Incantation or a $20 sandwich?
Little chat with John and Chuck after the release of their new album "Sect Of Vile Divinities". See what has driven Incantation to stay in the death metal scene for so many years. And the story behind the $20 sandwich.
Hello John and Chuck! Incantation have a brand new album out! "Sect Of Vile Divinities" is your new offering. What is the concept of your 12th full length album?
Chuck: Conceptually, the entities and deities mentioned in the album are assembled in a sort of forgotten temple as a common “sect”. As the cover portrays. All of them sharing the same “vile” nature against opposing religions (or religious ethics) and humanity’s failure.
How did you work this time for "Sect Of Vile Divinities" and what are the differences from your previous album "Profane Nexus"?
Chuck: Creating is primarily the same album to album, we all contribute. Whether it’s a riff, a collection or even completed songs we individually contribute then edit to the tastes of all to mold it into something greater than the sum of its parts. Ego plays no part which is mainly why we end up with so much material as “overage” which surfaces in subsequent albums. In comparison to the previous album “Profane Nexus” I feel we have more aggression in this one, but feel free to interpret it as you will. Doom elements that conjure that truly dark atmosphere, while the fast and more ripping songs on the album really step up the technique and playability of all involved.
In "Sect Of Vile Divinities" you entrusted for one more time mixing and mastering to Dan Swanö. You have been cooperating with Dan since 2012. How did this cooperation begin and how do you feel about it?
Chuck: At the time we were working with Bill Korecky on the Vanquish in Vengeance album the Mixing and mastering duties fell on Dan, which is the first time I recall we had his involvement. Dan, since has proved to be a master of his art. This being his 4th album with us, each in their own way being unique. He captured the essence of our intent perfectly hence why he’s considered as another member of Incantation. Each experience from album to album proves his expertise, couldn’t be happier with the results of the work applied.
Please let us know some more things about the "making of" the new album.
John - Hmmmm not sure what else to say. Haha. We have been working on the album for a good 3 or more years. It was longer than we prefer but with our heavy touring schedule we really didn’t get time to finish the album until mid-2019. Once everyone put their minds to it, the album really started to take shape. We are very happy with the way the songs came out.
What is the lyrical direction in "Sect Of Vile Divinities"?
Chuck: I drew upon my typical muses, but adding topics unfamiliar to myself. A way to research interests, and explore my subconscious with death metal as a catalyst. Folklore, mythology, history, occultism and my dreams are within, like everything I’ve ever contributed.
What are your plans for promoting the new album in the pandemic times when touring is under severe restrictions or even prohibited?
Chuck: We’ve utilized the internet essentially. Video singles were initially released in two week intervals with subsequent “Zoom” Q & A’s before its release date. Now there are a number of things in the works. We were able to physically meet up a couple times which was very productive. The “plague” has certainly limited us but not completely.
Please give us the top 5 of your all time favorite albums and make a comment for each of them.
Chuck: I can certainly name five, but my all-time favorites would be impossible. Bestial Mockery - Gospel For The Insane. Just a great album, violent riffs, dirty production, overall sick. Iron Maiden - Killers. Some of the fastest material they ever wrote, last Di’Anno album, musicianship was ridiculous, everyone was at the top of their game. Black Sabbath - Sabotage. Not a bad tune on the whole album, classic for me. Arckanum - Kostogher amazing black metal, the ritual beginning through each of the “journey” inducing songs. The uncompromising conviction to his beliefs of this one man project is really impressive. Piledriver - Stay Ugly I mean how can you not sing along with “Lord Of Abominations”.
Which album of another band you wish you had recorded yourself and why?
Chuck: I couldn’t even pick one honestly. The reason I like albums how I do is because of the disassociation without the same self-scrutiny I would put upon it if I was involved.
Have you ever thought of putting an end to Incantation?
Chuck: Simply put, no. Only personally speaking of course. Lulls are fleeting and certainly don’t dictate us to end all we’ve achieved. Even the present situation with the world shut down and lack of tours hasn’t prevented us from being creative or pushing “Sect Of Vile Divinities” by any means possible. To the contrary our motivations are more focused.
Incantation have gone through many line-up changes. What is the typical way for the band to choose new members? What do you expect from them and how do you work with them?
Chuck: Despite the storied past of line-up changes since “Vanquish In Vengeance” John, Kyle and I have remained rather consistent for the past decade. Outlining factors, personality traits or conflicts of interest ultimately lead to changes to a more productive situation within the line-up. Choosing session members is a mix of talent and similarities. How well does one best represent the entity that is Incantation while executing goals and providing a positive road experience. Through this aforementioned decade I have seen near a dozen people associated with us. All contributors via stage or studio are what makes those subsequent tours and albums so unique in their own rights and wouldn’t be possible without them. We’re very fortunate.
Diving in the band's discography what would you have changed if you could and which have been your top moments so far?
John - Well I'm very happy where I am now with the band and my life so I would have to say nothing. Yes when I listen back I hear things that could have been done better or whatnot. But those are the kind of things you learn from. If you don’t make mistakes it’s difficult to learn.
My top moments hmmm there have been many. I would have to say it was a great achievement to do our first album “Onward To Golgotha”. It’s not that I like the album more than anything else we have done but it was the first album and the first time releasing an album, and having it get such a great response is an amazing achievement. But really every album is a great accomplishment and an important part of the band’s history.
Do you have a songwriting formula in Incantation and who writes the lyrics?
Chuck: For this album in particular I drew upon my typical muses, but adding topics unfamiliar to myself. A way to research interests, and explore my subconscious with death metal as a catalyst. Folklore, mythology, history, occultism and my dreams are within, like everything I’ve ever contributed. I can write entire albums worth when the inspiration strikes then John, Kyle and I will meticulously arrange cadence and syncopation to the music. Which has been our formula thus far. Editing is always to the last second as new ideas forever emerge, no different with “Sect” as we had these nearly completely over 2yrs ago. If you listen to a song that long, self-reflection often dictates we refine it.
How often does the band rehearse to keep in shape? Do new songs appear often while rehearsing?
Chuck: Seeing as we live in three different states rehearsals are more like freight training marathon jams. They can be very productive up till the point when we go through brain drain and can’t function. We primarily rely on our individual homework for tour set lists with maybe a couple days practice just before the road or perhaps a small show just to get ourselves prepared for the run. Sometimes the natural energy of a practice can create harmonies, variations of riffs and a slew of potential directions for a particular song. It is one of the best times to express and develop new material we find.
Technology gave the opportunity of home recording. Please compare it with the standard studio recording way. How do you choose to record for Incantation?
Chuck: Each have their pros and cons. In a studio you can arrive prepared and make the best of the minds involved to the suggestions of the man behind the board. Whereas time constraints and performance issues can be catastrophic in a studio. Home recording can be one of the best ways to create an organic sounding performance synthetically. Especially when meeting up isn’t an option. But can also lead to a million technical issues due to file trading.
Who did the artwork for "Sect Of Vile Divinities"?
Chuck: That would be Eliran Kantor. I have to commend him again for bringing our vision to reality. Wasn’t an easy task to be sure, mock-ups, file trading, reference material, tons of correspondence, edits and drafts. We in the band all remain seriously impressed by his translation of the concept. He is an amazing artist and person to work with. Understanding and open to suggestions. This being his third cover created for us, he excels where we come short in the nature of his median.
You are an over 30 year old band. In the early days people would discover music from word of mouth, paper fanzines, few radio/TV shows and tape trading. Nowadays, YouTube makes it way easier to listen to new music. How do you see this change?
