Review Summary: A captivating journey into the cosmic abyss.
Rarely is old school death metal as convincingly “alien” as Blood Incantation’s Starspawn
, if not for the Timeghoul-esque melodic oddities but simply for that elusive, otherworldly aura which is instantly recognisable though nearly impossible to describe. Despite the throwback style, it feels like the band approached each session with no real intention of emulating anyone, allowing their idiosyncrasies to flourish with impunity. Hence, the parallels between bands of yore seem more coincidental than anything else, as if Blood Incantation’s collective thought patterns somehow mirrored those of whom they’re supposedly paying homage to.
puts the listener into a state of limbo; it’s immediately gratifying for anyone with a fondness for all things cavernous and oppressive, yet mystifying in its intricacies. Opener “Vitrification of Blood” starts by lurching like a cumbersome behemoth, almost liquid in its make-up, allowing for oddball dissonant leads to bubble atop the ooze of pungent riffs. As the rhythm section begins to find its feet, so too does the song’s sense of melody and harmony. Each sequence is more grandiose than the last, and the result is a potent tone shift around the halfway point. The soaring leads act as harbingers of doom, with every manic inflection further instilling a sense of dread, coupled with palpable awe in light of their seemingly cosmic origins. Given its thirteen-minute length, the song’s progression is nothing short of brilliant, making a strong case for it being not only the best opening track of the year, but the best of the year in absolute.
You could question the wisdom of placing the longest and strongest track first in the queue, but the remainders still effortlessly hold your attention, not least because of Starspawn’s
production values that allow for multiple consecutive listens without fatigue. The guitar tone is organic and sibilance-free, without coming off as muddy – a sentiment that rings true for the drumming, as well. You can practically feel the sticks recoiling off the untriggered snare, as drummer Isaac puts more expression into individual strokes than some contemporary drummers manage to do in a whole album. Finally, Paul’s guttural vocals loiter in the middle-ground, draped in reverb and coalescing with the rhythm guitar in terms of presence. Even comparatively straight-forward songs like the galloping “Chaoplasm” and the surprisingly melodious title-track are enriched by the charismatic way in which all these constituents blend together.
However, lumping praise upon any particular quality only goes far in doing Starspawn
justice. The album is more than can be expressed with words, doing away with the pragmatism that so often reduces old-school revival albums to nothing other than the sum of their parts. Blood Incantation have an acute understanding of the intangibles of music and how to evoke them, which couldn’t be reflected more vividly than in their artistry, itself.