IIn Blood Incantation’s lyrics, cosmic conspiracy theories abound, telling tales of ancient civilizations, aliens and hallucinogens. But woe betide anyone who describes the Denver metal band’s interests as science fiction. “The quantum field and the holographic universe, DMT and the psychedelic connection, these things are not fictional!” insists leader Paul Riedl. Obviously, he has already discussed this.
“This band isn’t about exploring an imaginary world,” says drummer Isaac Faulk. “It’s about asking questions about the universe we live in – and it’s far bigger than any fictional universe.” The goal, they say, is for listeners to ask themselves these questions. “We aim to give space for those moments when you can really achieve Zen,” says Riedl.
On the quartet’s first two albums, these fleeting moments of ambient space lingered between frenetic riffs and cosmic lyrical odysseys. From their 2019 album Hidden History of the Human Race, the titanic Awakening from the Dream of Existence to the Multidimensional Nature of Our Reality (Mirror of the Soul) finally ends with some sparse and sinister guitar chords, akin to the sequels of some primordial the wrath of God. These moments “give your brain and your soul a break,” Riedl says, and they’re what make the end of the band digestible.
Hidden History became a cult sensation, setting them up to capture the cutting edge of creative, cutting-edge metal with everything they did next. Instead, they followed this pursuit of Zen into Timewave Zero, an all-ambient record. Timewave Zero is the definition of a slow burn, comprising just two long songs. The first buzzing note lasts over a minute before anything else happens. Riffs and explosive rhythms are replaced by synthesizers and Moog gongs, guiding the listener into deep concentration. “We take the opposite approach [of previous albums] while taking you into space,” says Riedl.
The idea of making an ambient record predates Blood Incantation’s first demo, back in 2013. Even in the beginning, when they met in concert in the same circles, Blood Incantation was aware that their bond with each other was special. They found common ground in their idiosyncratic obsessions – the collision of krautrock and metal, dark ambient music and neoclassical chamber music – and the band started playing together, which they continue. to do three to five times a week. “It’s the understanding of all of this history and the intrinsic value it has for music that has brought us together,” says guitarist Morris Kolontyrsky.
Following the success of debut album Starspawn, the band signed to Century Media, home to Arch Enemy and Lacuna Coil, while remaining worlds away from mainstream metal. They are adamant about recording only on analog tape and include Sumerian cuneiform script and recommended reading lists in their liner notes, which speaks to their enigmatic and resolute nature.
After breaking through with an extremely heavy record, they recognized the risk of following it up with an ambient record release – but instead reframed it as an opportunity. “Doing it from the back of our most successful album to date made us more emboldened,” says Faulk. “The music is slower and more meditative this time, but there are cores of darkness and intensity in this ambient music, just as there is a calm, soothing meditation in our metal.”
Reducing the extreme dynamics of death metal to work only within the confines of the mood was another challenge. “The subtlety is the hardest part,” says Faulk, “but we appreciate this slow development, rather than the rapid Spotify playlist-like culture.” Bassist Jeff Barrett adds that they wanted to make Timewave Zero “as visual as possible”, and cites 2001: A Space Odyssey as one of their inspirations.
They had considered starting a new project to release the ambient record, but in the end “we decided not to limit what Blood Incantation could do,” Faulk explains. They see the album as the end of their first chapter. “Now that we’ve proven we can do both metal and ambient, we’re totally free to just be Blood Incantation,” says Riedl. “We could play a death metal show with [Florida death metal icons] Morbid Angel and we could score a movie.
It equates the band’s boundless potential with their cosmic lyrical preoccupations and penchant for existential questions. “Blood Incantation is both ancient and futuristic, we’re luddites but we’re progressive, it’s a whole maelstrom of yin-yang, ever-changing DNA helices that is equally human. It’s psychedelic , just like our life on Earth, just like the music we make, just like the human experience. And all of these books, these philosophies – it’s all part of it. It’s all connected. And where does Blood Incantation hope to go? the Timewave Zero tour?In planetariums – of course.