Review Summary: One of the greatest debut death metal albums of all time.
I still remember vividly the circumstances which led me to first listen to Immolation. Some years back, whilst flicking through an issue of Guitar World, I came across a section in which Slipknot guitar player Mick Thomson detailed his most influential songs, which I immediately consumed, being a huge Slipknot fan at the time (and incidentally still am). He took us through the typical teenage obsessions with Slayer, Testament et al, and some early death metal acts such as Morbid Angel with whom I was already familiar. Then I noticed a name I surprisingly did not recognize, as Thomson explained the virtues of a band called Immolation, and their debut release ‘Dawn Of Possession’. Instantaneously, it became my mission to find this album.
When a copy was finally obtained, I was unreservedly hooked. Immolations sound has a bleak and sinister intensity to it that other bands in the genre simply could not match, a feat which comes as a result of the superior and innovative musicianship on display. Guitar players Robert Vigna and Thomas Wilkinson display an abundance of stunning riff work that lurches and grinds with a certain off-kilter malevolence, really making for some fascinating listening. Opener ‘Into Everlasting Fire’ provides a glut of shrieking harmonics and technical lead breaks which, while impressing with their sheer proficiency, affect the listener with an ominous ambience.
The drumming of Craig Smilowski has a similar effect, as he assaults his kit with an unremitting performance, rarely ceasing to execute his work with anything but a mechanical and expeditious approach. The simply ruthless percussion imparted on ‘Despondent Souls’ cannot fail to impact.
Vocalist and bass player Ross Dolan also has a huge bearing on the atmosphere, with his voice having a monstrous presence. His huge, throaty roar is of a convincing quality that, coupled with the addition of some slight reverb, gives the vocals an eerie yet fearsome combination. His bass work is, for the most part, unfortunately lost in the mix, yet the glimpses we do obtain betray a competent, skilful effort, more than worthy of complimenting the standout guitar playing.
The thing that makes ‘Dawn Of Possession’ such an stirring release is how these musicians are able to meld their talents into compositions of such devastating furiousity. Death metal acts are renowned for their desire to sound malicious and inherently evil, yet rarely can a band achieve this convincingly. Immolation assure us that with enough musical adeptness and an unquestionable sincerity, some outfits have the power the power to truly disturb and enthral.