On August 21st, 2020, Death Metal legends, Incantation, released “Sect of Vile Divinities”. John McEntee and Chuck Sherwood were too kind not only to talk about the new album. A range of questions and answers is wide, so take some time to read this interesting interview. You may find out some facts you didn’t know about the band until now. I certainly did!
Hi! How are you? I hope you are all healthy.
Chuck: Hey back. Well all around, hoping to stay that way with any luck. Hope it’s likewise for yourself.
On August 21st, Incantation released, if I count well, eleventh album ″Sect of Vile Divinities″. Let′s talk a bit about it. Album includes 12 songs of pure Incantation′s death metal fury. So, far, my favorite is “Fury′s Manifesto”. Short one, but very effective. Which one is your favorite?
Chuck: Indeed 11th or 12th if you want to be technical. Cool to read you’re fond of “Fury’s Manifesto” likewise with ourselves. Glad we came to a unanimous decision to use that as a video single. Violent in both music and concept. I have no favorite song to be honest. Personally I feel the album is meant to be experienced as a whole and the journey we’re taking the listener. Lose a step on that path and the impacts of its predecessor or following song gets a little diminished.
By now, you released two videos, for already mentioned “Fury′s Manifesto” and ″Entrails of the Hag Queen″. How is the atmosphere in the band during the video shootings?
Chuck: We filmed both in the same location by Josh of Daily Grind in Ohio. “Fury’s” was directly translated into a video, while Josh’s “Entrails” footage then went to Nader Sadek in Egypt to be spliced together with his and become the video you see now. After all the walls, stage, drum riser etc. were covered over with black tar paper and the single light source provided shadow play, the atmosphere was perfectly dark and menacing. Very fitting indeed for the darkness we create audibly. Next we overhauled the stage with added backdrop, cabs and heads which took the atmosphere into more a “live show” raging visual that certainly can’t be expanded upon. Raw and aggressive, perfect atmosphere for “Fury’s”.
Still, after 30 years, you are brutal, evil, sick, original, passionate… Where do you find motivation, satisfaction, strength, inspiration to work?
Chuck: Personally I’d have to say one driving factor is the shared spirit of those in the band. The contributions, our united efforts, the desire to create, expand on ideas, personal intrigue that translates into more direction and ultimately to subsequent albums. Motivated and humbled that there are people who like what we do after three decades, only makes us want to reciprocate that whether it’s studio or stage.
Cover art is signed by Eliran Kantor, known for painting album covers for the likes of Testament, Iced Earth, Hatebreed, Sodom, Soulfly, Crowbar, Kataklysm, Atheist, Thy Art is Murder, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Sigh, Satan, Hate Eternal and many others. If I am not wrong, this is not the first time you are working with him. Which is a key factor in working with Kantor?
Chuck: I have to commend him again for bringing our vision to reality. Wasn’t an easy task to be sure, mockups, file trading, reference material, tons of correspondence, edits and drafts. We in the band all remain seriously impressed by his translation of the concept. He is an amazing artist and amazing person to work with. Understanding and open to suggestions. This being his third cover created for us, he excels where we come short in the nature of his median.
You formed Incantation back in 1989 with Paul Ledney who later left the band because he wanted to play Black instead of Death Metal. Are you still in contact with him?
John: Yes, I have been friends with Paul throughout the years. We have a lot in common and just overall have a blast hanging out. Paul is a very important person in my life. I knew after jamming with him that I had to start my own band in my own way and play death metal that is true to myself and not just follow the trends. What I’m saying is jamming with him gave me the confidence to leave Revenant and do my own band.
In your book ″Seven Inches of Death″, you wrote that Ledney was responsible Saraphic Decay Records name and logo. Have you ever been tricked in your career, did people steal your ideas, have you ever felt betrayed?
John: Just to make it clear Paul let Steve at Seraphic Decay Records use the logo. Steve did not steal it.
Wow, that is a loaded question. Yes, I have been betrayed many times. Honestly too many times I can’t even count or remember. I put a lot of belief and trust into too many band members that have totally betrayed me and the band. It’s quite sad to think people are so spiteful instead of looking back on all the positives they have accomplished that they might not have if it wasn’t for Incantation. Instead of being grateful for the opportunities the band has given them they take it for granted.
Also I went into deals with people I trusted that were sometimes bad deals. It’s really sad when your friends fuck you just to make a little extra cash. To be fair I’m not perfect by far. I have done things that I’m not proud of and unintentionally done things that have hurt others, but I always apologize for them because if I didn’t I couldn’t live with myself. I’m just lucky I weeded out all the negative people in my life and have amazing people around me now!
Over the years, Incantation had several lineup changes. Now you have a new guitar player, Luke Shively who had been playing bass live. Young guy with a lot of experience. Can you tell me how he fits now as a guitar player?
