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Friday, September 17, 2021

Review: Incarnate Deity – Theodicy

Label: Christian Metal Underground Records

Date: August 14th, 2020

There’s quite a lot to discuss about this record, so let me not waste time on some cheesy introduction. First of all, this is a one-man project from South Africa. Not a regular occurrence on the metal scene, you must admit. Even if South Africa is among the richest (if not the richest) countries of the continent. “Theodicy” is the debut album by the band, released without any sort of introductory demo recordings.

Also, if you haven’t already figured it out from the label’s name, Incarnate Deity is dedicated to Christian values in its thematic strivings. To each his own, I guess. I cannot attack anybody’s religious views, even if they are in collision with my own. However, the fact alone brings out a couple of questions.

Mainly, Incarnate Deity performs a symbiosis of death and black metal with a certain symphonic input. Looking at explanations of particular tracks’ lyrics I found a line which states that “associating Christianity with hate instead of love is a travesty”. My question would be: Why choose the two most hate fueled genres to account for such an opinion? Doesn’t this just add fuel to the already existing fire? Furthermore, how does Mr. Zerachiel (the sole member of the band) feel when browsing through the discographies of his own influences? Septic Flesh, Dimmu Borgir, Fleshgod Apocalypse… None of them quite on the Christian side of metal spectrum. Listening to the album itself, I also got some connotations with Morbid Angel. Later era Morbid Angel, unfortunately. Yes, you know which album in particular I’m talking about here.

Also, just glancing at the cover artwork, one does not find too much of a Jesus Christ. Quite the opposite actually. A gnarly beast in red and yellow does bring a completely different associations.

So, I’m finally getting to the point. Putting aside the religious feuds between metal and Christianity, this is not a bad album. Especially considering it is a debut and by a one-man project. And from a country with no big tradition on the international metal scene. It not overly good either, but not that bad.

The biggest flaw to “Theodicy” I found is the production. It is polished to perfection, thus depriving the recording of its natural feel. A bit of dirt here and there would certainly help get this album some more soul. Another thing is that the record quickly escapes the mind after it stops spinning. It is almost completely devoid of memorable parts that will make it recognizable.

Other than that, the music itself is finely tuned and executed with style. Like mentioned, Incarnate Deity performs a mixture of (mostly) modern death and black metal in a manner of Dimmu Borgir or even Emperor. Melodic development of individual tracks is done skillfully, though the occasional guitar solo seems out of place. Like in the “Valley of Dry Bones”. There’s really no need for that short solo part. Drum patterns are extremely versatile. Though you can feel them being programmed, at least there’s an effort to diversify them is on a high level. Rhythm itself is responsible for the modern touch to “Theodicy”, with a lot of breakdowns in between different faster or slower passages. Still, with the large dose of creativity infused into them, they add a whole lot of dynamics to the record.

As far as the symphonic elements are concerned, they are used as subtly as possible and mostly as atmospheric background. Parts like the organ in “No Quarter” do stand out as individual layers (and add so much to the feel of the track) but these are rare occasions. Much more often, there is just some keyboard addition in the back. Incarnate Deity also uses a lot of choirs which take a much more prominent role, also providing for a church mass touch to music.

Now, if you’re still reading this instead of dropping comments about how Christianity has no place within the extreme metal circle… It must be said that, despite the obvious ideological differences, Incarnate Deity has something to offer. Though, at first glance, this might just be another one of millions of similar attempts, the actual result is no garbage material. Perhaps there is even more to expect from this South African project. It is unlikely the band will gain much of an international acknowledgement, but mostly due to the religious views. Otherwise, “Theodicy” could become the root of something worthy.