Satanic overlords Incubus and Dagon’s quest to ascend the throne of evil has been an unswerving one that started out way back in the late 80’s. Forging a formidable back catalogue, of which their label has just re-issued the bulk of, they have gone from strength to strength and toured like hound dogs on the very road to hell itself. Now poised to release their 7th full length album and with a tour with Rotting Christ on the horizon the future looks very black indeed for them. You may look on them a bit on the tongue in cheek side, just cop a load of that preposterous album title for a start, but their dedication simply cannot be faulted. Last album ‘Obscure Verses For The Multiverse’ blasted us over the precipice and was filled with a grand sense of majesty and atmosphere. Last caught in London by me with Ondskapt and Archgoat they proved an overpowering and malevolent force and always give the impression that they have invoked something beyond the scope of two mere mortals when driving away a fantastically co-ordinated attack on stage. Naturally I was looking forward to this album immensely.
13 (naturally) demonic hymns taking up just short of an hours playing time starts with a scary intro piece summoning ghastly apparitions and truly unlocking the gate. Fully unleashed ‘From Chaos They Came’ sees the drum battery thundering away and some layered groove harmonies flailing away from the guitar. It’s instantly identifiable and even more so with Dagon’s croaky vocal accompaniment. The duo quickly get into the swing of things and it’s impossible for the listener not to join in head-banging along to the frenzied pace. The melodic breaks are captured perfectly and as memorable as we are accustomed to as the song lurches away before coming to an abrupt full stop and the next hefty bombardment ‘Wings Of Anu’ whips in just as furiously. With craggy and gnarly vocals and a deep bass hefty sound the duo are taking no prisoners and there’s something about this reminiscent of Immortal at their very best. No worries about silly crab-walking here though, it’s the icy cold riffs whipping up a maelstrom that count. Reminiscent of a giddy magic-carpet ride Inquisition take things further and royally ride through their dominion on a ‘Vortex from the Celestial Flying Throne of Storms.’ The image of this would no doubt make an excellent and incredibly daft music video but there’s no sniggering at the music itself. Breathing space is eventually found as they slow things down into a gravid flow on ‘A Black Aeon Shall Cleanse.’ Vocals really leap forth now as the guitars spiral and drums thud away, speed maybe slower but glory and might are every bit as powerful. The stew is left to simmer away as ‘The Flames of Infinite Blackness Before Creation’ stoke the fire with grandiose spice added to the pot. The slow spiralling guitar work is rapturous and vocals are cast from a sorcerer gripped in the spell of unholy maleficence. It’s a glorious sound that live is going to have worshippers bent down by its weight.
By the half-way point things sound like they are coasting in free-fall as ‘Mystical Blood’ layers out sledgehammer ballast via Incubus’ thunderous drumming and some sharp glistening fretwork jaggedly driving things onward. There are some truly excellent songs within all this and no shortage of ideas both musically and within the as ever overbearing satanic narrative. Check out the flailing lead amidst a vicious drum blasting session on ‘Through The Divine Spirit Of Satan A Glorious Universe Is Known’ and marvel at the unexpected acoustic breakdown that has the track shimmering toward conclusion. It’s no surprise that the title track when it finally comes has a lot to do to live up to its overblown title and it does so with some dramatic clamouring lead work and plenty of shifts in template and pace. Essentially a long and involving instrumental it really shows off the playing skills of the duo and has tons of atmosphere about it. Stretching towards the summit of the rite ‘Power From The Center Of The Cosmic Black Spiral’ has some fist slamming parts and rugged croaks reminiscent of a demonic Lemmy about them. It’s quite an immediate number with a heavy-rock heart about it along with the trademark sinister guitar parts we have grown accustomed to. Shining brightly all the way we arrive at the last bruising furrow that is ‘A Magnificent Crypt Of Stars’ with the duo unleashing their brutal side in a mad dash for the finish. Well it would be but after such a powerful exercise in musical spell-casting it is necessary perhaps to ease us out which they do with an outro full of goat bleating, ritualistic horns, chanting and toady croaks. Then there’s a two minute sinister coda and we assume the door is sealed until the next time.
Bloodshed…. is one hell of a powerful album, seemingly more so as I unwittingly appeared to have dissected it more thoroughly than intended. For some reason I kept getting images from Robert Eggers recent film The Witch whilst it has been playing. I think I need to buy both this and it and play together and see what on earth that unleashes.
(9/10 Pete Woods)