Earlier this year McEntee and pals returned with a fresh helping of abyssal death doom, which sees the NY stalwarts presenting their sound in a somewhat more clinical, but no less blasphemous fashion. Now, if you, like me are often daunted by the sheer volume of material available for consumption, then your tendency might be to listen to a band’s most typically lauded work and make a judgement based upon this. Such was the case with Incantation and their classic opus Onward to Golgotha, which is widely regarded as a milestone of the genre. Having heard only a limited smattering of Incantation‘s newer material and finding it not quite up to the infernal standard of aforesaid offering I had foolishly assumed that like many of the heroes of the early 90s they had gone off the boil somewhat. Dirges of Elysium, however, despite having been dispossessed of the hellish atmosphere of earlier forays is a solid addition to their canon by any standard.
As the ominous chords and ethereal arpeggios of the title track intro enact their dismal procession, the listener is wholly unprepared for the subsequent exercises in arse flaying blast beatery which ensue. Indeed, the first third of the album is comprised of some of the most savage and unrelenting material that Incantation have lent their illegible name to, which seems more evocative of the likes of Akercocke or a more technically adept Deicide in terms of spiteful aggression.
However, after this initial onslaught, they begin to stretch their limbs a little more, as the lumbering beast that is ‘Carrion Prophesy’ attests, and thus begins a more measured march of more evenly-paced material which not only justifies the album title, but is evocative of the volcanic rumblings of the sulphurous pit itself.
Although at times, the breakneck jack-knifing between tempos feels a little lumpen, the occasional blasts and ever present double-kick often bridge the gulf, keeping proceedings firmly moored in death/doom territory as opposed to a schizophrenic incorporation of the two potentially disparate styles. Likewise, the clearer production sets Dirges apart from a typical doom outing, allowing for greater clarity during some of the more intricate riffs. This does however result in most of the slower, more monolithic passages falling short of the kind of seismic weight associated with their doomier counterparts, lackung the jaw-dropping heaviness of Cough, for example. That said, the employment of glorious, unkempt, tension-building feedback is a real feather in their cap, and is perhaps never more present than through the titanic tonnage of album finale ‘Elysium (Eternity is Nigh)’.
Despite the aforementioned drawbacks, Incantation are on excellent form here, blending technicality, aggression, velocity, weight and torpor in a fashion whose deft segués belie the variety of atmosphere conveyed throughout. The result is a work that is as likely to appeal to fans of Nile and Akercocke as it is to devotees of Coffins or Hooded Menace.