“Modern tech-death sucks”
“DM musicians can’t write songs anymore”
“All bands do these days is wank”
“Where are the riffs?”
I’m sure you’ve all heard at least one of these charming lines and many others a thousand times over in regards to the current state of technical death metal. With bands like The Faceless, Archspire and Brain Drill spearheading a highly divisive movement centred on technical proficiency and seemingly nothing else, it’s understandable that fans of the old school death metal sound feel left in the cold. Sure, the aforementioned bands are all masters of crafts – all featuring dazzling fretwork and arachnid drumming – and while the music they create is complex and challenging, I can understand the stigma that’s arisen proclaiming that they’ve sacrificed integrity for technicality. But out of nowhere, this little Russian squad has shown that it’s still possible the create technical death metal that is both challenging, engaging and dare I say, original.
Incarnator’s debut full-length Caeca Superstitio
is an intriguing little number, unfazed by trends but distinctly modern. While the album features many mainstays of tech-death such as the usual fretboard wizardry and superb drumming, there is a noticeable respect for boundaries. The band has an excellent sense of perspective concerning what is technical and what is just plain gaudy. At no point will you hear Alex or Dmitry divulge into multi-minute wank sessions – their focus is vigilantly fixed on creating as many enjoyable riffs as possible. The riffing is complex and surprisingly melodic, with a decent amount of punchy, thrash-inspired tremolo strumming and pinch harmonics thrown for good measure. The drumming performance is a standard death metal affair; double kicks, blast beats and complex rhythms provide the backbone for the musical soundscape. While commendable, the drumming is simply overshadowed by the superior performances of the other musicians. The vocals differ from the typically brutal death growls, sounding more like a fusion between an old school thrash-death rasp and some gruff clean singing. It’s clear the vocals are not there to steal the show, but they do add a great aesthetic quality to the already refined sound of the album.
By far the most refreshing instrumental performance is the constantly audible fretless bass work of Ilya Reyngard. Highlighting the insanely good mixing on this record, Reyngard utilises all 10 fingers to maximum effect, very often outshining the guitarists in both skill and presence. At numerous points on the album, the bass seemingly sits on top of the guitars in the mix, humming and oscillating away in a beautifully fluid and hypnotising manner. The almost impeccable production doesn’t come at the cost of atmosphere either, while it is very clean and every instrument is perfectly audible, the sound is rich and full, perfectly blending heaviness and clarity. Proving to not only be extremely proficient with their instruments, Incarnator are also excellent songwriters. It’s very hard to find another tech-death album that sounds so meticulously calculated in terms of writing, yet so effortless and coherent in its execution. These guys will throw half a dozen or more riffs at you per track, without using ridiculous song lengths, yet still manage to have perfectly obvious song writing patterns and climaxes. Even the occasional slow passages neither disturb the flow of whatever track they appear on or sound out of place, aesthetically.
Incarnator have completely caught me off guard with their excellent debut effort, demonstrating to their bigger, flashier and gaudier contemporaries that technical skill can be utilised effectively without dominating the focus of an album. These extremely talented Russians have a genuine contender for metal album of the year in Caeca Superstitio
, as well as a bright future ahead of them. Utilising all the commonplace elements that technical death metal is lauded for and intelligently working around the artistic roadblocks, Incarnator have crafted one of the most refreshing musical experiences of 2013.