Incantation's John McEntee Describes the Band's "Organic" Death Metal

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It's hard to imagine that the band's sound and style wouldn't have evolved with all the fresh blood infused into the mix, however, as sole original member McEntee admitted in our interview, Incantation is about evolving the sound so much as tightening it's original style that helped pioneer the underground death metal scene. The name only becomes more fitting. The band's newest album, 2014's Dirges of Elysium, only confirms that the band has not lost its power.

Incantation will be playing January 15 at the Nile Theater, along with Funerus (a band rooted in old-school '90s Scandinavian death metal that McEntee founded with his wife Jill), and local acts Six Million Dead and Mortem Dei.

Up On The Sun talked with guitarist/vocalist John McEntee about death metal's current direction, his love for Akitas, and how the band already has enough songs for a 2016 album.

So how do you perceive Incantation's music as opposed to 25 years ago?

It's pretty crazy that something we just did more or less because we were just asshole extreme kids trying to play music and push the boundaries, it's really amazing that we're still doing it now. What's even more crazy is that people still really enjoy what we do and support us throughout the year. It's mind-boggling that now we're even bigger than we were. During the last couple years it seems like people are appreciating our more organic rural death metal style -- we're more meat and potatoes -- rather than some of the more technical, over-produced, machine-like death metal that's been popular.

As far as evolution... What's really amazing is that... as far as myself goes, and probably for the other guys, I'm just really comfortable expressing myself musically now, more than I was when I was younger. Since I've been doing it for so long it becomes second nature. Instead of playing guitar and coming up with riffs at this point, I can think of ideas I have and just put them right into music. I use my imagination more to write stuff more than I as early on. It cuts out an extra step, so it makes it easier to get our ideas across. Our early stuff is good and people enjoy it, but we really had less control over how things sounded. We didn't know our way around the studio or know about the recording process, so all those aspects really affected the way it came out. Now I understand how things should sound.

Yeah, so not changing the style, but making the current style sound better.

Exactly, and throw in new things on each album but make sure its in the context of what the band is; maybe go into darker areas, more exaggerated doom stuff, or just rip-your-face off aggression.

Dirges of Elysium definitely shows that you guys have only grown stronger in your death metal prowess.

We're really happy with the way it came out. It captured the quality of our production but keep some of the rural vibe. And the feeling that can sometimes be hard to capture on a recording. Our producer did an awesome job.

It was only two years after 2012's Vanquish in Vengeance, which is faster then you guys have released albums in the past. Are there any ideas for an album in 2016?

What happened was once we started really focusing in and being inspired was probably around 2010 we started getting back into writing and it happened naturally. By the time we recorded Vanquish in Vengeance we had almost enough songs for Dirges of Elysium so we just kept them. Between playing shows we worked on those songs and worked more. So now we have enough songs for another album already again. We're just kind waiting for the word from the record company. It's been a very influential time.

Before hand, the people I came out with we didn't get along really well, now these people I don't have to worry about drama and everyone is really focused. When things are positive and enjoyable, it makes it so much easier to come up with stuff because you spend more time writing rather than with band drama.

That makes sense --with so many lineup changes over the years do, you ever feel like the lineup of Incantation is where it envision it to be?

The vibe is great now. You never know what's going to happen with people and that's one of the reasons why we've had a ton of lineup changes. I think part of the problem is that I'm a really easy-going guy, and unfortunately I gave too many people opportunities to play in the band when they actually weren't musically capable. We rushed on a lot of people actually for touring, and we never had time to get to know them or see if they were capable and jam. Then you go out, and realize you don't get along. Plus I was a lot younger and when you're younger... well I didn't deal with situations like I do now. As a person I'm more mature and I understand how to handle situations.

I have learned over the years that when you have good people to work with and enjoy it, it makes sense to go above and beyond to make sure it works. I'm a visionary with music. Which that's important for me; I have to know I'm expressing myself with the band, and if the members can't feel that way, it's best that they move on to something where they can express themselves.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise