REVIEW: In Hearts Wake – Incarnation [2024]

Artist: In Hearts Wake
Album: Incarnation

As a band with a tenure in the scene spanning over a decade, balancing innovation, progression and dedication to your roots can be daunting to say the least—few bands feel the brunt of this responsibility like Australian metalcore stalwarts In Hearts Wake. With their genre-defining breakout release Divination now twelve years in the rear-view, the band revisit the themes and styles abundant on it with Incarnation, the dark and gloomy mirror image to their opus. Featuring many of the same voices, concepts while expanding and building their proclivity to bounce, groove, riff and chug, Incarnation is the band’s finest release since their Rise Records debut all those years ago. Incarnation is more than a series of callbacks and nostalgia-bait tidbits strung together to satisfy a quick listen, but rather, the release is a deep dive into the dancy, groovy metalcore that the band built their legacy on, taking what were some of the best moments the genre had to offer in the early 2010’s and revitalizing them, bringing them headlong into a whole new decade.

Incarnation’s instrumentation feels every ounce the spiritual successor of 2012’s Divination, from the moments of punchy, riff-forward aggression abundant on “Tyrant (the emperor)” and album opener “Spitting Nails (wheel of fortune)” to the bouncy, energetic grooves on “The Flood (justice).” On the former, punchy and raunchy percussion serves as a wrought-iron backbone that lends heft and intensity to each track. Meanwhile, the fast-paced and nu-metal laced “Michigama (the magician)” sees the drums take a less aggressive tone and allow razor-sharp fretwork to cut and slice at the listener at their whim. This dynamic dominates much of the listener’s time on Incarnation, however the more melancholic and atmospheric moments that round out the release add another dimension to In Hearts Wake’s armamentarium. “Apollo,” as well as the soaring chorus within “Shellshock” see the guitars take a less ruthless tone and work delicately with both the band’s vocal component as well as the bold, booming bass. Despite this, it’s songs like the jaw-dropping “Tyrant (the emperor)” that see In Hearts Wake at their finest—whether its the throwback to Divination that all the long-term fans of the band hoped and prayed for or the pummeling precision of the band’s kick drums during the song’s opening salvo, this one song encompasses many of the best components that In Hearts Wake have brought forth on Incarnation—keeping it heavy, intense and straightforward, taking a razor-sharp blade to any filler that might have plagued their previous releases.
While In Hearts Wake’s vocal effort is amazing, a special nod has to be given to the sheer number and variety of guests that appear throughout Incarnation. While we get to see old favorites Chad Ruhlig (For the Fallen Dreams), Winston McCall (Parkway Drive) and Garrett Rapp (The Color Morale) back in the cut, newcomers David Gunn (King 810) and Alfonso Civile (Heartsick) among others are not to be ignored. Perhaps the best example of this is “Michigama (the magician).” While I might have a bias as a native Michigander, this song sees many of The Mitten’s best chipping in on a song that feels distinct and unique compared to much of In Hearts Wake’s discography, boasting a razor-sharp edge and a distinctly nu-metallic flair that further helps it stand out. Other songs though—perhaps McCall’s return on “The Flood (justice)”—highlight the band’s native vocal element at its peak, blending the catchy and punishing aspects of metalcore all in one.
If you haven’t gathered, I’m a bit of a Divination fanboy, so when it became clear that Incarnation is the figurative soul-sister to that record, my expectations rose—as did my number of things I wanted to see the record achieve. In brief, Incarnation hit just about all the highs with precious few lows. “Generation Doom” serves as possibly the only song that doesn’t tend to get many replays as it feels out of sync with much of the record (though not necessarily a bad song), and “Tyrant” alone serves as possibly one of the best—or at least most satisfying—musical moments this year. This is the In Hearts Wake I’ve personally wanted for the better part of a decade now—and it stands as perhaps the reincarnation of their best form.

For Fans Of: Miss May I, Polaris, Like Moths to Flames
By: Connor Welsh