Review Summary: Hypnotic, disturbing, enthralling, and absolutely worth listening to; to be a weaker Immolation album is to be a standout in the discography of most other bands.
Immolation are a titanic name within the death metal genre; an inexorable force whose output has remained of strikingly high quality and recognizably unique from their inception in the late eighties. Blips in their catalogue have consistently remained to such a standard that those low points could be considered colossal achievements within the discography of many a lesser band, with 2013's 'Kingdom Of Conspiracy' perhaps the only album released by the band that can be faulted to any significance. Alongside this later-career anomaly, 2007's 'Shadows In The Light' can often be found at the tail end of lists ranking their work, and so this record deserves an in-depth analysis.
The personnel behind this are Ross Dolan on vocals and bass, guitarists Robert Vigna and Bill Taylor, and drummer Steve Shalaty. 'Shadows In The Light' clocks in at fourty-and-a-half minutes, and received mosly positive reviews from major publications such as Terrorizer Magazine and Metal Hammer. Ten songs are featured, with the shortest opening the album and the longest rounding things out as the closer, and it was produced by Paul Orifino, who had a long-standing relationship with the band as producer.
The sound of Immolation is complex to describe, but its essence is comprised of a pair of winding guitars that synchronize for some of the most intense moments of the album, but then often will diverge. This divergence usually takes the form of one guitarist performing higher pitched tremolo picking atop a riff utilizing off-kilter chords or pinched harmonics. The drumming is exceptional, featuring a constant barrage of creative beats ranging from the slow-paced crawls, to the explosive blast beats, and they are punctuated every few measures by a rapid fill. The entire drum kit is used here, ensuring the beats remain interesting, and the bass guitar will often fill the void between the winding riffs and the controlled chaos of Shalaty's drums. Ross Dolan's guttural roar is as rough as possible whilst remaining decipherable, and the tones he takes are very malevolent. There is not much variety here, but instead just the one constant of his savage approach to the microphone duties.
As for the songs themselves, they are all of a very high standard and maintain what can only be described as a "foreboding, evil" sound. The atmosphere oozed throughout this album is haunting and unsettling, with the riffing during the verse of 'The Weight Of Devotion' standing testament to this. This song also showcases the meandering, diverging paths of the guitars neatly, with one guitarist allowing chords to ring at times whilst the other guitar stands out through the use of pinched harmonics. 'Hate's Plague' and 'Passion Kill' are an effective one-two punch that immediately give the listener an idea of what to expect from the rest of the album. The former is a brutal, unrelenting number that hits with the force of a freight train. The bridge section has an almost-Suffocation sounding change in tempo, whilst the lead guitar work is distinctly Immolation. 'Passion Kill' utilizes breaks between notes in its intro to establish the dissonant groove that has become almost synonymous with the band's name, whilst other riffs are backed by fills from Steve Shalaty that are equal parts obnoxious and enthralling.
Many bands are capable of opening an album in a strong manner, but continuing along this ground is difficult for an entire release, with some acts falling into the easy trap of flooding the first portion of their release with the best tracks to provide an instant dopamine rush. To their credit, however, Immolation have a track record of leaving the best until last, with "Close To A World Below" and "Christ's Cage" attesting to this. 'Shadows In The Light' continues this format, with the consistency being evidenced by the title track and the monolithic closing track 'Whispering Death.' The shrieking lead notes over the first few seconds help to build an eerie atmosphere, whilst the crushing rhythm guitar throughout this song absolutely bludgeons. A minute into this song, a sudden change in pace yields one of the best riffs on the album, and Ross could not add to this more perfectly than with his usual grunts. The energy behind the riff backing the solo that ensues is almost tangible. It is that closing song, however, where the band really kicks into overdrive. At six minutes in length, it would be easy for attention to be lost, and yet this is a stellar exercise in death metal brilliance. At their evil best, the introduction to the song leads into a heavy and bewildering set of riffs. A solid creative decision was that to allow the song to fade out for a solid half a minute, ensuring it does not end to abruptly, potentially killing the flow of a wonderful song.
'Shadows In The Light will never be considered Immolation's finest product, and nor should it. This is an album characterized best by its consistency and adherence to the principles the band set out throughout their earlier work, and continue to stick to to this day. The riffing, drumming, vocals and production are all extremely proficient here, and the only slight detracting element is that this album is missing those one or two absolutely standout moments such as the intro to "Christ's Cage", or the incredible central section to "A Glorious Epoch". For the absolute cream of the crop that this band has produced, 'Close To A World Below' and 'Majesty And Decay' offer better experiences, but this is not one to be overlooked or considered anything less than a superb album.