Incantation

Decimate Christendom

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Unaffected by commercial distractions and unbowed by widespread indifference outside deeply metallic realms, death metal stalwarts Incantation continue to motor on unchallenged, arriving in 2004 at their seventh album, the far from subtly titled conceptual work Decimate Christendom. And sure enough, the opening title track sets about attempting just that, the fact that the group is here reduced to a trio for the first time (guitarist and lone remaining founding member John McEntee assuming vocal duties as well) having no visible effect on their churning death metal brutality. The positively frantic "Dying Divinity" carries on the pillaging in similarly unstoppable fashion, while the no less spellbinding (or maybe simply overwhelming -- take your pick) "Oath of Armageddon" slows the pace down some on its way to a grinding descent. Sadly, what follows doesn't quite measure up, and little about the likes of "Merciless Tyranny" and "Thorns of Everlasting Persecution" leaves a distinctive mark on the senses. Although it could be argued that they've in fact completely obliterated one's senses, these and excessively drawn-out tracks such as "Blaspheme the Sacraments" and "Horns of Eradication" nearly stall the LP's momentum for good, their alternating of habitual thrashing with depressingly lethargic drones doing the band no favors. Late-album highlights like the truly awesome "No Paradise Awaits" and, to a lesser degree, ending blast "Feeble Existence" arrive just in time to save some face and expose their predecessors' relative mediocrity. But the final, lingering impression is that Decimate Christendom is a solid but unspectacular outing for Incantation -- a band which, rather than messing with its sound, remains content to work within the parameters of a well-rehearsed formula to the best of the bandmembers' considerable abilities. Some may see this as a cop-out, others as a show of loyalty to their audience, but whatever the case, death metal fans will probably have very mixed feelings about this release.

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