There’s no shortage of great shows happening in Sacramento every month, but the dregs of being a responsible adult often keep me from going to them. When you’re a corporate lackey that gets up for work bright and early at 6:45 AM, going to a show on a weeknight that doesn’t even start until 8:00 PM isn’t really in the cards. But there was no way I was going miss out on Incantation; the death metal legends are celebrating their 25th anniversary with a string of West Coast dates, and with Funerus, Mortuous and Plague Widow in tow, this one was guaranteed to be a rager.
Sacramento’s own Plague Widow opened things up with their blackened death metal assault and continue to be the most devastating band in town. The stage was so packed with gear that guitarist Hal Rotter and vocalist Marc Dickson set up on the floor, making for a set that was both intimate and in-your-face as they blasted through an all-too-brief batch of tunes. I’ve written previously that it’s exciting to live in a city that boasts bands of Plague Widow’s caliber, and I’m anxiously awaiting their Willowtip-backed debut album, which if I’m not mistaken should be out sometime this year.
Up next was Mortuous, who proved to be the surprise of the night given my unfamiliarity with them. The band hails from San Jose and includes former members of Exhumed, however their brand of death metal hues much closer to the Boss HM-2-fueled Sunlight Studios sound that emanated from Sweden in the early and mid-nineties. Mortuous incorporates some great creepy-crawly melodies into their sound along with a penchant for some killer honest-to-god guitar solos from Mike Beams, which sets them apart from the hordes of bands buzzsawing their way through similar territory. These guys have a three year old demo up for grabs on Bandcamp, but if there’s any justice on this forsaken planet a label like Dark Descent or Blood Harvest will scoop them up for an album.
My exposure to Funerus was severely limited prior to them taking the stage; I remember enjoying the tracks I sampled off of 2011’s Reduced to Sludge, but that’s about it. However, the band quickly won me over with their sludgy, grinding death metal; frontwoman Jill McEntee sports one of the gnarliest bass tones this side of Mortician’s Will Rahmer, and her raw, throat-rending growls perfectly suit the downtuned-to-hell death metal attack.
Funerus is something of a family affair with Jill’s husband/Incantation mainman John McEntee on guitar, and the duo created some seriously bludgeoning, bowel-shaking music with assistance from Dutch drummer Frank Schilperoort. Mrs. McEntee stated at the beginning of the set that she wasn’t feeling well, but you never would’ve known otherwise given her enthusiastic performance and sick bass-work. Funerus made me an instant fan and I’ll be tracking down their releases as soon as the wallet allows.
As expected, Incantation closed out the night in stellar fashion. The band has aged like a fine (putrid?) wine over the years, as evidenced by their excellent recent recorded output (2012’s Vanquish in Vengeance and 2014’s Dirges of Elysium) and Monday night proved that this excellence isn’t limited to the studio. The band possesses one of the most straight-up crushing live sounds I’ve ever experienced, whipping the crowd into a frenzy that had me heading for the safety of the back of the venue just a few songs in (getting elbowed/punched in the back of the head twice is my limit). Moving farther back from the band in no way dulled the potency of their onslaught; Incantation are a force of nature on stage and you feel it whether you’re being crushed in the front or appreciating the spectacle from the back, or anywhere in-between.
Incantation’s set lasted over an hour and spanned their entire career, breathing new life into their older material with a clear, punishing sound that trumped the sometimes murky production of their classic albums while sacrificing none of the deathly atmosphere. The band is known for incorporating glacially-paced, doomy sections into their songs, and when they slowed things down to a crawl it felt as if the weight of eternity was being brought down upon you like a sledgehammer blow. All in all one of the heaviest shows I’ve had the pleasure of attending and an utterly soul-draining experience in the best way possible.
Incantation / Funerus remaining dates:
01/14/15 – Las Vegas, NV – LVCS
01/15/15 – Mesa, AZ – Nile Theater
01/16/15 – Anaheim, CA – Oc Music Hall
01/17/15 – Los Angeles, CA – The Airliner
01/19/15 – Honolulu, HI – Hawaiian Brian’s