I have already written a post detailing my thoughts on the old school death metal revival, but I think the band Encoffination deserves to have a post of its own because it is a band that, in my opinion, really stands out. Not in a positive way, but not in a negative way, either, which makes this subject matter all the more complicated to deal with. Really, how can you stand out but neither in a positive nor a negative way? It seems to be impossible. Encoffination however have found a way, their own, bizarre way.
To give you a brief overview, Encoffination is a side-project of members of some old school death metal revival bands people go crazy about but that are not even worth being mentioned by name because they are so unremarkable. With this band they are attempting to create a slower, more apocalyptic style of death/doom metal that has been likened to Incantation's slow moments, though without any of the morbid character evoked by John McEntee's blasphemous creation so many years ago by use of these meticulously written riffs in which every note is honed to perfection, and each note preceeding it and each note following it is crafted eloquently to serve as both contrast and balance, creating the unique sense of audial morbidity Incantation are known for. Encoffination, while similar on the surface, and thereby compared to Incantation by people who only look at the surface of music, are nowhere near such dimensions, and I'll tell you why.
Simply put: Encoffination have no riffs. I don't mean that in the way many metal reviewers say it, that they don't think they have good riffs. I literally mean they have nothing you can identify as a riff. I have over a thousand Encoffination plays on last.fm and I don't remember a single riff. Sure, you could say there are riffs but they're simply not memorable, but that wouldn't be true, because even when you are listening to them there is nothing in the note progressions that you can put together in your head to form a riff. They simply noodle one tremolo-picked note for 2-3 seconds, then another, then the first again, then the second, then repeat that one or two halfsteps higher. That or some minor variation on that goes on for the duration of each song. And I do mean every song. There is no variation whatsoever, it's always some note, some other note, a lot of repetition, and eventually the song is done and the next song does the exact same thing.
On first thought, that sounds like it couldn't be any more negative a description, but as I said in the first paragraph, it actually isn't. Yeah, Encoffination's music is absolutely dismal, but not necessarily in a negative way. It sucks all life out of you, again, not necessarily in a negative way. It is, I think, where this band's music succeeds: It is bleak beyond description. There is this utterly nihilistic approach to music that is rarely heard in metal, because usually bands want to evoke emotions, they want to make you enjoy yourself, or feel energised, or invigorated, or strengthened, anything, they all want to stir up something inside you. Encoffination do no such thing. Not only do they seem not to care what you feel, they seem to have this intense aversion against you feeling anything at all, except their music does not express aversion or any other emotion. They take the most dismal and lifeless elements of bands such as early Mortician or Rigor Sardonicous and dampen the emotional release further to a level of non-existence.
Of course you could say that they are simply incompetent songwriters, that they really are going for that Incantation vibe and intensity and that they do want write music that is emotionally engaging, and that they simply fail at it because they don't have the talent to get anywhere near pulling it off, but I don't believe that. I base that on the fact that in their other bands they do display the ability to write tunes that are "catchy" and "energetic", and the fact that they have kept doing this exact type of music since 2008 and show no desire to deviate from this bleak, nihilistic approach to songwriting in favour of something that "gets the crowd moving." No, I firmly believe that this is what they set out to do, and that it is their goal to create the most dismal, soul-sucking and lifeless music possible in the metal framework.
As you may have noticed, I have not said a word yet on whether I enjoy their work or not. I really think I can't, because like I hinted at in the first paragraph, I don't perceive this music as either positive or negative. I don't think this was intended as good music or bad music, either. Some bands are likened to a force of nature, and I'd say Encoffination can be likened to a complete absence of any force of nature. I think the best way to describe this music and close this review is by using the following little analogy:
Religious people say there is life after death. Atheists say there is nothing after death. Imagine if both are partly correct, that there is life after death, but there is nothing there. Imagine the moment of death passes, and you suddenly find yourself in an environment of absolute nothingness. No people, no landscapes, no stars or planets, no gods or angels, no ground to walk on, no light, no sound, no matter, no energy, just nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, if that is existence after death, Encoffination is the soundtrack.