Autopsy, Baphomet, Immolation, Cannibal Corpse, Mortician, Goreaphobia, Suffocation, Deceased, Lucifer’s Hammer and Radiation Sickness, with the small sticker toward the bottom tossing in Repulsion, Incantation and Disharmonic Orchestra for, I don’t know, dramatic effect. Ten bucks.
The point isn’t to dishearten those who spend $250 these days to see a modern interpretation of a fest like this that very well might feature many of the same bands, or to gloat about the fact that I’m fossilized enough to have actually attended this show back in the 1700s as very young lad. The purpose is to shine a light on the fact that Blood Incantation’s brand of death metal, particularly what’s heard on Starspawn, would have snuggled comfortably alongside the rest of the wallopers on that bill during that beautiful Rocktober day in lovely Buffalo. Raw, youthful, enterprising death metal that’s brutal and technical without being brutal or technical death metal as we know it today.
Sure, there’s hardly a shortage of regressive death metal acts that could do similarly these days. Blood Incantation, however, achieves the intention more competently than most by sounding less like a modern band paying homage to early 90s death metal and more like a crew of R/C Records-obsessed hair farming death metalers who unwittingly got transported to the future after beating Sega’s Wing Commander together in someone’s bedroom. That’s a distinction that’s bolstered by the fact that Starspawn is produced exclusively in analog, but it’s also thanks to the fact that the creativity behind the band’s regressiveness ensures that no eye-rolling would occur from any of the above-mentioned bands about being completely xeroxed in 2016.
But there are clear influences afoot, of course –– critics and listeners are bound to throw around all manner of Old Guard names familiar to most. Fair and square, the record sounds closest to a collision between the weird futurism of Timeghoul and the filthier “World of Shit” and “Where the Slime Live” slant of Morbid Angel, with the added bonus of an even stronger insistence on…
The Timeghoul effect, which seems to be cropping up a fair bit this year, is the more obvious mark, thanks to the record’s strong sci-fi component, the eagerness to turn tempos on a dime, and those curious chanting monk vocals that pop up on “Hidden Species (Vitrification of Blood Part 2).” That particular tune is the album’s most delightfully screwy, with extra priority placed on galactic weirdness, flanger effects and some strange communique that sounds like astronauts warbling back and forth while venting plasma ducts on the outside of a shuttle craft.
The Morbid Angel intimation is buried in those warmly muddy riffs that jump between being fast, slow, dense and/or strange, and by virtue of a familiar Azagthoth influence when the leads get notably wild. Check the galumphing strut of “Chaoplasm” before it darts into a deadly bolt right around the one minute mark for morbid evidence.
If there’s any grumbling to be thrown Starspawn’s way, it would have to do with the exaggerated use of vocal effects heard from start to finish. I’m as big a fan of heavy reverb and echoed “AH” and “OH” barks as the next guy, but they’re used as a means to launch tempo or mood shifts on nearly every song. We’re talking Prophecy of Doom/Acknowledge the Confusion Master levels here, which is significant. It’s hardly a deal breaker, though, and it at least serves to boost Starspawn’s overall eccentricity. It’s just interesting that previous releases seemed to stress the lyric element with supplemental splashes of trippy barks thrown in, whereas Starspawn mostly reverses those roles.
Then again, most of us aren’t really here to be bowled over by an exceedingly wordy Blood Incantation message; the true star of the show is the whole psychotropic amalgamation that’s slammed home by the deranged song-crafting and some seriously nimble play. Drummer Isaac Faulk deserves a special tip of the cap for hitting the skins like he has two extra arms, and the band’s melodic persistence in those fiery leads and during the prettier measures offset the abundance of tractor-heaviness and funereal slogging that dominates these (refreshingly precise) 35 minutes.
If you’re a regular reader of Last Rites or virtually any of our friends in the ‘zine sphere, you’ve already seen statements akin to “this is death metal’s year” to the point of illness. It’s a true enough declaration, however, thanks to the amount of variation this particular subset has seen in 2016. What’s notably satisfying about Blood Incantation’s brand is that they’re a part of the faction that doesn’t pay heed to the masks, hoods, costumes, or any of the other ancillary bullshit that so many bands seem to think adds to their appeal. Furthermore, they manage to play a form of galactic death metal that’s brutal, technical, atmospheric and funereal without those tags becoming deadly-strict identifiers –– just like those young and raw death metal bands of the early 90s.
He who controls the spice controls the universe, and Starspawn is definitely a spicy gem.