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Immolith is a band I've become intimately familiar with since my earlier reviews of their Hymns To The Countess and Sojourn demos. This, Storm Dragon, is their full length album available digitally, in a small CD run and on tape. Me, well, I think you already know which direction I prefer. Let me say this, I originally heard the tracks when they were being mixed and enjoyed them but didn't feel any incredible elated feeling of hope for the black metal mediocrity we've been suffering lately in New Jersey. Listening back now, I'm impressed and acknowledge that though this album is not in any means innovative or more extreme than other stuff out there, there is good song writing here.
First though, production needs to be mentioned. Produced by Woe's Chris Grigg, the engineering is expectedly awesome. He's done a phenomenal job on this release. The instrumentation is clear but visceral. Guitars sound angry, bass sounds full and plump and the drums are expertly mixed and crystal clear. The kick cuts through the mix and is punchy, not clicky, something lost on a lot of releases in this modern black metal arena. Vocally, Isiamon is excellent on here and sounds regal and incensed. His vocals crisply tackle the common problem of dull and bored vocalists with ease though, I can see listeners finding his screech and clenched teeth approach monotone possibly. On a production note that has nothing to do with sound or engineering, I did detect a flaw that often arises with cassettes - there is a HUGE gap between side Black and side Metal. Now, I understand that this is sometimes the case but a 5 minute gap on the first side is tough to stomach through sometimes. It would have been a perfect place to squeeze a redone version of Slaughter the Legions (Isiamon will laugh at me for this because he knows that is my all time favorite Immolith track but it's just such a catchy romp!).
Riff wise, there are a lot of great moments here that draw forth all the influences I know have inspired the band. You obviously have older tracks, two in fact, that have been rerecorded from the original demos. Ghost Tower of Inverness and Hymns to the Countess round out the Venom and Emperor (minus the keyboards) inspiration respectively while other tracks, the more recent ones, are more inspired by the second wave bands like Mayhem, Immortal and at times, such as in Rites Of The Blood Moon, draw essence of grandeur from Bathory and Enslaved. Overall, the songs are all enjoyable. Previously mentioned Rites of the Blood Moon is one of my favorite new tracks on the release and while I enjoy the title track and Torch of Baphomet the real stand out track for me is definitely The Obsidian Throne of Azazel. More on that in a bit. Additionally, the updated Ghost Tower of Inverness and Hymns to the Countess fit nicely with the new tracks, they've been adjusted to sound less Venom-y and more Norwegian-y. They are both still catchy as hell.
So yeah, back to Obsidian Thrones... From the earlier demo's through to this album, there has been an emphasis on catchy riffs that are ballsy. This song has it. It really takes the styling of Ghost Tower of Inverness and creates a really strong, enjoyable black metal experience. It blasts across a minute of intro and expands into a confidently meandering series of Bathory inspired exploration before reinstating the intense attack for a couple minutes longer. There are underlying melodies which peek through the half time section of the track and the whole thing is relatively quick; at four minutes and forty seconds it's the shortest track on the album but done excellently and leaves me wanted to listen to it again - such a rarity in black metal for me: the need to listen to a song multiple times.
Overall, with the album ending strong with Hymns to the Countess and a final new fleshy beast titled A Pact Of Blood which is similar to Ghost Tower at times with hints of Watain too, there is little here to complain about. Aside from a slightly monotone, though mostly energetic, vocal delivery, Immolith's Storm Dragon will probably not offend anyone and more than likely be a pretty enjoyable listen for anyone into the second wave black metal bands that like some hints of older, first wave inspiration tucked neatly into the folds. I enjoyed this on tape though I imagine on CD it would come across as less than it is, as it loses the nostalgia factor that is inherent in the tape format. It's a good listen for sure.
Originally written for Contaminated Tones
In the world of Forgotten Realms, when demonic spirits are thrown into the abyss, they may coalesce to create a supreme being, a creature made of fire and doomed to wreak havoc. Its name? Immolith. It is also an American band from New Jersey who prevails in the register of brutal black metal. The similarities between these two entities are quite obvious. After a demo and an EP in 2009, the band released its debut album this year called Storm Dragon (2012). So what this beast out of the depths is made of?
