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Dirges of Elysi-meh: Incantation’s Latest is Solid but Uninspired

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The most frustrating thing (OK, eighth most frustrating thing) about Morbid Angel’s United 93-grade calamity Illud Divinum Insanus is that it’s not front-to-back lousy. There’s three or four surprisingly decent songs wedged in there amongst the black Jnco techno-goth. If the band had acted appropriately and released the salvageable material as an EP, it would have been… well, still pretty underwhelming (“Beauty Meets Beast” and “10 More Dead,” while passable considering their surroundings, are still pretty mediocre for Morbid Angel). Incantation’s latest, Dirges of Elysium, suffers from a very mild case of the same disorder, but suffers from it nonetheless. While it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever perform the same kind of career self-immolation (lol) as the aforementioned Morbid Angel, Dirges feels a little soft in the middle, even by the band’s post-Onward To Golgotha standards. Not a bad album, but certainly not as good as it could/should be.

Of course, this isn’t to imply that Dirges of Elysium is an out-and-out snoozefest. When the band lock into something nasty, they’re downright feral. The grindy blasts that light up “Debauchery” and “Impalement of Divinity” buoy John McEntee’s ominous, chromatic riffs in a sea of fuzzy atmosphere. And Incantation’s fetid death/doom works to great effect when kept at a non-glacial pace. But where Elysium ultimately falters is in the long stretches of drone-doom and gurgling. While I usually don’t mind that kind of thing, Incantation aren’t so much dragging the listener through something awful as they are taking a few minutes to catch their breath while you have to sit there and listen. And while that’s brutal in its own Tim & Eric kind of way, it doesn’t make for good death metal.

This all culminates in Elysium’s finale, “Elysium (Eternity is Nigh).” Sixteen minutes of plodding accented by flashes of brilliance, it’s ultimately an unlistenable mess that’s asking a lot of the average Incantation fan (and maybe even the hardcore ones). Dirges of Elysium could use fewer dirges and more, well, Elysium. Had this been whittled down to an EP/short full-length by that title, it’d be almost on par with the band’s previous effort, the excellent Vanquish in Vengeance. Instead, we’re left to trim the fat for ourselves. Which is ultimately fine, but a single time through the hobbled “From a Glaciate Womb” or the (sort of) title track mentioned above is more than enough to decide not to warrant a revisit.

Incantation’s Dirges of Elysium is out now on Listenable. You can stream the track “Carrion Prophecy” here and purchase the album here.

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