Incantation - Onward to Golgotha (1992)
If Rap had their East Coast versus West Coast battle, then death metal has its East versus Florida battle. Pennsylvania's Incantation sling a style of death metal that falls right in line with their New York and Massachusetts peers (for example, Immolation and Suffocation). Their debut, Onward to Golgotha, is held in very high regard among death metal fans. This is the first band covered here where the vocalist sounds like a bonafide monster. Forget growling, Craig Pillard gets in touch with his inner-demon on this album. He is such a part of this band's sound, that his departure in 1994 would all but kill it for me.
Along with the demon vocals, Incantation play break-neck, blastbeat-driven death metal, tuned-down and muddy as hell. This album is about brutality and atmosphere more than it is about riffs. That's not to say there aren't some good hooks here, it's just not the main objective. There are plenty of slow, sludgy moments as well - tempo changes, broken time signatures, and through-composed tunes. Incantation is not about verse-chorus-verse, each song is a journey through some level of hell. Speaking of hell, Incantation are plenty satanic; Rotting Spiritual Embodiment, Christening the Afterbirth, Unholy Massacre... You get the point (I suppose the name of the album is a pretty big clue too). It's all rather juvenile, but if you take the message too seriously, then there is probably something wrong with you. The compositional style may be off putting to the uninitiated, in that one song is not instantly distinct from another. Every track has multiple tempo changes, key shifts, and multiple themes.
This is a musically dense excursion that may chase off fans of more accessible material. Onward to Golgotha is a challenge, but that is what draws me back to this genre over and over again. Extreme metal needs to be challenging, and hell, it even needs to chase some people away once in awhile. Onward to Golgotha deserves its "classic" status, it is a punishing outing of vicious and brutal American death metal. It earns 4 out of 5 Skullies.