Live Review: Incantation – Exchange, Bristol
4th July 2023
Support: Cryptic Shift, Embodiment
Words: Richard Oliver
On the first proper rainy day we had experienced for a few weeks, there was a suitably gnarly soundtrack to accompany the grim weather at The Exchange in Bristol with a show mixing local talent, rising UK talent and an extreme metal institution.
Opening the show and landing the local support slot were Bristol technical death metal band Embodiment. Despite being a fairly established band in the UK underground metal scene, this was the first time I had managed to see Embodiment perform live and I was suitably impressed. They have a contemporary death metal sound which is equal amounts technical, brutal and melodic and drawn from various influences with songs which lyrically deal with being dragged into hell, the extinction of humanity from nature and wanting to kill someone within seconds of meeting them.
The band are a talented bunch with crazy good guitar work from Finn Maxwell and Sam Godding, fantastic drumming from Leslie Preston and ferocious vocals from Harry Smithson who also brings a lot of humour and charisma to the stage. Although my tastes in death metal are generally far more old school, Embodiment warmed up the crowd nicely with a fantastic half hour performance. Embodiment have landed themselves a tasty slot on the Sophie Lancaster stage at this year's Bloodstock and will definitely be a band worth checking out at the festival.
In the main support slot were Leeds technical death thrashers Cryptic Shift. The band have been landing some high profile support slots of late with this tour being no exception. Cryptic Shift are a complex sounding band mixing elements of technical death and technical thrash metal with extra amounts of prog and dissonance. Their last album had a 26 minute tech prog epic on there but with only a limited amount of stage time we were treated to the shorter songs in their discography.
With such complex music it took me a while to tune myself in to the performance but about halfway through I finally got there with ‘Voyage Through Dimensions’ off 'Beyond The Celestial Realms' being the song that really grabbed me. The sound wasn’t really on the side of the band meaning that a lot of the technical nuances were lost in translation with the earlier songs in the set being the worst affected. The things which did stand out were the fantastic lead guitar work from Xander Bradley and Josh Farrington and the incredible bass playing from John Riley who really channelled his inner Steve DiGiorgio. Cryptic Shift are a band I do struggle with a bit as I find their music a bit overly complex preferring my thrash and death metal in a far more straightforward style but there is no denying the talent in the band and this was a solid performance.
After two bands with quite a lot of technicality to them it was time for something far more straightforward and bludgeoning and a band who are not only death metal legends but a band whose influence can clearly be heard in a lot of the newer death metal bands emerging such as Tomb Mold, Blood Incantation and Undeath. Headlining were US death metal institution Incantation who were on tour to mark the 30th anniversary of the band. It was a rare occasion to see Incantation doing a UK tour usually only appearing on our shores for a sole London show or as part of a festival line up so this felt like a special occasion.
The band were on absolutely ferocious form with a fat meaty sound adding to the aural devastation that rained down on the crowd for the band's hour long set. The set covered material from the bands early days all the way to present day with brand new song ‘Concordat’ from the band's upcoming album 'Unholy Deification' sitting nicely alongside old tunes such as ‘Deliverance Of Horrific Prophecies’, ‘The Ibex Moon’ and ‘Blasphemous Cremation’ and latter day material such as ‘Lead To Desolation’ and ‘Siege Hive’.
It was a well rounded set with a mix of blasting fury, disgusting groove and those crushing doomy passages which the band are known for, The band’s sole original member John McAntee was on killer form delivering earth shaking gutturals and blood curdling screams as well as dishing out a plethora of tasty and filthy riffs alongside other guitarist Luke Shively. The drumming from long term drummer Kyle Severn was something to behold though as it was a tight and intricate performance but it also sounded like he was beating the absolute shit out of his drum kit. Such was the violence of his performance there was a wonder if the kit would make it to the end of the show.
This show was a timely reminder of why Incantation are so revered in death metal although they seem to be criminally overshadowed by a number of other bands from the same era. Nonetheless the band are performing with the same fire and passion for death metal that they had in 1990 and any self respecting death metal fan should try and catch Incantation live should they ever get the opportunity as it is an absolute masterclass in old school death metal.