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Sunday, December 8, 2019

Album / Video Of The Week, Dec. 8

Album of the week: Blood Incantation - Hidden History Of The Human Race

I know that RateYourMusic has an oddly out-of-bounds fetish for all things metal, and I'm certainly not going to listen to another metal album just because it's in the current top-100, but it's been a long time since I subjected myself to some good old-fashioned death metal, so I thought, hell, why not. Apparently, these guys hail from Denver, Colorado, and while I know absolutely nothing about the Colorado death metal scene, I'm guessing that the Grand Canyon and all the dinosaur experience are just as good in terms of influence and inspiration as the fjords and peaks of snowy Scandinavia. Because these guys are actually fun, at least for a short while.

There is absolutely nothing innovative about this stuff (except for, perhaps, certain atmospheric ambient passages that are their main claim to "merging death metal with psychedelia", but they always serve as interludes anyway), but the sound is thick and juicy, the riffs are distinctive, the solos are technically unimpeachable, and the growling vocals are well tucked into the background so that the eeriness is not completely offset by the ridiculousness. The bad thing is that they never really stop for one second to ask themselves the question, "how can we make this thing REALLY terrifying?" (like, say, a Celtic Frost). The good thing is that they have such superb production values that you really get to feel it in your bones just how massive and overwhelming a well-oiled death metal machine can get.

The album is pretty short, just 4 tracks running under 40 minutes, but still feels overlong in places, especially because they decided to make the final track into a lengthy multi-part suite without a particularly good reason. The lyrics are not worth discussing, either, just some random apocalyptic New Age shit ("quantum desolation opens the Gate of Mind" and the like). But I like the energy level, and perhaps death metal is one of those genres which, since it was never all that great in the first place, could actually benefit from modern production values rather than sound like a pale shadow of its former self wrapped up in shinier clothes.

Here's the album's instrumental track that is probably the most creative of the bunch, constructing a crescendo from ambient atmospherics to apocalyptic pomp and then to all-out blood rage:

Video of the week: Heaven & Hell - Radio City Music Hall Live 2007

Since we're on a metal vibe anyway, I haven't seen a particularly large amount of metal concerts, but this one is kinda special. Unfortunately, classic Ozzy- or Dio-era Black Sabbath have very little high quality footage left behind them, and more recent Ozzy-led Sabbath videos suffer because of... well, Ozzy. But when Iommi and Butler went on tour with Dio in the mid-2000s, Ronnie was still in peak form (in fact, he probably left peak form the day he died), and this show is an absolute must-have for all lovers of good old fashioned heavy metal. They play most of the highlights from the 1980-81 Dio period of Sabbath, and the dedication is simply astonishing - as is the image and sound quality, which gave me a new level respect for that material (which I, like many others, used to regard as too corny and cartoonish). This, too, is one of those shows where you'd expect self-parodic deterioration on the part of aging rock dinosaurs, but the thing is, Tony consistently plays better here than on the old studio recordings - particularly his soloing is impressive - and Dio is totally free from studio restraint, while at the same time always remaining in tight control of his voice. Even if mystically flavored theatrical heavy metal isn't your thing at all, I can't imagine not being impressed by the amazing tightness and inspired exuberance of the band. If you can only allow yourself one live DVD with Iommi on it, definitely go for this one rather than for any actual Sabbath concerts, even if those allegedly feature better song material.

Here's an example of a song that I never ever paid much attention to on the original Heaven & Hell album, but which I ended up watching at least a couple dozen times. Gotta just love the "evil cackle" of Tony's guitar at 3:20 - corny the song may be, but how many people ever get to scale that particular level of sonic painting?


  1. That's the thing with hardrock/heavy metal: it only (but not always) works with total dedication. So I suppose that I have to check the DVD, even if I'm not that thrilled by post 1980 Dio.

  2. George you should check the latest Opeth album. Chances are you’ll like it.

  3. Much more obviously, RateYourMusic has an oddly out-of-bounds fetish for all things hip-hop. Welcome to all the ridiculous, derivative and overrated product on the current tops, the same picture year after year. As of Blood Incantation lyrics - The Giza Power Plant, as it is obvious by the very title, points to alternative theories about the history of Ancient Egypt, and it sure might be highly debatable, but hardly random bunch of words put together I would prefer a Death/Prog Metal band finally come to touching this kind of subject, than a golden package of bowels, maggots and rot, or reflecting on yet another Steven King-like fantasy story.