April 8, 2012

Spawn of Possession - Incurso (2012)

Were I not such a strong-willed, determined and resolute motherfucker individual, Incurso would have been the album that put me off technical death metal forever. In many ways, Spawn of Possession's latest offering (coming along a mere six years after their previous effort, Noctambulant) is a lot like that... thing on the cover: a giant, nimble, alien, monstrous juggernaut that crawls across the Earth's surface, cracking the skies and ruining everything you hold dear. And standing in front of it with your arms raised while holding a Bible isn't going to stop it, lemme tell ya!

The line-up for Incurso is quite exciting, as it features two of the original band members, namely Jonas Bryssling on guitar and Dennis Röndum on vocals (who was previously handling drum duties, now being passed on to Henrik Schönström), as well as Erlend Caspersen (Deeds of Flesh, ex-Blood Red Throne) on bass and legendary axe-master Christian Muenzner (Obscura, ex-Necrophagist) on lead guitar. With such fresh blood on the Spawn of Possession roster, it was reasonable to expect that their third studio album will be something to behold.

And it totally is, which is why I was saying it might have been the record that effectively ended tech death for me. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is so outrageously technical and over-the-top that I am seriously wondering a) how much alien DNA do these guys have? and b) how the fuck do they even remember how to play all this?

The guitars on Incurso are nothing short of mindblowing, as these two wizards play at inhumane levels of speed and dexterity while managing to sound tight and precise at the same time. Half the time I don't even know what the hell is going on, as intricate riffs and insane harmonies fly off in all directions like shrapnel from a fragmentation grenade, while the bass lines are working in their own separate ways, often times detaching from whatever crazy structure they're supposed to follow and doing their own thing. The drum work is basically a huge blizzard of relentless blasting, grinding and highly technical fills that's equally hard to comprehend, even after multiple listens. Even the vocals function like clockwork and deliver machine-gun barks and growls in percussive patterns that add to heaviness of the songs. It's controlled chaos: a savage machinery whose inner mechanisms run so fast and seemingly disjointed that it seems like everything is about to spin out of control at any second, yet it is all somehow kept in place.

For all the mind-bending technical sorcery, I do have one major gripe with Incurso, and that is the songwriting. Simply put, no song managed to stick with me, even after a dozen listens. It's almost as if the musicians were so busy playing at breakneck speeds and cramming in as many riffs per song as possible, that they forgot they're supposed to be crafting songs, not technical exhibitions. So while I stand in awe of their technical prowess, their latest album is more of a carpe diem affair: get hyperblasted now, remember none of it later.

Nevertheless, Incurso stands as a megalith of modern death metal and a genre landmark, offering astonishing technical wizardry that, right now, seems impossible to match, let alone surpass. It does lack a bit of feeling and some people will quickly dismiss it as "technical wankery" - and they're not totally wrong. But if you call yourself a tech death fan, you are not allowed to miss this.

Over and out.

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