After a short introduction, the deluge starts at full speed with Torch of Baphomet, which specifies the group’s intentions. It’s good old united states black metal (USBM), whose main features are based on speed and aggressiveness. One senses throughout listening to this long-play the strong influence of the pillars of the Swedish scene of the 1990s. Marduk, of course, but also Setherial, for its mystical side, that we perceive in the title track or on A Pact of Blood. But the trademark of Immolith is undoubtedly based on brutality (and not at all on subtlety)! It hits hard, through a production a bit rough, which is well suited to this style of music. Beautiful synthesis and best track on the album, the song Rites of the Blood Moon is also a shining example of the aggressiveness potential of the group. My only negative point concerns the voice, which is dubbed by an echo effect that becomes annoying after a while.
At a time when the american black metal seems to renew itself and seeks new creative horizons, Storm Dragon reminds everyone what is the base of brutal metal as practised among our southern neighbours: a direct and uncompromising music, which crushes all listeners under an avalanche of decibels. 7/10
Initially written for metalobscur.com
2012 marks an important year for the American band 'Immolith', because in February their debut album finally hits the shelves. Around three years have passed since their first two outputs – 'Sojourn / Ghost Tower' & 'Hymns to the Countess' – and those who are familiar with these might be surprised by the direction the band has been taken since. Old-school black metal had been the concept on their early outputs, while their latest one has stepped away from this approach in some respect. Is it a change to the better?
The first and most obvious impression has to do with the sound and following this the general performance of the band. It is somewhat interesting to experience the change in style. On the early outputs the music had been calmer, was less intensive and aggressive. Interestingly, and this is quite daring indeed, 'Immolith' actually added parts of their tracks to the debut; whereby the listener is able to experience at least some of the older concept … in a new improved sound that is. Nevertheless, those pieces mark a kind of disturbance, or maybe someone familiar with these will pay more attention towards them; both may be equally possible.
There is something of early 'Dark Funeral' and 'Bathory' in the music or in the way it comes along. Ferocity and a clear focus on fast paced sections, along with a distinct kind of minimalism, which is disturbed by solo elements now and then. It seems to fit the approach of the band better, because the somehow atmosphere on the early days had always this touch of artificiality; doing something in order to appeal to a certain obscure codex or norm. 'Storm Dragon' has more of a flow and consistency, even though the general approach is rather limited. Yes, limited. 'Immolith' do not offer something that has not been done before to some degree. Be it the tempo, the arrangements and the general flow, then one has to point to a considerable amount of releases that exist already. Nevertheless, the actual result is quite listenable, even though it might wear off way too soon.
It would have been nice for the band venture a bit more in the direction of 'Sacramentum' by adding more complexity and variation in the motives to their music. Currently everything drags a little bit on and comes up with too few surprising elements. What makes the listening experience a bit annoying is the reverb in the vocals. Is it really necessary to add such to the voice? Curiously, on an earlier recording this aspect had a negative impact as well. The “Sojourn / Ghost Tower” release had some strange oscillation (!) of the vocals from one speaker to the other. It seems these Americans still have to find a way on how to properly deal with this issue.
It had been a safe approach this kind and type of release. Nothing too daring, nothing too outré and nothing that would be perceived as being adventurous. Music from and for the underground it seems.
Released as a digipack.
Based on a review originally written for ‘A dead spot of light (Number 17)’:
Immolith are a four-piece band hailing from the United States that have been around since 2008 and have recently released their debut album, “Storm Dragon.” They play their black metal in a style that’s been widely prevalent, performed and performed again by bands since around the 90’s, when the second wave of black metal saw its inception and grew to accommodate both great and generic bands. It’s an album filled with, for the most part, pretty much only straightforward black metal in its purest form, with a clear production and certain standout traits thrown here and there that boost the album’s overall quality.
