Incantation are a veritable institution on the American death metal scene. Since issuing their 1992 debut long-player Onward to Golgotha on Relapse, their musical signature is unrelenting brutality that mixes punishing riffs with widely varying tempos. The band can change course from thrashing intensity to vamping grindcore to doom and sludge almost instantaneously. Though based in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, their longstanding base of operations was New York City, where they remain at the forefront of its death metal scene. Their continued underground success -- despite a continually changing lineup -- made them main stage performers at most major metal festivals on the planet. Their fans celebrate the band's particular brand of extreme metal: It is lyrically obsessed with the occult, Satanism, and anti-Christian blasphemy. Though it kept them out of the mainstream for decades, later albums including 2014's Dirges of Elysium and 2017's Profane Nexus attained respectable placement on music industry and streaming charts.
The band was founded in New Jersey by guitarist John McEntee and drummer/vocalist Paul Ledney in 1989. Ledney left after the release of Reh.1.3.90, the band's first demo, because he wanted to play black metal rather than death metal. The band's first lead vocalist was Will Rahmer (founder of Mortician). Rahmer appeared on Incantation's debut EP, Entrapment of Evil, which was released on the tiny Seraphic Decay label. It wasn't long before Rahmer was replaced by Craig Pillard, who stayed with the band for several years. After signing with Relapse in 1991, Incantation recorded their second EP, Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies, before providing their first full-length album, Onward to Golgotha (which employed Pillard on vocals and Jim "Eno" Roe on drums) in 1992. Incantation's subsequent Relapse albums included Mortal Throne of Nazarene in 1994, Upon the Throne of Apocalypse in 1996, Forsaken Mourning of Angelic Anguish in 1997, and Diabolical Conquest in 1998. After 2000's Infernal Storm, Incantation left Relapse and signed with Candlelight for 2002's Blasphemy.
McEntee (the only remaining member of the original lineup) began his tenure as the band's guitarist and lyricist, but after signing the band to Listenable Records in late 2003, he took over as lead vocalist. His debut was 2004's Decimate Christendom wherein Incantation was slimmed down to a trio; they remained in that configuration for 2006's Primordial Domination. After supporting the album by touring for two-and-a-half years, McEntee put the group on temporary hiatus.
They returned in November of 2012 with Vanquish in Vengeance as a quartet with McEntee, drummer Kyle Severn, lead guitarist Alex Bouks, and bassist Chuck Sherwood (the latter replaced Joe Lombard, who died by suicide in January). Given the album's laudatory critical reception, Incantation hit the road for more than a year, touring primarily in Europe. Upon return, they entered the studio and delivered Dirges of Elysium, their final date for Listenable. It arrived in 2014 with their first music video for single "Impalement of Divinity." The album defied the band's expectations and reached the middle rungs of the Heatseekers chart. Incantation undertook another years-long touring jaunt. While they were on the road working, New Jersey's Necroharmonic Productions issued the two-disc Unholy Massacre, a compilation of early sides, and the live Rotting Spiritual Embodiment, also comprised of '90s material.
Upon return to the U.S. Incantation lost Bouks to Ruinous, and re-signed to Relapse. The power trio of McEntee, Severn, and Sherwood released Profane Nexus, in August of 2017, their tenth studio long-player. Mixed and mastered by Dan Swanö, it reached the Top 40 on the Independent albums chart. A video for "Lus Sepulcri" racked up over 100,000 views -- a sizable number for an indie metal band. Incantation played festivals in Europe, South America, and the United States as part of the Relapse-sponsored Contamination Tour with Dying Fetus, Genocide Pact, and Gatecreeper. The label issued Contamination Tour 2018 EP, a split containing two tracks each by all four bands.
Incantation became a touring quartet again with temporary lead guitarist Sonny Lombarddozzi. They headlined American stages through most of 2019. Toward year's end, Incantation re-entered the studio with Swanö. Lombardozzi played lead on the lion's share of tracks, but his permanent replacement, Luke Shively, was already in the wings, and helmed the remainder.
Incantation issued a couple of well-received advance video singles -- "Fury's Manifest" in July and "Entrails of the Hag Queen" in early August -- that created anticipation for the full-length release Sect of Vile Divinities issued on August 21. The band was prevented from touring in 2020 due to travel restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this drawback, the album sold more out of the box than any of its predecessors. It debuted inside the Top 50 on three music industry charts and the Top 40 on various metal streaming lists. ~ Thom Jurek & Alex Henderson