DB HOF NO. 48
The making of Incantation’s “Onward to Golgotha”
released: August 2000
label: Hydra Head
By 1989, John McEntee was growing increasingly disenchanted with his membership in technical thrash band Revenant. With the aid of Revenant drummer Paul Ledney, McEntee set out to pursue his own brand of blackened death metal, christening it Incantation.
Ledney soon departed to form Profanatica and later Havohej, two bands synonymous with the first wave of U.S. black metal emerging in the late ’80s/early ’90s, but not before encouraging a young McEntee to pursue his own passion for underground death metal. Summoning help from friends Will Rahmer (Mortician), Ross Dolan (Immolation) and local musicians Ronnie Deo, Sal Seijo and Bill Venner (the latter contributing the band’s ungodly logo), Incantation’s darkness began to take shape and soon a solid lineup was formed.
By 1991, death metal was beginning to gain commercial success and major label interest, with Napalm Death and Morbid Angel videos appearing on MTV’s Headbangers Ball alongside thrash veterans Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer. As countless death metal bands began stampeding to Tampa’s Morrisound Studios for a refined and polished sound, Incantation emerged with one foot firmly in an underground ethos and another foot within the then-fledgling Relapse Records. These four darkened souls (McEntee, Deo, drummer Jim Roe and vocalist/guitarist Craig Pillard) were hell-bent on driving death metal back into darker underground regions where it had originally arisen from in the mid-to-late ’80s with bands like Possessed, Celtic Frost, Bathory and Death.
Enter Incantation’s Onward to Golgotha, 42 pounding minutes of swarming guitars, blasting darkness and crushing doom set to a warlike, blackened death metal pace, with abstract leads and pitch harmonics illuminating the tangled mass. Incantation, along with Immolation, emerged at the epicenter of what would soon after become a burgeoning NY/NJ death metal scene. For all of us East Coasters who had spent years tape trading, writing letters and reading zines in order to witness—albeit secondhand—the excitement going within the Tampa and Stockholm scenes, being in the crowd at an early Incantation show, we knew we had something right here in our own backyards.
Before Burzum, before Gylve Nagell traded his Skid Row shirt for a Venom longsleeve, there was Incantation, the epitome of metallic evil.
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