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Blood Incantation - Starspawn

Blood Incantation
Starspawn
by Kyle Harding at 07 October 2016, 2:24 PM

Careening from the stars and crashing into your earholes is the Denver-based Death Metal unit, BLOOD INCANTATION, making their debut in flame and fury with the release of their first full-length album in their careers, and under the name of a label, to boot! Having joined forces with Dark Descent Records, BLOOD INCANTATION has released “Starspawn”, an album with plenty of flow, contrast, and some original, innovative material, all the while recorded completely analog for that “authentic” sound. But the big question to ask here is, “Does being fully-analog all pay off?” There are some risks to be had with tracking analog rather than digital- risking control for an immersive experience, taking down precise quality for an attempt to be more soulful.

Starspawn” is split into 5 tracks and clocks in at over 34 minutes, nearly half of which consisting of the first song, and the rest being at least 4 minutes long. Because the album comprises of tunes of this length, many of them, thankfully, move back and forth with movements rather than the more structured, uniform way of writing, just to keep things fresh. “Starspawn” dances gracefully between more brutal Death Metal and melodic influences- ranges of fast guitar to slow riffs, unrelenting drumming to easier beats, and more focused music to expanding into a more atmospheric experience. Though I like the way “Starspawn” moves, this didn’t save “Starspawn” from something that really stuck out; its muddiness. For instance, growls are essential to Death Metal, however they were mixed in very echo-y. This isn’t necessarily a bad move, generally speaking, as bands that aim for the more “instrumental vibe” use this technique and mix in the vocals like another instrument. However, in this case, the echo drowns out the growls by Paul Riedl quite a bit, leaving me with little to work with. This is also an issue with the drumming by Isaac Faulk, mainly in the double bass. Though performed very well, the double bass was mixed in the same fashion and, instead of being a leading rhythmic element, was left sounding awfully muddy. Finally, some of this can leave the bass by Jeff Barrett trampled upon, which, otherwise, plays that beautiful low rumble that I crave and a fuzz that can only be recognized as a daunting fretless bass.

Vitrification of Blood (Part 1)” offers a whole buffet of deathly essentials of both skull-crushing and intricate musicianship- that push-pull that’s necessary in a 13-minute tune. The guitars by Morris Kolontyrsky and Paul Riedl display their abilities and tone, of which build in power, slow down beautifully, drone on in ambience, reach a phenomenal melodic apex, and end as heavy as it began. But after this mountainous track, we shift into a doomier gear with “Chaoplasm”- simpler, and refreshing. The little break of that looming sound makes a good intermission before we pick right back where we left off on “Hidden Species (Vitrification of Blood Part 2)”. The song is a much shorter counterpart to the opener and constructed of similar movements. Not relenting in skill or technicality, the opener grooves slower but with a completely original and, quite frankly, my favorite riff on the entire album.

But my favorite overall track is “Meticulous Soul Devourment”, a bit of a disruptor in the flow of things, though not in a bad way. With this slower, cleaner change of pace, we find ourselves surrounded in ambience and atmosphere before the appearance of a dark, acoustic, splendidly syncopated guitar. The analog sound really pays off here, with clearer and more defined tones that come off as more “authentic” rather than heavily distorted and hard to follow. Granted, it didn’t fall in with the rest of the album in suit, it was executed wonderfully.

Finally, the title track at the very end, explodes with swift chromatic scales that circle the sky and drown down low to rumble the very ground of which we stand. Paul’s vocals are engineered well, Isaac’s drumming fully plays its rhythmic role, and Jeff’s bass emanates clearly. We find that this song exemplifies what the entire album should have been, and something for the band to look back upon when trying to find that more refined sound.

Would I say that the analog approach payed off for BLOOD INCANTATION? Yes and no. The clearer, more tonally-accurate sounds had that more “real” feeling that many groups strive for, making this album seem more like a pro-shot live recording. When the guitar plays clearer leads, and even the acoustic bit, that’s when the full effect comes into play, allowing more room for the drums and vocalist to come forth, even as echo-y as they are, and make a bit more sense of the grand scheme of “Starspawn”. The overdriven, brutal parts, however, came off as the lesser-balanced parts and not as rhythmically driven. Though I like what the band is going for, they have some work to do to master this style amidst the gargantuan canvas that they have stretched across their easel.

Songwriting: 7
Originality: 8
Memorability: 6
Production: 4

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Vitrification of Blood (Part 1)
2. Chaoplasm
3. Hidden Species (Vitrification of Blood Part 2)
4. Meticulous Soul Devourment
5. Starspawn
Lineup:
Isaak Faulk - Drums
Paul Riedl - Guitars, Vocals
Morris Kolontyrsky - Guitars
Jeff Barrett - Fretless Bass
Record Label: Dark Descent Records
     


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