Incantation’s forthcoming release, Dirges of Elysium, seems to reiterate once again that predictability is, and probably will always be, a mainstay of death metal.

Even when it comes to Incantation, who are considered by many to be royalty within the underground extreme metal scene, I have to ask myself, “What is it that bands like this have left to express that hasn’t been conveyed ad nauseum since the genre’s inception?” Sure, in the ’80s and ’90s this sound was an innovative and exciting outlet for those of us who wanted to flip a big middle finger at the Tipper Gores of the world. But these days, with the music industry saturated with bands that have repeatedly copied this sound, and with our culture less and less inclined to experience it, what is a band like Incantation expressing that they didn’t seven or eight albums ago?

Philosophical qualms aside, Dirges of Elysium is objectively a fairly mediocre death metal album. It meets the standard for albums of its ilk, including grimy, dark sounding guitars; blast beats o’ plenty; and guttural, mostly unintelligible vocals. Beyond that, there’s really nothing special about it. The songs are mostly interchangeable, predictable, and they fail to keep my attention beyond the half way mark. There are no real examples of outstanding musicianship anywhere to be found, and, in fact, there are several issues with the tightness of the guitar performance on several songs (“Debauchery,” “Carrion Prophesy” and “Dominant Ethos” are most noticeable). These seem like mistakes that could’ve been pretty easily fixed in the editing process or by retakes until the parts were played correctly in the studio.

Dirges of Elysium is probably a fine album to listen to if you’re in the mood for some stock death metal or if you’re cleaning your house and want something playing in the background. But don’t expect to be blown away … unless you only like music that sounds like underground death metal. That’s what this is – no more, no less. This may be your thing if you’re a die-hard death metal fan, but to me, it’s just not something I can get into anymore given the way metal genres are constantly being redefined and reinvented in interesting ways. And in terms of the sound quality of the finished product? If I didn’t already know Incantation have been around forever, I’d assume this was a first release from an unsigned band with little-to-no recording budget. (This is really the only sort of band who should be allowed to have the pre-qualifier “underground”).

Incantation may not have gobs of money to throw around, but they should at least be experienced enough by this point in their career to put out something that sounds good with whatever resources they do have.

Dirges of Elysium is out June 24 on Listenable Records.

Rating: 1/5 Stars