Incantation was the quintessential underground black metal band when formed in New Jersey in 1989. The original line-up comprised of mainstay John McEntee, a hardcore underground metal fan and former Revenant member, and former Revenant man and future Profanatica and Havohej members Paul Ledney, guitarist Brett Makowski and bassist Aragon Amori. The band would be sundered by conflict leaving McEntee, bassist Ronny Deo and drummer Peter Barnevic. Will Rahmer of Mortician would guest on Incantation's 7" EP Entrantment Of Evil after McEntee would join Mortician for a while. Jim Roe would be recruited on drums who would be followed by former Putrefact and Ceremonium guitarist and singer Craig Pillard. The new man would later take Will Rahmer's spot. The metal scene's true first introduction to the band would thus be recorded and be named Deliverance Of Horrific Prophecies. Armed with a contract with the upstart Relapse Records the band would record the brutally sludgy Onward To Golgotha. Released in 1992, the album would propel Incantation to the forefront of the American underground scene. Shows with Entombed, Dead Horse and Vital remains would ensue. In what would become a standard for Incantation the line-up underwent a complete overhaul.
With the band's popularity on the upswing Incantation/McEntee would oversee a string of albums performed by a revolving cast of musicians. Simultaneously, the band's relationship with Relapse Records would be tested over allegations of non-payment of royalties, lack of tour or promotional support and a general lack of appreciation on behalf of the label for the band. Incantation would unfurl an anti-Relapse Records banner at shows in America. 1994's Mortal Throne Of Nazarene would come under scrutiny and criticism when the band and label find the sound and production lacking. Upon The Throne Of Apocalypse featured the alternate mix and production of the same album with the track listing reversed. Nonetheless, shows with Malevolent Creation and Anal Cunt would follow. The band would venture back into Canada into play with Kataklysm at the Canadian bands two album release shows. The line-up would be detained at the Canadian border due to criminal records within the bands ranks. Incantation would finally be admitted into the country after Canada Customs exercised its discretionary powers. The pattern would be repeated in later years again and again with the decision not always going the band's way. Incantation would invite Kataklysm to embark on a Mexican tour a year later, but with the relationship soon breaking down the Canadian mob would be accused of sabotaging and damaging the Americans' van and equipment. More comings and goings continued and the band now based in Cleveland would venture into Mexico with Enslaved, Grave and others in a series of tours arranged by McEntee himself. For a while the band featured female bassist Mary Ciullo and Mortician's Mike Saez. McEntee would also soon find the time to start work on a label called Ibex Moon Records.
Despite previous tensions Pillard would rejoin the band and record with Incantation. The band would tour Europe with Avulsed and would sign to Avulsed man's Repulse Records. The relationship with Repulse would soon go the way of the relationship with Relapse. The band would again find it difficult to enter Canada this time due to another member's criminal record. Amidst constant touring Incantation would be involved in a severe accident on the road in Texas in 1998. The group would recover and hit more countries in its quest to destroy Christianity. The band would soon relocate to Pennsylvania and McEntee would try his hand at a side project. Shows with Cannibal Corpse, Krisiun and others would continue unabated. A tour would be interrupted when the band was caught in a melee involving the returning Mike Saez. Incantation would survive and sign to Necropolis Records of California. An album called Blasphemy In Brazil Tour was released in South America. It was issued two years later in Europe by Hammerheart Records. 2002's Blasphemy would be produced by ex-Death soundman Bill Korecky. The album would be licensed to Candlelight for Europe. In the meanwhile, McEntee has ran out of eligible singers and also taken over the vocalist spot! The new formation would sign a deal with Listenable records of france following the bankruptcy of Necropolis. Bill Korecky would engineer Decimate Christendom which given the mood and psyche in America sounded extremely optimistic. Nonetheless shows with Ragnarok and Behemoth would soon come. Early member Jim Roe was filling in for drummer Kyle Severn on the band’s European tour with Malevolent Creation and Rotting Christ in 2007. The band also issued a statement terming South American promoter Cathedral Rock Productions con artists and rip-offs. The band also noted its intention to continue its touring plans independently despite the promoter’s practices. The band was promoting its Primordial Domination album on the road. In late 2007 the band announced that original singer Craig Pillard and drummer Jim Roe were part of the band’s touring line-up for 2008. The band was scheduled to play at the Central Illinois Metalfest. Also in the band were John McEntee and Goreaphobia’s Alex Bouks on guitars and Rayash of Supreme Lord on bass. Goreaphobia completed the recording of a new album called Mortal Repulsion in 2009. The album featured guitarist John McEntee and drummer Jim Roe (ex-Incantation). The album was released on John McEntee’s label, Ibex Moon Records. Incantation and Hate announced a tour of Western Europe for January of 2010. Divine Eve and Noctem would support the bands. Fresh off a European tour with label-mates Divine Eve, along with Hate, Noctum and Nerve, Incantation announced its inclusion in two summer metal festivals. Taking place July 15th - 17th, Incantation would be a featured headliner at the Obscene Extreme Festival in the Czech Republic and was also playing Austria's Kaltenback Open Air Festival as well. Incantation announced several special shows for late 2010 where the band would perform its debut album, Onward To Golgotha in its entirety. Expected US shows were in November. Former bassist Joey Lombard died on January 3rd, 2012 at the age of 42. Living in Windber, Pennsylvania, Lombard was employed by Lockheed Martin in Johnstown. In July of 2012, Incantation and Immolation were playing a series of shows in Brazil featuring local openers. The group signed with Listenable Records for a record it was working on. The album was mixed by Dan Swano. Incantation picked Vanquish In Vengeance as the title for its concept album, which was due in November, 2012 through Listenable Records.
