INCANTATION: Sect Of Vile Divinities
Release year: 2020
Label: Relapse Records
Incantation are one of those stalwarts of (US) death metal, who’ve been a constant presence in the scene; one of those reliable workhorses who’ve put out a steady stream of albums and always kept quality standards at a respectably even level. And even though their history stretches back into the late 80’s, they’ve never risen to become one of the big names of the genre.
To me, it is even a bit weird how seldom you see their name thrown around. I mean, with 12 full-length albums and a large number of smaller releases to their name, and constant, tireless touring, you’d expect them to be pretty much a household name. But they aren’t.
Listening to their newest album (at the time of writing), I cannot help but wonder why bands such as Morbid Angel can command such large respect after a couple of embarrassing albums – it’s 22 years since their last good album! – and Deicide can be such extreme metal heroes with run-of-the-mill albums, but Incantation are ensconced there in the underground. Not in the deepest pits and crevasses, but still not one of those names your average hobbyist listener would likely know.
Sure: Sect Of Vile Divinities isn’t up there with Incantation’s early best. It’s not a future classic. But it’s fucking solid. What it lacks in memorable “hit” songs it makes up for with a constant barrage of crushing death metal of a very even, decent quality. Mastering both more traditional USDM and death/doom lurching, John McEntee guides his veteran troupe through twelve tracks of stuff that just works. It’s not innovative, and it doesn’t blaze new paths for Incantation, and it doesn’t raise the bar. It – just – works. In very much the same way that, say, Morbid Angel’s Kingdoms Disdained wasn’t, Sect Of Vile Divinities is an album that proves that Incantation are still relevant even though they may not be at their rip roarin’ best.
Latter day Incantation is sort of meat-and-potatoes death metal in the sense that in buying a new album by them, you pretty much know what you’re getting. You know it’ll be solid, you know it’ll be in the same death/doom meets USDM vein you’re accustomed to, you know it most likely won’t be their best, but you know you’ll not regret it. Sort of like with a new Cannibal Corpse album (although I must admit their Violence Unimagined was way more inspired than I’d anticipated!): it may not be the cutting edge of brutal the band once epitomised, but it’ll be good. That’s Incantation to me.
There’s just one thing to criticize on Sect Of Vile Divinities: the sound. It’s a bit too clean, a bit too polished, a bit too nice. The guitars could do with more low-end rumbling oomph, the drums could pound like in a cavern; the whole thing should be a bit more subterranean and grimy. Now, at times, the sound just doesn’t do the brutality of the music justice.
But that’s my only real complaint on Sect Of Vile Divinities. As already said, I don’t think it ranks up there with Incantation’s best. But even as a middle-of-the-ground Incantation album, it’s more than worth your while. I realize I’m late for the party, and most people checked it out already in 2020… but if you didn’t, well… do. Unless Incantation is a new name for you, in which case start out from the old classics. Then check this out.