Review Summary: An excellent album in it's own right, though overshadowed by previous efforts.
As one of the finest acts in the death metal scene, Immolation’s stylistic rut basically guarantees one textbook record after another. But how many times can a band go through the motions before their output is rendered stale? Given that their sound is yet to be effectively imitated by any other act since it was perfected in 1996, you would think Immolation are free to replicate their formula over and over without the need to worry about stagnation. But if a discography consists entirely of sublime but similar records, it’s going to result in a catalogue littered with disposable records irrespective of their inherent quality. Although Immolation’s latest album is excellent in its own right, when you have Close to a World Below
or Here in After
beckoning, Kindom of Conspiracy
looks like it will be lost in translation as the years pass, overshadowed by similar albums more remarkable than itself.
It comes as no surprise that Kingdom of Conspiracy
is a top notch collection of death metal riffs. Robert Vigna once again demonstrates his immense technical skill, weaving in and out between periods of chaotic tremolo strumming and atonal, dissonant riffs, as well as the ever foreboding Immolation pinch harmonics. The bass work is predictably inaudible, drowned out by brickwalled guitar mixing and very loud drums. You can make it out here and there, but unfortunately it’s mostly during brief periods of lingering guitar chords, meaning you completely miss out on Ross’s basswork when the band is going at full speed. Ross definitely makes up for his lack of instrumental presence with his vocals however. While they don’t possess the same demented ferocity as they did on Close to a World Below
for example, they still manage to terrify without being overbearing. Despite being too high in the mix, the drumming performance of Shalaty is very impressive. In between extended phases of lightning footwork and fleeting but hard-hitting blasts, the guy manages to execute fill after fill with atomic clock-like precision. As is the norm with Immolation’s music, the instrumentation is spell-binding, but the album is unfortunately lacking in a few critical areas, perhaps most notably, in atmosphere.
In terms of writing, there is a slight regression in that the songs are a little too predictable to really catch you off guard and wow you. At no point are you going have a heart attack as we did when Alex Hernandez assaulted his kit out of nowhere two minutes into “Father, You’re Not a Father”. While the writing certainly isn’t formulaic, it seems there isn’t the same attention to detail poured into this release as to how each song would go about terrifying the listener. This isn’t helped by the lack of dynamic range in the production, as to be expected, Nuclear Blast were intent on making everything as loud as possible, all the time. The production isn’t atrocious, but it certainly does sap some of the energy from the more intense parts. Qualms with the production aside, Kingdom of Conspiracy
still manages to be both immediate and memorable. While it may initially come across as a little homogenous, repeated listens do reveal some notable diversity. Immolation may have let their song-writing slip a little, they are still as good as ever at creating infectious and enduring
riffs. “Bound to Order”, “God Complex” and “Serving Divinity” are among the most varied on the record, and it’s no coincidence they’re some of the strongest and most recognisable on the album.
It becomes apparent after the first few tracks that Kingdom of Conspiracy
is not going to be hailed as Immolation’s magnum opus in years to come. In fact, given its competition, it’s unlikely to be regarded as even an above average offering from the New Yorkers. That’s the problem with being so good at what they do; they can reel off album after album in complete reassurance of a positive reception, but there are bound to be points where some are just less great than others. Kingdom of Conspiracy
is a worthwhile addition to Immolation’s discography, but being “worthwhile” is sadly not a reason to celebrate when you’re the product of band from which faultlessness is expected.
Bound to Order
The Great Sleep