Confession: when it first came out, I didn’t really “get” Starspawn. The first album from Blood Incantation seemed too sprawling, with too many ideas to really fit onto one record. Yet even so, it lingered in my mind, with its combination of old-school death metal charm and forward-thinking approaches demonstrating why the hype for this album never really died down since its release in 2016. And this album (and band) is one of the few occasions when the hype is justified. Sure, a cynical mind could say that all Blood Incantation are doing are pulling together the strands that unite Timeghoul, Demilich and Morbid Angel. But on the other hand, they are pulling together the strands that unite Timeghoul, Demilich, and fucking Morbid Angel – three of the best death metal bands to ever exist – and doing so in a way that builds on the achievements of those bands. All whilst making music that is arguably better than anything those classic bands recorded.
For sure, Starspawn is old-school death metal, but it’s old-school death metal in a way that makes the style feel fresh and exciting and new again. The scope of Starspawn is monolithic – these tracks ebb and flow, twist and turn, and ultimately grow in a way that feels organic. Opener ‘Vitrification of Blood (Pt. 1)’ is a thirteen-minute epic that packs more ideas and riffs into its run-time than most bands manage in their entire career. And whilst ‘Meticulous Soul Devourment’ may be an atmospheric “interlude” track (though describing it as such sells its melodies short), the whole of Starspawn is steeped in an atmosphere that’s rare for death metal. It is otherworldly in a way that a lot of death metal down the ages has aimed for, but seldom achieved.
Yet throughout, a genuine love of death metal (and music more broadly) shines through. Blood Incantation aren’t just a death metal band, they’re death metal fans, and for all the lyrics about aliens and interdimensional horror, you suspect the band are playing it all with massive grins on their faces. Sure, Starspawn is the kind of album that might initially feel a bit overwhelming with all its riffs, movements, and strange atmosphere; but it’s also undeniably fun. It’s not a future classic, or a modern classic, or an underground classic; it’s a death metal classic, full stop, and one of the best albums the genre has ever produced.