Review Summary: Although they didn't reinvent the wheel, Dirges of Elysium is a breath of fresh air for Incantation, and another fine addition to their discography
It says a lot about a band that, over twenty years since their inception, can still distinguish themselves in a scene littered with imitators. Incantation have never been a band to radically swing from a winning formula, so the legions of copycats have been left ample time and equally plentiful material to reverse engineer and create sonic forgeries of their own. While a band may look like Incantation, play like Incantation and blaspheme like Incantation, they will never be
Incantation. The New Yorker collection’s idiosyncrasy has always been something intangible, beyond description but wholly apparent upon listening. One can dissect and recreate their doomy compositions or McEntee’s dissonant pinch harmonics, but will ultimately fail at emulating the aural miasma that will forever belong to Incantation and Incantation only.
Their once dynamic and reverberant sound may have dried up with the advent of modern recording and production techniques, but Dirges of Elysium
still possesses the same extra-dimensional atmosphere that always made these guys so peerless, albeit filtered through a 21st century lens. The guitars sound crisp and filled out but also organic, particularly on higher registers, accentuating the abundance of sinister melodies and harmonies. Instrumentally, the band don’t venture too far from their original output, but nevertheless still manage to trickle in enough inventiveness to avoid stagnation. The marching grooves come across as skewed but also infectious, continuously building upon themselves before the songs either erupt into cacophonous mayhem or collapse upon themselves into immersive doom. The riff patterns and chord changes are ominous and depressive, slowly eroding your sanity away as one gloomy number succeeds the last.
The strongest moments on the album are routinely found in the cascading doom sections, which are more prevalent and fleshed out than in some of Incantation’s more recent efforts. The more balanced use of slower sections in conjunction with the rapid-fire riffs means Dirges of Elysium
not only hits harder than its predecessor but is also more immediate and accessible. Tracks like “Carrion Prophesy” and “From a Glaciate Womb” violently alternate between the two extremes, but it’s the eponymous closer that best exemplifies the band’s knack for the doom. The song steadily shifts back and forth, incrementally presenting ideas one at a time and teasing the listener for a climactic finish that never actually arrives. The song is more of an exercise in suspense than shock value, an expert demonstration on developing a harrowing, claustrophobic atmosphere in a manner that only Incantation could authentically pull off.
Dirges of Elysium
is neither a stylistic departure for Incantation, nor it is a complete rehash of the past. Suitably hallmarked to belong in such a discography while retaining a sense of identity, the album strikes a middle ground between tradition and subtle novelty. While many still hearken for the resonant sound of their first trio of albums, it isn’t in the best interest of the band to continue to rip themselves off. Incantation needed to find an identity of their own in the 2010s, and with Dirges of Elysium
they’ve done just that.