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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