Willie Reviews Blood Incantation, Immolation, and others @ The Amsterdam

Willie Reviews Blood Incantation, Immolation, and others @ The Amsterdam

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Dear rockers,

Thank you for having me at your death metal show. I had a wonderful time, despite being mostly unfamiliar with the scene. I learned a lot! Boy, I’m glad I did!

All best,

Willie

After surprising myself by attending The Last Atonement Tour, I’m here to spread the word about death metal. Phlegathon, Beauty of Decay, Incinerate, Glutton for Punishment, Blood Incantation, and Immolation helped me reach a place in which I felt a great pressure in my chest likely caused by the demon rage that had been lying dormant for so many years within this folkie. I got a crash course in death metal and a survey of the talented and diverse Minnesota scene.

It takes a certain otherworldly energy to summon the spirits of the dead for a Sunday evening performance in quiet downtown St. Paul, and thank goodness death metal groups know exactly how to do said conjuring. Featuring six acts and spanning almost five hours, this was a beast of a show. In fact, you could almost forget that all throughout this grand country, folks were drinking hot milk and tucking into bed for a night of undisturbed sleep. It was the surging popularity of the psychedelic and spacey Blood Incantation that attracted me originally, but I figured I ought to get the full spectrum of the genre, so I made an effort to take it all in. Ultimately, the others stole my heart as well.

BLOOD INCANTATION - Inner Paths (to Outer Space) (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

Kicking off the show, synth-heavy act Phlegathon played with a subtle balance of full throttle and restraint (and with painted faces!). An atmospheric, ambient haze punctuated by dramatic riffs gave way to fast-paced, runaway-train type technical runs. And the addition of droning synths allowed a buzzing waveform to cut right through blast beats and guitar muck alike. Thankfully, it was hard to get lost in the story they told. For me, clarity was key in learning the genre. From the moment I arrived, I was thinking about honesty within this brand of music as well as my own belief in their doctrine, but it would take the rest of the night for those thoughts to crystallize.

Beauty of Decay followed with a groove-driven intro featuring some tasteful dissonance in the guitars. So much of this brand of death metal is reliant upon the group’s flawless cohesion, and Beauty of Decay seems taken by the further-out possibilities of the group dynamic. I wouldn’t call it math rock by any means, but the intricate rhythms they pull out are exceptional, as is the vocalist’s guidance through the swamp of death.

Following them was Incinerate, whose sound began to suggest other possibilities for the long-term end goal of the genre. Of course they’re fans of demons, ghouls, violence, and dead things, but they mostly appeared glad to be back in St. Paul, the city they started in, for a reunion. Between songs, they kept banter relatively light, and I got the impression that they were operating on the following assumption: you’re already on board in this community, and we can have a good time regardless of the nominal danger of these lyrics. While I was still getting acclimated to gory titles, folks moshed happily, consensually, and politely. The band’s ability to come back together and unite in the name of death metal warmed a few cold metal souls, I’m sure. I can’t not mention hair, so you should know that their vocalist’s curled locks were second on my best hair list.

Taking the stage after Incinerate was another Minnesotan band, Glutton for Punishment. And despite asking for discipline, they seemed to enjoy the thrill of the crowd most out of any of the bands. The spot for number one hair goes to the impressive blond mop which seemed to move independently from the guitarist’s head. From the vocalist restlessly stalking the stage to the whirling of this hair, they remained dynamic throughout.

Paul Riedl of Blood Incantation, photo by Angelo Rossi

Then came Blood Incantation. A coworker tipped me off to their music, and while I originally couldn’t see past their indecipherable logo, I soon realized that their sound was new and they believed in their music. The seriousness with which they displayed their occult influences made them an easy outlier among the more traditional acts at the show. The moment I first heard an acoustic guitar in the backing track, it confirmed for me that they were after something different entirely. “The Giza Power Plant” featured a build toward a climax based on a single descending riff. Its Middle Eastern scale hinted at their varied thematic interests and, though I don’t say this lightly, I believed wholeheartedly in the terrifying message they presented. The delayed effect in the vocals fit the feel of their expansive, destructive message entirely. And by allowing more space between notes than the technical acts, I fell into the songs completely. Inside their sketched outlines, their cosmic solos blasted off.

All-time great Immolation closed out the show, and in a series of escalating banner sizes, theirs was the largest. Their direction was clean, professional death metal, like deploying mercenaries to fight off an army of skeletons. It may take me a while to fully appreciate their impact and style, but I hope to get there soon.

So, to those of you who are also strangers to the genre, I remind you that there’s always a way in! It will forever be true that with enough listens, you’ll learn to like any kind of music, but it’s even better if you throw yourself in willingly and say yes. As someone who doesn’t often commit to any one scene, it was refreshing to simply agree that we should be discussing piles of bones and rotting flesh.

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