lower extent for some faster and more diabolical riffs that still owe ‘Altars of Madness’ a lot. For the rest, I might have have seen this and that influence in a very occasional detail, but that’s it.
I would also add that, despite the blastbeats and the fastest guitar parts, there is also some space for (very well placed and breath inducing) slower, heavier and more atmospheric passages in 'Starspawn' (just have a look at the first track, "Vitrification of Blood Pt.1") that remind me of some of classic doomier Death Metal bands from Europe such as Demigod or even the first Paradise Lost (here you have my contribution to the list above!) and also others, confirming that these guys have a very eclectic and varied musical taste (the best example is the multi-faceted instrumental “Meticulous Soul Devourment”), even if those parts are, again, only details and not the most present ones on the album.
In addition to everything mentioned previously, and not to make this review sound like these guys have zero personality, we can very well speak of a Blood Incantation sound, but it would be more in the way they mix the different parts and give them their own touch. The maelstrom of monumental and suffocating riffs next to faster and more melodically backed-up parts they throw into the listener’s face, generating a truly intense avalanche of the darkest sounds, is definitely closer to how the newest school of old-school Death Metal (if that makes any sense) has been treating the style, with a pretty raw and steamrollering brutality which is increased even more by how Paul Riedl throws his vocals out. Actually, the vocal part might be one of the most original part of their sound as they are not perfectly defined (guttural or high-pitched) verses but more reverb drowned invocations, again in a similar way to other recent Death Metal bands which might have an eye on some slightly more bestial sounds.
On the production side, I have some conflicting emotions, because I don’t think the mix is perfect, as there’s a lot of (not extremely but still remarkably) chaotic parts (yes, chaotic might be good be it can also be bad at some point). However, I think their sound on ‘Starspawn’ is (again) very alike that of the old U.S. Death Metal bands, with a dark yet powerful rhythm section and a pretty raw approach on the final result. Taking into consideration the World Famous studio, where they did the recording, mixing and mastering of the record, is mostly known for R&B artists (if we do not take into consideration Biohazard and Living Colour, which are still far from their sound), the result is a real achievement. I would still like to see how these songs could sound if they had been managed by someone with more experience on a style like Death Metal both on the recording/mixing and the mastering duties.
All being said, Blood Incantation have now consolidated their name and become one of the bands not to miss on anybody’s list of current Death Metal acts that are worth. They’ve actually appeared on a lot of 2016 top albums lists, and will be touring Europe very soon next to Cruciamentum, which looks like something not to be missed.
Gia Thanatos is a webzine dedicated to music for the apocalyptic times. No matter the scene or genre it comes from, and mainly chosen according to its author's taste.