Chuck: Despite the storied past of lineup changes, since “Vanquish in Vengeance” John, Kyle and I have remained rather consistent for the past decade. Outlining factors, personality traits or conflicts of interest ultimately lead to changes to a more productive situation within the lineup. Choosing session members is a mix of talent and similarities. How well does one best represent the entity that is Incantation while executing goals and providing a positive road experience. Luke was no exception these past five years helping with tour opportunities I wasn’t able to do. Was just a smooth transition into his weapon of choice. His main project Dismemberment is truly something to pick up. You can hear his exceptional guitar work throughout and we all believe that this will add refreshing prospects to Incantation. For the past few months with his involvement we have been insanely productive all the while he was recording with “Dismemberment”. Age and being old are two different things after all… his motivations and writing have matched our own. We foresee great things, you’ve been warned.
In 2017 you were back to Relapse Records. ″Profane Nexus″ was a comeback album. What is most important in cooperation with labels?
Chuck: Relapse and all that work for them have been exceptional. What’s been important is they’re always willing to communicate and do an amazing job at pushing the releases. Each step of the process is met with ideas and equal understanding when we don’t see eye to eye, with no drama or ego. Grateful to have them representing us. Still fresh as this is only the second album with them, our united future looks productive and promising.
With no intent to offense, you are a dinosaurs of Death Metal, so… Death Metal has diversified, spawning several sub-genres. How do you see that evolution of Death Metal?
Chuck: Dinosaurs?!?! Hahaha… No offense taken. Always impressed that the scene endures regardless of taste changes, alternatives in style or even pandemics. In the origins of the scene, demos for example, where forever held in high regards due to how near impossible it was to obtain them. Bragging rights for those that had them and jealousy for those without. Now a days the exposure is instantaneous and devalued. At a click you can own entire discographies of thousands of dollars and years of someone’s life. $20 for a sandwich? No problem… $20 for an album? Ehhhhh… Would you take $15? Will folks in twenty years pay the same admiration for CDR’s of “Slam” as its dawn is upon us now? Doubtful. The old days will always be admired but impossible to repeat, just wished the progression was slower, this coming from a Dinosaur. Hahahaha. But despite all the aforementioned, many amazing bands have surfaced in these more recent years which gives hope to the stability for years to come. The dedicated and devout nature of Death Metal fans/supporters give it the positive future it earned.
Are you following younger Death Metal bands and which bands do you recognize as death metal carriers in 10 years?
Chuck: Indeed there are a couple off the top of my head that resonate. Our friend Charlie Koryn has recently joined the ranks of “Skeletal Remains” and their material has always been great and even more so now with his involvement. The other being “Blood Curse”, so dark and violent, really great stuff to be sure.
You have been touring all over the world. In your opinion, where are the most passionate Death Metal fans?
Chuck: There has been a number of places that stick out when the energy of the crowd is truly memorable. Italy, Poland, Spain, Greece, Russia, Brazil, Chile, Australia, Texas, LA, for just a few examples. Passion has many forms I find that aren’t just reserved to crowd relations but also in the enthusiasm of meeting fans before and after a show, especially festivals. Can be very humbling.
If you could tell me the best memory from the tour life, it would be…
Chuck: Way too many to nail down a particular memory. They all in their own way are memorable. Each tour, maybe even in the same part of the world is unique. Those you share the stage with, down to the crew or drivers. Makes lasting friendships that no matter the time that elapses it’s as if it were yesterday. Meeting new people contemporary and supporters alike, doubly so when you return to the road and reunite making the world feel all that much smaller and our scene more united.
After 30 years, there must be ups and downs in your career. Can you single out some?
John: Yes like everything in life there are ups and downs. But way more ups for sure. I always feel so grateful to be able to play music and tour the world. For me it’s like a dream come true. I would say releasing our first album was a major accomplishment that we are very proud of. Each album is very important but the first one is always extra special.
Honestly playing the Balkans was a high point too. To play new countries and get to meet the fans is always a high point for me. It’s great to know we have friends all around the world because of metal!
Seeing friends and band members pass away is always really sad like the passing of Joey Lombard. That was a really sad time for the band. He is missed all the time, he was more than a great bass player but a good friend of ours. And everyone that met him know he was one of the coolest people you will ever get to meet.
Since Incantation is basically anti religious band, did you have problems to play in some countries, whether concerts were canceled or banned somewhere?
