After that slight misstep with “Harnessing Ruin”, IMMOLATION are back on track with another slab of unpredictable and innovative Death Metal, the kind with the band’s subtle elements and idiosyncrasies, and from the opening riff of “Hate’s Plague” to the final notes of a hellish solo on “Whispering Death”, you are trapped in IMMOLATION’s twisted and evil world.
I fell in love with IMMOLATION’s Brutal Death Metal sound because they basically stand out from the Death Metal pack like a sore thumb. While most bands gleefully make Death Metal into a display of one-upsmanship by constantly trying to push the limits of technicality and speed, thinking that this is the key to making brutal music. IMMOLATION’s approach is different, opting to think outside the box.
IMMOLATION doesn’t bludgeon the listener by cramming 135325426434673734124123 notes into a song that is played at 250+ bpm and contains around 100 distracting time signature changes. Instead, they rely on creating an utterly bleak and hopeless atmosphere and use that to engulf the listener into their nightmarish vision.
This horrific and ugly (in a good way) take on Death Metal is achieved by the dissonant harmonic content of the guitars, while the drums are playing complex and rhythmically unusual patterns underneath the chaos giving the whole a sense of uneasiness and discordance, with singer/bassist Ross Dolan delivers his diatribe in a low (albeit clear) and demonic fashion. Off on a tangent: Too many Death Metal have some singer that sounds utterly humorous when singing too low, because it sounds like he’s regurgitating his breakfast and it totally undermines the brutality. Ross Dolan, on the other hand, sounds like the devil’s messenger.
Anyway, back to the main point: Why “Shadows In The Light” kicks so much ass. The song craftsmanship is done in a very intelligent fashion, and this is apparent on two different fronts. The song structures are very unpredictable, but every single shift in the song is done so with purpose, and the album flows smoothly. The second noticeable aspect of the songwriting is that the melodic and harmonic approach of the guitars isn’t stagnant. The guitar lines are always shifting by changing the harmony or shifting into counterpoint, adding more layers to the song and keeping a high level of anticipation throughout the song.
This results in a vibrant and ever-shifting wall of sound approach that doesn’t bludgeon you to 200 pieces, yet entrances you into seeing a sick and depraved world. I’ve said it before (In my review of “Close To A World Below”), and I’ll say it again: IMMOLATION sounds like it should be the soundtrack of hell, the agonizing and utterly bleak music to drown out the screams of the damned while making their eternal suffering *THAT* much worse.
One of this year’s best.
P.S. I wonder what MORBID ANGEL is thinking right now...SUFFOCATION, CANNIBAL CORPSE & DEICIDE released incredible albums last year (I can’t believe I just said that about DEICIDE), and this year, IMMOLATION released this stellar piece of work (Haven’t heard the NILE album yet), so all of the forerunners of the United States Death Metal scene have released great to amazing albums. Trey Azagtoth and co. have to really step up their game or they will be lost in the shuffle.
P.P.S. Just in case, a reiteration: “Shadows In The Light” sounds utterly evil, and kicks lots of ass.
(Online August 3, 2007)