Incantation are one of the greatest bands to ever play death metal. They’ve never made a bad album, and have in fact made at least two — 1998’s Diabolical Conquest and 2014’s Dirges of Elysium — that are among the best albums in the history of death metal, period. Their pioneering blend of savage high-speed riffing and flesh-crawlingly heavy, Swans/Khanate slow doom passages influenced many, but none have ever surpassed the masters.
Beast of Revelation is a new trio featuring two Dutchmen, guitarist/bassist A.J. van Drenth and drummer Bob Bagchus, and Incantation founder/frontman John McEntee on vocals. (Robbie Woning and former Asphyx guitarist Eric Daniels contribute guest guitar leads here and there.) Their debut album, The Ancient Ritual of Death, is an intriguing fusion of a traditionalist Dutch death-doom style with McEntee’s guttural, stone-throated vocals.
The guitar and bass are tuned down and frequently fuzzed out but still retain an essential Black Sabbath-esque meatiness. The drums are rock-solid, primitive and resolutely un-swinging; they sound like they’re meant to keep rows of oarsmen on pace, with the occasional brief fill more for punctuation’s sake than anything else. The riffs chug along in first or at most second gear, and occasionally a clean lead bursts forth like a flower blooming through a crack in the sidewalk, only to be stomped flat by a passing workboot. McEntee’s vocals are utterly amelodic, augmented by a kind of choking gurgle like his throat is filling up with blood.
This is a short review because there’s not much to say about this kind of music. You’re in or you’re out. I’m in, because the players do what they do very well. Each song offers enough variation to make it worth listening to them all, but the album is really best heard as a whole. Just let it wash over you; it’s like being buried in cooling asphalt, but…in a good way?
Imagine not mentioning Incantation’s first two albums among classics.