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Textbook Death Metal Yet Still a Musical Triumph - 95%

Five_Nails, May 22nd, 2011

Crush is probably the best way to describe Immolation’s sound. Rhythm and bass guitars join double bass drums to create a chest imploding rhythmic low end deviated by snare and cymbal use and laden with progressively intensifying blast beats. Barbarically simple in its slow four count breakdown beats exemplified by intricate rising and growing guitar leads and twisted rhythms, Immolation pummels the essence of demise into their decimating sound and revels in the subtle simplicity of their chaotic instrumentation. “Shadows in the Light” is this New York death metal outfit’s seventh full-length and displays not only a vicious consistency of style, but a culmination of Immolation’s aims that was years in the making and has resulted in some of the greatest death metal I have ever heard.

Immolation’s style brings a twisted sound in their juxtaposing builds that actually breakdown and decay their rhythms through repetition while adding instruments and rhythms to the overall sound during tension building progressions. Especially present in the title track’s cymbal build into the repetitious treble crush and the ripping riffing rhythm of “Lying with Demons”, each member of the band brings ominous layers of instrumentation that aggressively hammer home the common structure yet astutely build into their own vibrant contributions. While seemingly intricate and unapproachable on the first few listens, the simplicity of each common rhythm delivers a strong hook to help these added instruments increase the thundering pressure of each musical structure the band builds. Harmonizing through their bass oriented sound, treble highs like the rhythm riffing of “The Weight of Devotion”, “Breathing the Dark”, and “Passion Kill” also juxtapose the slow pacing of riffs strongly with the increasing speed of the drums that crescendo at times into sounds reminiscent of the titanic grandeur of Celtic Frosts’ “Monotheist” weighed down by Suffocation’s hardcore-laced New York death metal influence.

With a precise, rapid, and percussively magnanimous abundance of notes, Steve Shalaty’s drumming is a chaotic fury striving to do bewildering death metal justice to the guitars’ rhythms in “Breathing the Dark”, driving the percussive and unforgiving direction of the band’s aggressive atmosphere in “Tarnished”, and at times creates amorphous and hyperbolic rhythmic representations of the common hook as in “Passion Kill” or “Deliverer of Evil”. In such a straightforward style as Immolation’s, drum fills are key in creating standout cycles and Shalaty pulls off many with fluid changes that rise and fall through each tone of his drum kit or, in marching fashion, round out rhythms with great snare fills and devastating blast beating propulsions of riffs. Joined by the crushing bass sound from Ross Dolan that harmonizes with the guitars’ drops and forces breaks into the abyss, the low end of Immolation’s violent symphony offers earth-shattering legs to support their primeval top end with a larger-than-life sound that perfects the band’s ambition.

While aggressive simplicity typifies the band’s catchiest and most accessible moments, the openings to “Passion Kill” and “Tarnished”, and the guitars closing “Whispering Death” also showcase how Immolation’s style can open in a seemingly reasonless sound and decay into something more understandable. Though aesthetically awkward at first, this combination comes together in amazing fashion to become both an unsettling and an inspiring sound that has come to define some of the most standout qualities of New York death metal style. Canada’s Cryptopsy gives another viewpoint of this style by taking a sound and making it increasingly unapproachable, but Immolation’s top-down approach seems to have not only made it even easier to discern a sound thrown at the listener and decayed into its simplest aspects but also seems to have taken in stride the influence of hardcore on metal that has encouraged a debate on the role of punk and hardcore in a style that has stayed strongly opposed to hangers-on in deathcore and against the elements that have watered down modern mainstream metal and hard rock. Though deathcore and other more mainstream styles have taken and broken this formula, Immolation’s consistency makes and breaks riffs in a strong linear scope that ensures repetition moves structures into further progressions rather than solely brings them back to square one to be done over again the exact same way. Multi-layered breakdowns aren’t present here trying to take low sounds and artificially lower them into further “br00tality”, but instead breakdowns maintain their relevance as counters to choruses or particularly intense rises in textbook demonstration of the power of an instrumentally focused band without prima donnas and theatrics mucking up their intended straightforward style.

Lyrically and thematically, Immolation has translated their songwriting intricacy falling into simplicity well with strong challenges of religion decaying into a chant in “Passion Kill”, or bringing a chorus to progress the plot in “Breathing the Dark”. Vocals are deep growls but still rather understandable though at times covered by the overwhelming instrumental assault. There are no high notes present, but that doesn’t take anything away from the consistently strong vocal delivery or the malice expressed in “Hate’s Plague” or the anger of “World Agony”.

Immolation’s “Shadows in the Light” has quickly become one of my favorite death metal albums as one of the strongest examples of not only a solid and consistent delivery of well-written and passionate music, but the near perfection of a pummeling barbaric style uplifted by instrumental intricacy while ensuring stabilization in their bare bones template.