Review Summary: Great release, but a step down
Death metal is, for the most part, a very underground style of music, with very few bands achieving any real exposure. This is for a number of reasons, being either too fast, too ridiculously heavy, the vocals are often too low, or the songs are too obscurely structured for many people who listen to even bands such as Iron Maiden to truly understand and enjoy. Due to this, only more commercially oriented bands such as Obituary, with simplistic instrumentals, or shocking bands such as Cannibal Corpse truly make their way through their music. However, every once in a blue moon, a band that boasts neither the commercial side nor the absolutely vile shock tactics manages to find a following and make their way off their music.
One such band to achieve a little exposure is Immolation, a band that combines complex drumming with two dueling guitarists that rely on dissonant harmonics. Starting out as an anti-religion band, the band made their shift into more political lyrics, and since has not changed. To date, they have recorded 8 studio albums, released a DVD, two EP's, and one compilation, and have shifted through nine members, releasing one of their finest releases in 2007, Shadows In The Light. This showcases very well the bands sound, being an exceedingly heavy release, that does not need to progress through its songs at 600 beats per minute to set the standard.
The first thing to be noted on this album is that, whilst it is not particularly as technical as their previous releases, the riffs on it are extremely well thought out, and there are not very many band out there that can record riffs like these. The atmosphere throughout the release is extremely creepy, with founding member Robert Vigna undoubtedly being one of the most intelligent guitarists of all time. The title track is a good example, with many solos throughout, but the riffs still taking centre stage. The riffs change so frequently and in such a different way that this almost feels like a progressive release, but each and every one of them flows perfectly into the next one, so that this release is best listened to all in one go, or the listener will not understand it at all.
Deliverer Of Evil is my personal favourite song off of this release, with some dark lyrics and a truly crushing sound to it unmatched by many of the supposed "brutal" death metal bands out there. "Gave you power, gave you control, fail the people and you will fall" is one particularly well written line, that is completely relatable for every human being alive who lives in a country that has leaders that seek only to further their own legacy instead of doing what is best for the country. This form of political song writing is far more effective than their earlier anti-Christian lyrics ever could be, and they are delivered perfectly by vocalist Ross Dolan. The guitar riff during this particular line is certainly one of the best the band has ever written, as well, completing an amazing song.
Dolan is somewhat an unsung hero in the death metal world, frequently being left out of debates about the finest death metal vocalists, and i never understand. He has been in the business now for over 20 years, and consistently puts in solid performances, whilst putting in a very tight bass performance as well. He is not as low as bands like Suffocation or Mortician, but is certainly low enough, and is completely intelligeble, which goes that extra way for a death metal vocalist.
Lying With Demons is another very good song, that has some rather complex drum patterns, and also shows off the intechanging guitarists. In one stereo speaker, one plays, and then the other plays in the other, before they play together to begin with, which really is a nice touch, and is somewhat unique. Immolation truly is a band like no other, and Steve Shalaty puts on a good show throughout this, going fast when necessary, but never laying down simple drum performances, and always keeping a solid groove.
However, there are a few faults that need to be addressed. First and foremost, the production on this release is somewhat underwhelming, feeling flat at times, with everything mashing together into just one wall of sound at times. It is not the worst production job out there, but it is by no means the best, and is very weak for a band signed to a high profile metal record label.
The other major weakness is that the band has set the bar too high on albums such as Unholy Cult for this to really stand up to. When pressed against some of their other albums in their discography, this is somewhat weaker than those albums. It is tight enough in its own right, but has nothing on that particular album. A band should get better with age, but this was a step down in many ways.
My other criticism is that the band appeared to have gone a lot lighter guitar wise. The riffs are not as highly technical nor as well written as past releases in some sections. The guitars are very good here, but i feel like the band held back something throughout this release. Other than the vocals and drums, everything feels slightly more restrained than past releases, as though the band were just looking for new fans and not staying true to themselves which is disappointing for a band of Immolation's status.
In particular, Whispering Death is flawed. The song starts with a nice, atmosphere building section to begin with, that gives a real evil feel to it, but at the same time a regretful sound, that almost reminds me of some of Slayer's Hell Awaits, but without losing any heaviness nor power. But, as the song progresses and gets more and more drawn out, the cracks really start to show, with it just feeling needlessly heavy, and an attempt to be faster than many of the songs on the album, and the riffs are not quite as tight as those found on other songs. At times, it slows down and gives off more of an atmospheric side to it, which really does not work in my opinion, and the solo at around 3:10 is the only thing that saves this song at all. This is the real low point, not only of this album, but also of the band's discography.
This album is, for the most part, an extremely tight death metal release, but it is definitely a step down for the New York boys. The lyrics, drumming, vocals and many of the riffs themselves are great, but it feels too restrained to me, and generally just underwhelming. The good points of the album are undeniably flawless, but in particular Whispering Death feels like a needless attempt to both speed up and have more atmospheric sections, which really does not fit the album at all. 3.5/5