Published Aug 20, 2020Perhaps no other band have had as profound an effect on the sound of the death metal revival than Incantation. The Johnstown, Pennsylvania, outfit are one of the defining bands of '90s "cavernous" death metal, a secret chamber in the library of old-school death filled with ghostly production and pummelling, atmospheric riffs. Since their inception, the band have cultivated a consistent discography existing somewhere in the abstract nexus of death, doom and black metal, an unpretentious blend of everything extreme that few have successfully pulled off.
With that in mind, a good Incantation record rests on achieving that balance. With the full throttle guitars and blast beats in songs like album opener "Ritual Impurity (Seven of the Sky is One)" and "Chant of Formless Dread," Sect of Vile Divinities will certainly satisfy those with an appetite for crazed old-school death metal. However, most efforts at doom on this album are disappointing, lacking the interesting direction and resolution necessary to stay engaging. Stand-out songs like "Siege Hive" and "Shadow-Blade Masters of Tempest" are true to form and embody everything Incantation do well, but it's tedious tracks like "Scribes of Stygian" that make this album a slog to get through.
Even when this album does wrap up, looking back on it is a bit foggy, because it's severely lacking in hooks. The arcane, serpentine melodies the band are known for are still present in the speed-picking guitar parts, but the soul-crushing set-piece riffs that made iconic albums like Diabolical Conquest stand out are not at play here. "Black Fathom's Fire" tries to inject a little personality with a sequence of Egyptian-sounding riffs, but the scale sequence is old hat and the execution is stiff, so it comes across sounding like a Nile B-side.
Sect of Vile Divinities is a competent old-school death metal album. There's enough recoil to rattle your skull, but because it doesn't play as well to Incantation's full arsenal of strengths, it's doomed to stay buried in their discography. (Relapse)