Chuck: Typically there’s no issues. Once in St. Petersburg we had experienced something of a setback. A rather outspoken religious organization had intended to prevent our playing and the ripple effect was more an internet hyped hysteria seeing as the actual support for it was minimal at best. Upon arrival we were met by lawyers who asked us to tailor our setlist so the announcement of songs wouldn’t offend. We complied to the betterment of all those who attended the show and also kept both parties respectfully able to disagree. A few snapshots, business cards exchanged, sealed with a handshake, and we ready to bring hellfire. The same heightened sense carried over to Moscow where after an interview (with a much needed interpreter) to clear any confusion. We expressed how we certainly don’t hate the country or the Russian people’s themselves. Was just this one group’s methods and choice of belief that drove their actions. Shortly after a letter surfaced by both the lawyers and interviewers of how nice we all were and would gladly have us return. So we turned a negative situation into a benefit for the band. Would love to return, since that experience proved our calm approach in the face of fanaticism and provides the option of a possible future tour. Beautiful country and amazing people all around, was killer to crush stages for them.
In your personal life, did you have any issues being who you are, playing what you play?
Chuck: Without a doubt childhood had its moments of ridicule and or brow beating to actual beatings. But those times have passed, society I believe sees appearance as a foregone conclusion. I think we of this worldwide metal community have experienced something similar, each in our own way. Whether it be the era, your location or majority mindset. But to endure proves that metal is a lifestyle. Loyalty to it is eternal, and rewarding.
During the tours, which moments you like the most: contact with fans, getting to know different cultures, history, seeing new cities, countries…
Chuck: All of those reasons to be honest, only addition would be their local cuisine. I am certainly obsessed with history, so to be in lands often centuries older than America I love to see their respective pasts. Regardless of how time contorts or changes… The monuments, architecture, relics even palaces or ruins still stand to be respected and honored. The shows of course are the crux to all the fan contact which I am very fond of, to experience the lands in which they live through them. What better way to see the world than to rage among friends, nothing compares.
Is there any album you would record again and change it in any way?
Chuck: Each album is immortalized as a testament to the times and people involved. It would diminish what was created. Everyone is their own worst critic and could ultimately find ourselves second guessing and editing without end.
Since a lot changed over the years, internet, social media… How did that influence on bands over the years?
John: Well really the internet has changed the world. Overall it’s a lot quicker to be able to contact a mass audience and personally I have more access to music than ever before. I would have to say the negative is it made music cheap and we lost some of our income because of the internet but I still think it has more positives than negatives. Musically the band hasn’t really changed over the years. We always just do what we want and don’t care about trends.
It seems people are not buying CDs that much, they are downloading music. I see fans buy less CD′s on gigs, on what is merch focused on today? I see many bands are selling face masks these days.
Chuck: True, CD’s have given way to vinyl which is the preferred format we find. I had already previously commented on downloading. Variety of merch has been something we always prided ourselves with. Our past has seen the likes of everything from pillowcases to panties. Face masks are a sign of these times and while we encourage folks to wear them, why not do so in support of Death Metal.
How is the situation in Pennsylvania considering Corona pandemic?
Chuck: Starting to show some remote signs of normality as it’s now September and things have been a shut down since March. I’ve seen a fair share of lost businesses due to riots or financial issues. All the while being home bound or locked into a strict home/work commute.
Are you going to the shows of other bands and which one was the last before Corona pandemic?
Chuck: There’s no shows anywhere at this time, but indeed we all would go see and support other bands, only fair to reciprocate the same efforts made when we play ourselves. Last for us was the 70,000 tons of metal cruise which was an amazing experience. Would love to do that one again.
Do you have any promo plans or you think it is too early to talk about it?
Chuck: Everything is left to the powers that be and is wholly beyond our control, we have no choice but to wait to see what develops.
I have seen Incantation in Belgrade, Serbia, during the Primordial Domination European Assassination tour in 2007. I will not ask you if you remember anything from that show, because I am sure you don’t, but I will ask you did you have some free time to see the city?
John: Yes I remember the shows. It was my first time in Serbia so it was a big deal from me. I do remember taking a walk around the venue. I remember in Belgrade there was a bombed out hospital building from the UN in the Bosnian War. It was crazy to see it up close, a real eye opener. But I didn’t get the proper tour of the city as I would have preferred. Besides that, I remember having a good time and it was cool to meet our Serbian fans. We really look forward to returning someday.
Back then, you were playing with Krisiun, Estuary and Inactive Messiah. You have been touring all over the world, played with many bands, but I have to ask you are there any friendships between bands, and with whom is the best party on the tour?
John: Yes, we have been friends with Krisiun since around 1998 so it’s always a blast to tour with them. We ended up doing a few tours with Inactive Messiah, they were not my preference music wise but we had a fun time hanging out with them. So yes I would consider them my friends. Estuary were our friends from the USA and were on my former label Ibex Moon so it was a blast to tour with them. Most of the bands we have toured with throughout the years we have become friends with. When you work with a band on tour and see them everyday there’s a connection that lasts forever.
I do remember almost everyone would party pretty hard every night. I’m not really a big partyer but it’s always cool to see everyone having fun on tour.
Thank you so much for your time! Stay safe, stay healthy, stay brutal!
Many thanks for the interview, really appreciated. Hope to see everyone out on the road for “Sect of Vile Divinities”. Till then!