Home > Music > Incantation – Onward To Golgotha (1992)

Incantation – Onward To Golgotha (1992)

Folder.jpgNow this is a monolithic slab of death metal, arguably as far removed from early foundational extreme metal like Celtic Frost and Bathory as those are from the styles that spawned them. On the other hand, it’s not too difficult to hear their legacy in such a work as Onward to Golgotha. Besides its clear influences (and murkier imitators, we’ll get to that someday), this album also has the honor of having one of the slowest burning fuses of understanding in my library. Unlike many an album in my library, it just keeps coming back for more and more plays, and it has yet to give up all of its secrets.

Enough is apparent from what I have absorbed – Onward to Golgotha is a particularly dense sounding and atmospheric work of death metal for its age, but not quite in the way that a roughly contemporary Autopsy or Obituary would lead you to expect. Like many a formative work of death metal, this album is yet another exaggeration of its predecessors, with even more reverb and distortion infesting its production, but it’s surprisingly clear and intelligible in spite of this. It’s probably because rest of this album’s sound is stripped down to the absolute minimum you can get away with – nearly complete monophony, limited variation in drum and vocal texture/rhythm, and so forth. It sounds simple enough that you could punch out an album in this style this weekend, and I’m pretty sure a couple of people have.

The problem with doing that is that you have to do something to distinguish it from all the other weekend caverncore death metal albums out there. Onward to Golgotha, as the granddaddy of them all, earns its seniority by maximizing the complexity of its song structures, which also has the bonus effect of providing good contrast to the relatively basic instrumentation. None of the songs here are particularly lengthy, but they pack in plenty of well-related riffs in a way that makes sense if you take the time to think about it. Incantation also has the sense to occasionally add in some instrumental variation when it would benefit the structure of the song, such as the bass lead in “Blasphemous Cremation”. That’s a more basic songwriting technique than most of the ones on display here, but it does need pointing out that Incantation isn’t just relying on a few gimmicks to differentiate their works.

I suppose that in the long run, it was how I kept noticing this album’s small details that ensured it would be a reliable staple of my listening rotation. Maybe I should check out the rest of the band’s discography when I get the chance?

Highlights: “Devoured Death”, “Unholy Massacre”, “Christening the Afterbirth”

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