Thursday, September 13, 2012

Spawn of Possession - Incurso (2012)

Spawn of Possession were already quite revered in the tech death underground for their innovative releases Cabinet and Noctambulant, incredibly strong albums that somehow failed to net them the attention of larger international markets. This is all about to change, however, with the release of Incurso. I will not beat around the bush here: You have never experienced technical death metal of this nature. Not ever. And with the addition of Obscura riff-crafter Christian Munzner on guitars, the lips and pants of the tech faithful are sure to be dripping with appreciative hunger.

Well fear not, as the Spawn have not only blasted their previous efforts straight off the planet with the force of an 8 Megaton nuclear missile, but crafted an immensely creepy, satisfying, and musically mind-blowing album that practically rewrites the playbook for what is expected of a technical death metal band. While at first the unrepentantly flippant, twiddling nature of Incurso might not seem so far outside the proverbial bag of severed extremities, I urge you with excitement and severity to dig deeper, as the decrepit treasures buried within this richly layered madhouse are some of the tastiest you’re likely to find this year; and beyond that, in the entire tech death lexicon.

Incurso starts innocently enough, inoculating your feeble mind with a fragile, creeping precursor of what’s to come with the short, calm Abodement, before ripping right into your torso with the archangelic bonesaw of Where Angels Go, Demons Follow. It’s at this point I must humbly decree that the accompaniment of lyrics is of the utmost importance to gaining the full experience from Incurso, as even though the brunt of the musical force is in its own way spectacular, the evolution of seemingly erratic riffing is a perfect companion to these stories of gripping darkness and psychotic, spiritual sickness.

Every track tells its own abominable tale, every spidery riff or hostile harmony driving the force of the tale in question deeper into your dark, dusty little heart. Bodiless Sleeper is a depraved, spiraling psychotic jaunt through the machinations of decapitation and madness. Evangelist is disturbing and dissonant, a truly unsettling tale of incestuous evil slathered in foul priestly semen and bountiful leads. By far the longest song on the album, at nearly 10 minutes, it’s also thoroughly engaging in its musical and lyrical narrative, a hideous mutation of the concept of goodliness and godliness. The cosmic spider web of needling leads and warm, bulbous bass lines creep into the brain and splatter this sickening story with forceful precision right into your memory.

Servitude of souls is a serial killer manifesto, one of the more overtly traditional death metal numbers, though it becomes aroused by its murderous tendencies about halfway through and starts dancing and slicing through a technical madhouse of twirling melodics like a homicidal robotic knife-fighter. Deus Avertat is an acrobatic, bloody story of possession that whirls along with epileptic fury and near classical grace as it stop-starts its way through about 1,000 different tempos and riffing patterns, never relenting its twiddling, burly, needle-gun ferocity for a moment.

Spiritual Deception, a crack-addled revenge opera, is my favorite track on the record due to the pure, unbridled glory of the dueling lead guitars as they spiral out, spitting, dancing, and intertwining like cosmic, plasmatic snakes, deftly maneuvering through hostile, terrifying cosmos. No Light Spared is one of the most frantic tracks, starting off like a blinding wintry gale, then descending deeper and deeper into a ruinous, filthy hole full of unspeakable horrors. As the lyrics wind their way, the music keeps perfect pace to craft the most tangibly dark, inhospitable atmosphere possible, the audible approximation of suffocating fear. The closer, Apparition is a demented carnival of suspense and classical pomp, utilizing tasteful keys to create a beautifully alien atmosphere, as if you’re summoning the unfeasible entity from the cover art, every needling lead a bolt of lightning slicing out of this savage cosmic storm.

It goes without saying that all the musicians are in top form, but it bears mentioning. It often seems like the band succumb to the tech death wormhole of style over substance, which I admittedly thought was the case at first, but after a number of listens with the lyrics on hand, its true nature gradually dawned on me, and each seemingly random, ridiculous note took its place in this grand, brutal puzzle. Guitarists Bryssling and Munzner cut and buzz around each other like laser-wielding hornets, whirling through passages of choppy aggression and classical grace with practiced ease, while the rhythm section brings you to your knees in envy. Drummer Henrik probably isn’t human, such is his level of stamina and creativity, and though I don’t know what kind of bass Caspersen uses, the tone reminds me heavily of Obscura, very warm and full, playing its own distinct patterns while still serving the song. In fact, the overall result is very redolent of Obscura, if even more frenzied and decrepit. More technical, and less progressive, if you will, though both elements certainly prevail.

Make no mistake, this is technical death metal, overtly and unrepentantly so. Every single note progression is a dexterous and impressive musical flourish, with often jarring, discordant change-ups and winding, challenging passages abound. What sets Incurso apart from the immense tech death flock, however, is the atmosphere is conjures so naturally and beautifully. To put it bluntly, this album has fucking soul, and even though it unashamedly wanks off virtually the entire time, there is a legitimate, tangible feeling of evil here; a decrepit, overwhelmingly unsettling feeling conjured through the interplay of composition and lyrics that is the hallmark of the very best death metal. Tech death records almost never feel like truly emotional, volatile works, but Incurso is the exception to the rule, without a doubt one of the most interesting releases this year.

Complaints? At first the sheer compositional madness is a bit much to take in, and though it impresses, it will certainly take some time to get accustomed to, and there aren’t so many individual passages that are instantly memorable. Also, in truth, even after a number of listens I have trouble recalling all but the most impressive moments, but this is more a comment on the pure density of the record than the quality of the riffing itself. The songwriting is incredibly strong and engaging, but due to the complexity, I wouldn’t call them memorable, if that makes sense. Truly, though, if you have the patience, Incurso is one of the most rewarding death metal albums in recent history, with a mind-blowing array of virulent songs, stuffed to bursting with talent, ideas, and straight up heart. These guys fucking love metal, and Incurso is a grandiose labor of love.

9 / 10- Soulful Cosmic Psychosis