‘Hidden History of the Human Race’ is itself an elaborately scribbled document of an internalized war with the very DNA of death metal as an artistically viable practice beyond its core influential statements. What might initially appear to be a harmoniously brutal head-first dive into safely non-brutal, non-technical, but seemingly progressive modern science-fiction themed death metal is itself a studied equalization of forms shareable between the greatest North American death metal apices of the 1990’s taken a step beyond the compounded formulæ of the 2000’s. In this sense Denver, Colorado quartet Blood Incantation eclipse the scattered efforts of many of their retro-futuristic peers within underground death metal’s writhing and waning ‘classics minded’ ecosystem and erect a preposterously full-range tent amongst them with this second full-length. It might be too referential for the truest of the true, isn’t as entirely heavy as their first record (‘Starspawn‘, 2016), and it won’t be gimmick-ridden enough for the chair squirming tech-death youths of the world but ‘Hidden History of the Human Race’ is one of the most compelling and complete ideations of pure death metal in recent memory.
For all of the hyperbolic blather I could throw at Blood Incantation none of it could soften the shock a side-by-side comparison of ‘Starspawn’, a muddy but brilliant take on Timeghoul‘s sound from members of Spectral Voice (see: ‘Necrotic Doom‘, 2015), and this well-polished, varietal, and thuggishly heavy second record. The sludge-gunked hollow drum sound of their previous work now aims somewhere between the thunder of ‘Blessed Are the Sick’ and all the heft of ‘Erosion of Sanity’ with a warm but space-capable atmosphere. The songs? They’re similarly frantic in organization, though, aiming for something as directional as Mithras but only until several more pressing influences distract them away at a full clip. You’re going to hear direct references to a very specific and tasteful array of influences throughout this record and half of the appeal lies there for me personally as a point of entry because I never found the songwriting itself to be effective beyond their flair for atmosphere. Morbid Angel‘s ‘Altars of Madness’ and ‘Formulas Fatal to the Flesh’ are the most obvious drivers of Blood Incantation‘s slow-morphed sound upon first impression and not only because of opener “Slave Species of the Gods” but also because an equally grand reprisal that sticks out beautifully on the 18+ minute opus “Awakening from the Dream…(Mirror of the Soul)”. Immolation, Demilich, and ‘Symbolic’-era Death are equally featured as aesthetic influences upon the bands sound design while also acting as great informants upon riff structures.
“The Giza Power Plant” is where I first began to feel like Blood Incantation had struck upon their own ‘thing’, a technical crawl of a song that kinda dips into mosh-death grooves in between its descending arabesque leads; A heavy focus on receding atmospheric swells isn’t too far removed from what StarGazer were doing back on ‘The Scream That Tore the Sky’ although the attack is probably more loosely in line with The Chasm‘s modus late last decade, progressive but not overtly technical. Where ‘Hidden History of the Human Race’ first lost me was around the fifth or so listen when the cosmically bloomed lotus of “Inner Paths (to Outer Space)” became droll as an underbaked intro for the grand finale of “Awakening from the Dream…(Mirror of the Soul); The song peaks with a single growl from Antti Boman (Demilich, Winterwolf). Yep, he growled once: “Dude, perfect.” Within minutes we’re shoved into some killer Finnish tech-death riffing to kick of the final song, which is more or less two songs, a full Side B with a quasi-interlude.
The ensuing transition between ‘Nespithe’-apropos riffs, towards “Invocation of the Continual One”-esque lava before a slick-as-fuck flip towards ‘Here in After’ riffs and beyond… that confident whipping of riffs for the first 4-5 minutes of the final song is where Blood Incantation really pull out all of the stops to the point that it begins to sound like they’d intended the song to be an education, or a ‘greatest riffs’ of death metal, plucked from history and sent into space as an Arecibo message for the continuation of death metal beyond humanity. On one hand it is a set of referential and somewhat basic death metal moments and on the other hand it all fuckin’ smokes in succession. The only reference that I’d felt hadn’t been smoothed-over and considered comes around halfway through “Awakening from the Dream…(Mirror of the Soul)” where they pay tribute to the mid-to-late 90’s era of Death. It doesn’t feel anywhere near as slick as their other much more subtle references to classic death metal along the way and a riff on ‘Human’ would’ve made a lot more sense. Even if a Morbid Angel or Death riff somehow did bother you along the way Blood Incantation‘s intent to clearly express their taste in death metal, the deepest running veins of interest, within their own highly stylized atmospheric death metal piece is yet artfully realized. An admirable feat in any case.
I admire any musician who can somehow meld the five magics of death metal for roughly 40 minutes of detail-rich material within a very narrow point of focus and still manage to create this level of brutal, mind-expanding music. It won’t stick in your head beyond flourish and deathly tic but it will plant itself directly around the cerebellum and feed tendrils along the edges, quickly taking control and acting as your newest, shiniest Rosetta stone for the world of classic death metal’s continually evolving central languages. Atmospheric brutality is truly put into practice throughout ‘Hidden History of the Human Race’, a great step beyond the muddy barreling of Blood Incantation‘s debut and fashionably so; This (along with multi-tiered and extended songwriting) lends a great feeling of depth to an otherwise accessible death metal record. This celebration of the best and most brutal acts of death metal mankind has to offer is only compounded by the unusually Lovecraftian metaphysical prose that references Kabbalistic, Gnostic, and Egyptian poised perceptions of the nature of the universe and deeply contemplates the nature and placement of men within those biggest of pictures. The prose is neatly obscure but perfectly fitting for the death metal placed in line with it and I couldn’t help but think of it as a couple generations removed from what Timeghoul‘s (or, Mithras‘) lyrics had/have explored. I fully doubt ‘Hidden History of the Human Race’ is the defining moment for Blood Incantation but it is a massive and valuable first step towards establishing distinct personality as a be-all/end-all death metal act.
High recommendation. 4.25/5.0
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