Incubus - Incubus - (8.5/10)
Published on August 5, 2014
It is a stipulation of many belief systems that one’s death will come with some form of resurrection or reincarnation. The specific nature of the rebirth varies a bit, but much like a renewed interest in a long forgotten event or object, something brings about a return to a past life. An analogous eventuality within the realm of death metal’s primordial past recently came to be courtesy of Vic Records with the re-release of the short demo of an obscure death metal project just north of Florida, carrying an identical name to a very respected death/thrash outfit with an opposite ideological angle to their lyrics. Thus returns the long ago recorded handiwork of Incubus, a death metal institution that, sadly enough, never quite was.
As best as can be explained, this short demo exists in a time of transition, embodying many elements of what would be death metal’s eventual future, but also cleaving quite strongly to the past in spite of itself. If stripped of it’s chaotic, almost grindcore-like blasting drum lines and growled vocal work, the guitar work on here listens like a faster, sloppier version of Venom meets the earliest NWOBHM oriented thrash work of Slayer’s Show No Mercy. There is a clear melodic contour to each riff that, in spite of the frequent employment of tremolo picking, almost wants to sound like Satan or Hell at their most sinister. This is particularly noticeable on the album’s opener “God Died on His Knees” during that grooving verse riff, obscured by the chaotic drum work no less.
Taking into account the rest of the elements in play, it becomes pretty clear that Incubus is a bit ahead of the curve for what constituted death metal circa 1987. Even when considering the seminal offerings of Scream Bloody Gore, Seven Churches, Morbid Visions and the like, this veers far more closely to the unfettered anarchy of sound that Repulsion would become know for on their 1989 debut, though the seeds of that were being sowed a couple years prior to this. Consequently, comparisons to early Morbid Angel are all but impossible to miss, which makes sense as former drummer/vocalist of said band Mike Browning is a key player and even bassist/vocalist/front man Von Scarborough had a brief run with the same act in 1986. Granted, the vocal work is a bit lighter and closer to a Chuck Schuldiner sound, but otherwise a lot of these songs could have been b-sides on Altars of Madness, even and including some wildly technical guitar shredding courtesy of Gino Marino that listens like a slightly less atonal version of Trey Azagthoth.
Despite it’s low-fidelity production and somewhat sloppy execution, this is an important piece of death metal history that is about as listenable and substantial as some of the better demos put out by Death prior to 1987. While this band wasn’t quite the first to stumble onto this early version of what came to define early 90s death metal, they were definitely well suited for competing with the greats had they ever procured a large enough following to gain larger label support. Much like the resurrection of this band as a point of interest in old school circles, this newly re-released demo will undoubtedly spark some degree of interest in the now since deceased Von Scarborough, who never quite moved beyond being an ancillary character in America’s death metal scene, but was there none the less. Call it a keepsake or a testament of sorts, but regardless, it also goes by another title, powerful.