Album Review: Blood Incantation – ‘Timewave Zero’

Soundtrack to Your Planetarium Escape

Timewave Zero, a theory (albeit pseudoscientific) by the late Terence McKenna, posits that the universe is being drawn toward some “complex attractor.” The closer we get to this existence-altering future event, the faster and more complexly we race to it. Back in the ’70s, McKenna spent years under the influence of psychedelics, poring over some 4,000-year-old Chinese divination figures, and eventually came up with 2012 as the watershed moment for this radical change. Sadly, McKenna passed away long before he could see 2012. But look around.  One major event that occurred in 2012 was a two-piece death metal effort becoming a trio after guitarist/vocalist Paul Riedl and drummer Isaac Faulk enlisted guitarist Morris Kolontyrsky, further catalyzing the coming of Timewave Zero.

A completely singular band, Blood Incantation represent the result—the gestalt even—of underground extreme metal’s ever-increasing acceleration towards perfection. Which is an oblivion of sorts. As if they answered the question, “Where do you go after Hidden History of the Human Race?” both figuratively and literally. As if they answered, “Up!” This is Blood Incantation at their “glowing fetus suspended in space” mode. So, immediately, respect must be paid. Afterall, what could be more counterintuitive to the idea of “making it” than for a death metal band to release an all-synth album at the height of its career?

The highly informative flyer that came with the “Classified Promotional Advance Tape” copy of Timewave Zero, clandestinely distributed by the band themselves on their recent tour with Primitive Man—such is the Denver quartet’s longstanding practice of old-school promotion—points to the likes of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and Lustmord, among others, as the guiding stars for this all-analog recording. Having heard those, as well as Riedl’s extensive ambient solo works, it’s still difficult to shake the bewilderment that Blood Incantation actually booked World Famous Studios to record an 81-minute ambient album in which the four players used almost exclusively synthesizers. (The exceptions being a couple Moogs, a Hammond organ, some gongs and cymbals, and one acoustic guitar.)

But what’s seemingly unbelievable, in the vein of Spinal Tap’s “freeform jazz exploration in front of a festival crowd,” is in fact so meticulously composed that it’s impossible not to lose yourself amidst it. Because since Starspawn—the first album to include bassist Jeff Barrett—Blood Incantation have been impressing upon their listeners one thing: You are the Stargate. Just open your mind and concentrate.

They’ve gathered one of the largest, most loyal fanbases in death metal history with skill, personality, creativity, gusto and a great aesthetic sensibility. But mostly with skill. And it doesn’t take long for the cosmic winds of “IO,” the first track on Timewave Zero, to convince you that your trust in boarding this extraordinary voyage will be rewarded, as your four co-pilots are as erudite, capable and imaginative as they are unpredictable.

When you think about it, it all makes perfect sense.

Review taken from the March 2022 issue of Decibel, which is available here.