The group recorded an exclusive track for Decibel Magazine's Flexi Disc series, which was available only to subscribers. The band dug into its vault and pulled up the tune Degeneration, off the self-titled 1989 demo from McEntee’s earlier band band, Revenant. Incantation gave the song a reworking. This version of the song would appear inside the December 2012 issue of Decibel.
INCANTATION - THE FORSAKEN MOURNING OF ANGELIC ANGUISH - REPULSE
Incantation is back and freed from its unproductive contract with Relapse Records. This MCD is the first of three planned releases on Repulse, Elegy and Visceral Productions. Lasting around 21 minutes, the EP features the band delivering exactly what it has always been known for, namely brutal and underground metal molten in doom and grind. Especially surprising, but definitely welcome, is the return of vocalist Craig Pillard who had left the band on bad terms and was actually thinking of suing guitarist McEntee. His vocals are extremely low and, therefore, fitting. With a relatively better sound and a deliberate pure death stand this EP is recommended if you are willing to accept the fact that beside two filler interludes, one of the remaining five pieces is a cover of Death's Scream Bloody Gore (or so I read!). Yet, and getting past that, Incantation is alive and well. - Ali "The Metallian"
INCANTATION - DECIMATE CHRISTENDOM - OLYMPIC/CENTURY MEDIA
The putrid sounds of Incantation have been the source of some of death metal's filthiest devilry for fifteen years and Decimate Christendom will certainly extend the reign. The band's newest album on the newest label with the newest line-up is an continuation of the band's tradition of mixing doomy heavy riffing with accelerating sonic hatred all topped off with nihilistic low growls. The album probably features a cleaner sound than most of the band's other output. The inevitable emergence of founder and guitarist John McEntee as a singer does nothing to dampen the band's penchant for death metal purity. As a matter of fact, McEntee's vocals fit the role perfectly and make one wonder why he didn't take the microphone over years ago. After all, he exhausted America's supply of available growlers some years back.
Facetiousness aside, Decimate Christendom - wishful titles aside - is full of music the band's fans expect and the rest of the metal world deserves. Bands come and bands wimp out, but Incantation's spell remains. - Ali "The Metallian"
Last Sunday morning, having washed and combed my hair, I put on my best Sunday suit and habitually attended church. During confession the church’s priest asked me to open my heart and lay bare the truth before him. “Which do you reckon were the best albums of 1994, my son,” he asked. “Incantation’s, Brutal Truth’s and Bolt Thrower’s latest,” I answered. “Incantation’s second album, Mortal Throne Of Nazarene, is a relentlessly excellent slab of doomy death metal,” I confessed.
And so it was done. – Ali “The Metallian” interviews Incantation in 1995.
Since the album’s release, three-quarters of Incantation has defected from the line-up leaving original guitarist John McEntee to fend for himself. A drastic turn of events and one on which John comments: “So far, with the new band members, we’ve been doing a good job. At shows we are getting great responses. However, we are not getting much support from our record company (Relapse). They get angry when I tell people they are not treating us well - but they are not!
The split occurred due to a series of misunderstandings over money and division of responsibilities within the band. “The new singer is Duane Morris from Cleveland,” elaborates John. “He used to be in Decrepit and Embalmer. His voice is just like Craig Pillard’s (ex vocalist, now in Disciples Of Mockery). He’s a great guitarist as well as a brutal singer. Our new drummer Kyle is good, fast and heavy. We don’t have a new bassist yet - one guy left two days before our tour with Grave and Fear Of God. He said his girlfriend goes on tour or he’s not going! His girlfriend was a total bitch and didn’t even want to help with anything - not even sell shirts. All she wanted to do is watch him.”
As for a new Incantation sound, “There is no reason for us to change styles. I am dedicated to being the one band that stays true. Once people see us playing live they will not even notice there’s been a change. Things are going well, and I am happy with the way things are.”
I have, however, heard of a few problems on the Incantation, Grave and Fear Of God tour. Not the least of which involves the antics of Fear Of God. “They had our gear in their van,” John takes up the story. “The guys once split from Dawn [F.O.G vocalist]. They left her in a rest area and took off. No one knew where they were! Every one was concerned where the equipment would end up.” And despite my information to the contrary, “Fear Of God is still together and looking for a bassist. Supposedly Dawn is straightening up her act. But I don’t believe that ‘cause she’s a freak.”
Incantation’s sophomore onslaught has improved in the production department. “We weren’t happy last time,” reminisces John as he thinks back to the demo-esque sound of the band’s debut album Onward To Golgotha. “We are not happy with this one either, but it is better. Last time, the guy in the studio didn’t have a clue what we were looking for. It was heavy, but not clear enough. On the new album we trusted the engineer in the studio, but it turned out differently. We ended up taking it to a different studio to re-mix it [the original version is being released by Relapse in a limited edition]. At the same time, Relapse held our budget, so we had to rush. The guy who re-mixed it did a very good job. The original guy was saying, ‘Yeah, I can live with the outcome.’ The re-mixer was like, ‘Oh man, we have to fix this!”
One aspect, which did not need any fixing, was the artwork. “It’s done by Wes who did the latest Slayer cover. We told him what we wanted and his work came out better than I expected. We’ve had good luck getting decent artwork. Relapse did a good job with the layout, too. I have to give them credit for the whole lay-out concept.”
The interview draws to a close, as it began, with a reassurance aimed at the fans. “People might be skeptical as far as the new line-up is concerned. At least give it a chance. You will not be disappointed. Also, hopefully more bands will stay true to the underground. I hope bands won’t wimp out after two albums.”
John and I aren’t holding for breath however.
This interview initially appeared in Pit Magazine No. 13.