Chuck: Over-saturation. Things such as tape trading and letter sharing are extinct. Camaraderie has never diminished, thank goodness, save for the folks who’d rather “size up competition” as opposed to either simply liking or disliking a particular band. Not out of prowess or personality but out of opinion or taste. Zine’s still surface but just less frequent. Demos where forever held in high regards due to how near impossible it was to obtain them. Bragging rights for those that had them and jealousy for those without. Now a days the exposure is instantaneous and devalued. At a click you can own entire discographies of thousands of dollars and years of someone’s life. $20 for a sandwich? No problem... $20 for an album? Ehhhhh would you take $15? More curious is at the dawn of Death Metal and the coveted demos. Will folks in twenty years pay the same admiration for CDR’s of “Slam” as its dawn is upon us now? Doubtful. The old days will always be admired but I believe it was the end of more than just the “head bangers journey”. I have no idea what the future holds, putting my hopes to the devotion and loyalty of all fans/supporters who never disappoint by keeping Death Metal alive.
Which are your favorite books and authors/poets?
Chuck: H.P Lovecraft, Tacitus, Suetonius, J.R.R Tolkien, etc. was always fond of history, occult, mythology which is forever portrayed in my lyrical content for Incantation. Poetry was reserved to things like the The Poetic Edda, at a time it was Samuel Coleridge (thanks Iron Maiden) not too much into it in all honesty.
Which are your favorite movies?
Chuck: Horror, primarily all I watch.
Incantation preserved their old school death metal sound through the years. Did you ever think of experimenting with different styles of music?
Chuck: Indeed, John has had a number of side projects (Funerus, Tribe of Pazuzu, Beast of Revelation etc) in which he is/was related with to explore other avenues of style. Kyle likewise has his (Shed the Skin, Estuary etc). While Luke is still very active with his band Dismemberment.
What is your contribution to Beast Of Revelation, Funerus and Tribe Of Pazuzu? What artistic gap do these bands fill for you?
John - I was asked to do vocals for Beast Of Revelation from Bob and A.J.. It was a great honor to do it. I wanted to do vocals on an album as a vocalist and not a guitarist and vocalist, so this was already something I was thinking about before they asked. It gives me a different perspective to do vocals on a song that I didn’t write. And for me it was very cool.
Funerus I don’t do anymore, but I had a blast and it was a fun way to just kick out some old school death metal, something a little different than what I do with Incantation.
In Tribe Of Pazuzu I just play guitar and I really only contributed maybe a few lead ideas. It was also fun to just play guitar and play Nick’s riffs. It’s always a blast to play in a little different style than what I normally write. So once again it’s been a blast to be a part of the project.
Your last 2 albums with Incantation have been released on Relapse Records. How does it feel to be back in the label of your first records?
John - Great, they are doing a topnotch job and our working relationship is awesome! When both us and Relapse first started working together us and the label were still learning the ropes of the music business and we both didn’t handle things the best. But now all that has changed and things are amazing now and we wouldn’t want it any other way!
What is best for a band: to be technically perfect or to deliver the right feeling and why?
Chuck: Think we in the band would all agree by me saying ... feeling. Technical prowess is certainly something to admire and at times to add to a certain song either in part or entirety. Without the overall feeling being paramount there’s nothing for the listener to be captivated by. More so for us in the writing of it. Unless if the listener is into a vastly different taste in music (not our variety of death metal) where odd timing and scales are more the focus then I’m sure it reflects on what we write as being less talented. Music, like all art is subjective.
What would be your advice to a new band?
Chuck: To those just beginning their journey. I’d say to keep inspired, focus on things you truly enjoy. Till you develop the drive to always learn and expand so as to not become stagnant. The wealth of tablature at our disposal these days is staggering. Cultivate and nurture your talents regardless of how fast or slow it comes, there’s always someone better than yourself. Just enjoy your craft, and apply it.
Thank you so much for the interview John and Chuck, good luck with the new album "Sect of Vile Divinities"! The last words are yours!
Chuck: Many thanks for the interview man. Brace for impact on August 21st with “Sect of Vile Divinities” Hope to see you all on the road. Crush souls with sorcery, crush skulls with death metal! Till then!