Monday, May 17, 2010

Disciples of Mockery - Prelude to Apocalypse

Disciples of Mockery - Prelude to Apocalypse
1999, Self-Release

This band just recently came to my attention, via a suggestion by my co-writer Y. Arkadin. Apparently he has been privy to their existence for some time now, and I am getting into this whole thing late in the game. Better late than never, I guess.

For those of you who are not aware, or who have not really heard much about this band (they seem to have kept something of a low profile - on purpose or not, I can not tell), it includes three former members of Incantation: guitarist/vocalist Craig Pillard, bassist Ronny Deo, and drummer Jim Roe. Did you wonder what happened to them? Apparently after circling through various projects or friends' bands after their departure from McEntee's unit, they decided to officially get back together and start making music again. The result? Excellent, and also very enlightening: both as to the part that Pillard must have played in composing Incantation's earlier material, and the impact he must have had on McEntee's guitar playing - an influence that is still to be heard, if you have listened to the material Pillard's former band has released since his departure.

It is difficult, really, to separate this band from Incantation's legacy - at least for me. Not just because the two groups sound so similar - a product, maybe, of the cross-pollination of influences between McEntee and Pillard; but also because of the strangely near-identical evolution of these two musicians with their separate skills and musical visions. There are differences, to be sure, between the two bands - but they are elements (on the part of Disciples of Mockery) that I don't think are really ready to be examined yet: they haven't evolved fully, and are still in a germ or embryo stage. This is a band that has yet to find its own style, but I am not sure that at this point they have really given that much thought to creating an original sound. As long as Pillard composes the majority of the music, and his personal evolution as a musician follows the path started in Incantation, I think this band will always be compared with his earlier one. Perhaps that doesn't bother them: this CD came to me with a sticker on the front that claimed their status as 'ex-members of Incantation', and their advertisements say the same. I hope that on the next album they will leave that behind.

Pillard here composes in a fashion that will be very familiar to those of you that have followed the career arc of Incantation - his melodicism and aesthetics are easily identifiable (being for the most part original, outside of the connection with his former band), combining a very raw and distorted grinding death metal pace with slow and beautifully simple doom riffs that are layered (with the bass and second guitar) in such a way as to create impressively dark atmospheres. The transitions between these two elements of their sound - the rough, blistering, barbaric speed and the labored pulsings of downtuned distemper - are often very abrupt, but in a way that doesn't create disruptions in their mesmerizing or depressing effect on the mind. The first example of this comes at exactly 2:58 into the lead track, 'Literal Upheaval of the Earth'. Much like his earlier work, the tremelo-picked riffs (almost always backed by a blasting rhythm section) are actually slow repetitions of descending melodies, mirror-images of the slothful, plodding sections in the songs. Because of this, the fast parts never get too technical and so can be absorbed into the general mood, or the intended effect of the material. This is a technique that will be readily apparent to you if you have heard either of Incantation's first two albums.

This music is much more desolate and depressing, in any case, than the earlier Incantation songs. Concentrating in many instances on a much slower, trance-like vibe (very similar to Winter), there is something about the melodies offered here which make the music turn away from the over-generalized attempts at blasphemy or anti-religious sentiment that had marked Pillard's work before into a whole new realm: a bleak, gray, almost emotionless atmosphere void of stirring energy or enthusiasm in any direction, be it religious, idealogical, or political. The last track on this record, the cold dirge 'Rotting Immaculate Like You', is the best example of this utterly dispirited approach. I hesitate to say it is colored by despair, because it hardly ever moves forward to bless it's own existence with an emotional import of any kind. I'll take a cue from the album's title and label it an apocalyptic sound, as it gives rise to images, on my part, mainly of worlds or times where emotions have been so stressed by cataclysmic events that they are rendered slack, unbalanced, and ineffective. If this a new form of melodicism, I would call it the expression of an overwhelming exhaustion, of decay, sterility, and death - the search for fulfillment in a world that can no longer offer you any form of satisfaction.

If you consider yourself in any way an admirer of Incantation's earlier material, or a devotee of the darker sides of metal, then I would suggest finding this album at the earliest opportunity. Support this powerful band and their continuing evolution.