Spawn of Possession’s Incurso is the musical equivalent of an enormously complex, alien planet-cracking machine working under a tight deadline.
With a globe-spanning reach, thousands of tightly integrated devices split mountains and toss them aside, jackhammer vast plains, uproot continent-wide rain forests and throw them into space, spin mighty rivers into whirlpools arcing upward into the atmosphere, spear the mantle with gargantuan kinetic maces that eject fuming magma into sky-bound plumes that turn the night sky into day, and deconstruct the puny works of humankind into their atomic components, segregating and storing them for some unfathomable future use.
And all of this happens at hyperspeed, the mind-boggling complexity of the matter-smashers directed by beings who may look humanoid, but clearly are not. They live their lives in an accelerated state of existence, a blur of insectile activity compared to which our most energetic efforts are the mere slime trails of slugs creeping pathetically by inches over days.
Sitting at the controls is a brutish overlord, communicating directly with the minds of a thousand machine operators, barking his wolfish commands almost more rapidly than the human ear can comprehend. Before our astonished eyes and ears, a hurricane of decimation methodically disassembles the world as we know it — and begins to build something alien and new.
Was that metaphoric description too over-the-top? If you think so, come see me again after you’ve listened to Incurso, because you may change your mind.
If my experience is representative, you’ll listen to this album and your eyes will pop in wonder, your jaw will sag in disbelief, you’ll experience sharp intakes of breath at one shocking surprise after another. Your head will not bang (or not much), because the rhythms don’t stay in any groove long enough to trigger the reflex, but your head will spin, and it will also shake back and forth in amazement. And I make this forecast even to those jaded listeners who view most tech metal as mindless wanking; you may or may not connect with the music, but only the comatose could fail to appreciate the sheer exuberant virtuosity of this performance.
On Incurso, every instrumental performer in the band operates at nearly inhuman levels of dexterity and speed, and yet everything they do (which I can barely comprehend even after a half-dozen listens) is so tightly integrated that they seem to be components of a single intelligence, bolting off in their own separate directions and then instantly re-joining in complex harmonies and intricate rhythmic unions.
Yet the wizardry on display in their performance is only half the story. The other half is in the imagining of the music. I have no idea how they were conceived or constructed, but these are not the kind of songs that could have been written by a guitarist cooking up a few cool riffs and then inviting his band-mates to work out accompanying arrangements. So much happens from moment to moment, and the minute and constantly changing details of the music are what make it so wondrous. But it’s also far more than a blizzard of notes and percussive beats — the music flows, even though it may take multiple listens to pick up the patterns.
I mentioned a metaphorical barking overlord. That was an attempt to capture the rapid-fire vocals. They’re like the death metal counterpart of jazz scat singing. I’m sure there are lyrics being voiced, but all I hear is the voice being used as an instrument, with an improvisational feel to it. Come to think of it, the music as a whole is somewhat like a death metal equivalent of free jazz, a collective kind of improv without regular meter or conventional song structure or any recurring melody.
The production engineering of the album is almost as ingenious as the performances. The recording achieves the kind of crystal clarity that’s essential if all the complexity and harmony of the performances are to be fully heard and appreciated, and while the balance in the mix is spot-on, the fascination of the album is enhanced by moments when the rubbery bass rises out of the background to take center stage, or bursts of scale-climbing guitar extravagance are given fleeting prominence.
The workings of the great mind-bending, matter-smashing machine that consume the bulk of the album’s run-time are introduced and ushered to a close by two tracks that deserve separate mention. The opening song (“Abodement”) is an instrumental that one might imagine as the easy-listening music of that invading alien race, playing throughout the interstellar vessel as it glides into Earth orbit before the serious deconstruction work begins. It hints at the otherworldly explosion that’s about to come.
On the other end is the album’s long final track (8:25), which is the most “accessible” on the album. “Apparition” is introduced by an overture of strings and a choir, and the frequent reappearance of orchestral music throughout the song lends it a melodicism rarely found in the album’s previous tracks. The dark atmosphere of the song builds and then settles into the skin, in part because the instrumental pyrotechnics are restrained to the point where you can almost imagine that the music is being played by highly skilled humans instead of life forms that evolved in a planetary system orbiting some distant star.
“Apparition” is the music of those accelerated alien minds, having achieved the disassembly of our world and beginning to contemplate what they will do next. They’re starting to tinker with new constructions, occasionally bursting into frenzied debate over new ideas, pondering what they will make of our deconstructed matter, and finally beginning to build something that will be pleasing to their racing minds.
Incurso is a landmark album. In the rarified air of technical death metal, it has re-set the bar to a new height. Compared to it, the vast majority of even very good albums in this field seem . . . rudimentary. We may see its equal someday, but to this simple mind, it’s difficult to conceive how it could be surpassed.
Here are the two songs from the album that have premiered so far:
“Where Angels Go, Demons Follow”
Spawn of Possession are:
Dennis Röndum – Vocals
Erlend Caspersen – Bass
Henrik Schönström – Drums
Jonas Bryssling – Guitar
Christian Müenzner – Guitar
Incurso will be released by Relapse Records in North America on March 13. It was recorded with engineer Magnus Sedenberg at Pama Studios in Kristianopel, Sweden. The cover art is by the awesome Par Olofsson. Here are band links:
One more bit of news before we leave the subject of Spawn. They are about to begin a European tour with Obscura and Gorod, who are two of the very few tech-death bands in existence that Spawn would not completely upstage. Christian Müenzner is going to get a workout on this tour, since he’s in Obscura as well as Spawn.
I would give a kidney to see this show — and would then probably lose my frontal lobe listening to it. I expect it will be one thoroughly brain-scrambling experience. I’ll be very curious to see whether Spawn can pull off in a live show anything close to the madness they achieve on Incurso. Here’s the schedule:
OBSCURA European Tour w/ Spawn of Possession, Gorod, and Exivious:
3/09/2012 Universum – Stuttgart, Germany
3/10/2012 Turbinenhalle Kraftwerk – Oberhausen, Germany
3/11/2012 Schlachthof – Wiesbaden, Germany
3/12/2012 Magnet – Berlin, Germany
3/13/2012 Debaser Slussen – Stockholm, Sweden
3/14/2012 Betong – Oslo, Norway
3/15/2012 The Rock – Copenhagen, Denmark
3/16/2012 Rosenkeller – Jena, Germany
3/18/2012 Black Pes – Prague, Czech Republic
3/19/2012 Randal Bratislava, Slovakia
3/20/2012 Feierwerk Hansa 39 – München, Germany
3/21/2012 Arena – Wien, Austria
3/22/2012 Gala Hala – Ljubljana, Slovenia
3/23/2012 Zoe Club – Milano, Italy
3/24/2012 Traffic Club – Rome, Italy
3/27/2012 Aero – Toulouse, France
3/28/2012 Ferrailleur – Nantes, France
3/29/2012 Glazart – Paris, France
3/30/2012 4 Ecluses – Dunkerque, France
3/31/2012 106 – Rouen, France
4/01/2012 Moho Live – Manchester, UK
4/02/2012 The Pint – Dublin, Ireland
4/03/2012 The Croft – Bristol, UK
4/04/2012 Underworld – London, UK
4/05/2012 Biebob – Vosselaar, Belgium
4/06/2012 Patronat – Haarlem, Holland
4/07/2012 Underground – Köln, Germany