After a fifty-five second, slightly boring and unnecessary intro, the album blasts into full force with “Torch of Baphomet.” This is a track that, along with pretty much the rest of their album, will not surprise listeners as it lacks some originality and it’s been played previously by other bands. It’s comprised of the typical tremolo-picking that’s used in black metal, and the vocals don’t differentiate from other bands’ either, bringing about high-pitched shrieks that penetrate the atmosphere. The vocals are performed well and delivered as such, but that’s not their most appealing trait, even if it is quite decent. The main focal point of Immolith’s music, albeit not one that is mind-blowing either, is the riffing. It’s, as previously stated, tremolo picking with decently formulated combinations of notes flowing together, and there’s lots of changes seen throughout songs, which makes up for their lack of originality. At 2:50 in the aforementioned song, there is even a thrash riff that’s heard, carrying with it a headbangable quality before jumping right into their domineering black metal style. There’s some use of melodies throughout, bringing to mind monster bands like Dissection (“Rites of the Blood Moon”) and maybe even some Kvist, although it’s far less atmospheric than the latter’s.
The drums play, almost exclusively, blast beats throughout the length of the album, and at times they may come off as tedious for their repetition, but one need only focus on the guitars to not be affected by this. When they burst out a melody a la Dissection, the guitars tend to be doing different things, combining to result in a more effective riff. On top of the other traits that have already been mentioned, they make use of the occasional doomy passage as well, as seen in the intro to “The Ghost Tower of Inverness.” This is probably the best track on the album, as a result of its larger diversity. It contains, primarily, the tremolo-picked riffs that are heard on the whole album, but it also includes yet another thrashy riff that augments the status of their music. The vocals continue to spit out their raspy screeches, and soon after there’s a brief guitar solo as well.
I’ll put it to you this way: if you’ve heard black metal before, you’ve heard Immolith. That shouldn’t be a bad thing if you’re an avid fan, and they definitely exceed in some aspects of their music over other bands; primarily with their frequent change of pace, rather than the usual monotony that’s produced in black metal. In addition, it doesn’t have a raw production that is also often preferred; it has a crisp, clear sound. It’s an album that’s worth getting if you’re into the genre.
Originally written for http://ravenousreviewswebzine.blogspot.com/
The frustrating thing about an album like StormDragon is that while the band brings absolutely nothing novel or interesting to the table, neither do they really do anything wrong. In fact, it's not often you hear a US outfit with such a solid aesthetic correspondence to the Norse and Swedish rush of mid-90s black metal, and Immolith do not dishonor this tradition by scrawling out mindless cycles of lame repetition, instead forging riffs that exhibit some degree of foresight. StormDragon might be a little too blast-heavy in places, a trait tracing back to bands like Marduk or Dark Funeral, but really, any album with a song named after an obscure 1st edition AD&D adventure module deserves some further scrutiny.
That song would be "The Ghost Tower of Inverness", and it bears mentioning because it's one of the better balanced on the entirety of the album. Slower, doom-like passages lapse into searing tremolo riffing and back again, while vocalist Isiamon spits vitriol in the form of a percussive, echoing rasp, and at its climax the band lurches into this taut death/thrashing riff which I almost wish they'd used more often. The first few tracks "Torch of Baphomet" and "Rites of the Blood Moon" are also appreciable, with solid tremolo picking patterns, intense drumming and a splash of sheer hatred from the vocals, like spurts of blood upon a well-honed, once shining blade. Fans of anything from Lord Belial to mid 90s Mayhem and Emperor will find some solace in the familiarity and precision of the songwriting, and unlike a lot of black metal front men out there, the vocals here are entertaining enough that they don't seem to grow tiring, even if doesn't always bark them out in an intriguing meter.
Of course, it's that same familiarity which also holds StormDragon back from achieving a greater impact, for its audience will likely have heard the same style and aggression countless times in the past, and Immolith are unable here to really trump their predecessors. The progressions of notes here are certainly decent, but they could always be better, and though the band does not always stick to the same tempo to the point of monotony, there are rarely any surprises lying in store throughout any of the tracks here. A few of these have been polished up from the band's 2009 EP, Hymns of the Countess, but I found the writing fairly consistent throughout, and the production here is about as good as you want it if you've got some built in nostalgia for the 90s works of Marduk, Dissection and so forth. Immolith does not sound like a product of New Jersey, but more of Scandinavia, and that's a compliment when gauging this style. Competent, blazing fast and burning bloodied with hatred, StormDragon exhibits a formidable level of raw ability, but I'd love to hear the band stretch and challenge itself more.