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Simply stunning - 94%

SilenceIsConsent, June 17th, 2008

As is the case with a few bands such as Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, and even Metallica, Immolation was one of those bands I claimed to like without actually listening to them (yeah so bad I know). It wasn't until recently, when I actually got to see the band live that I got to hear how good they were. After that, I was hell bent on listening to some Immolation. Like I do with most bands that people do not give me advice for, I go for the newest recording first.

Shadows in the Light is stunning. That's all I can say. It's downright stunning. It's stunning that a band can sound as unique as Immolation yet be so catchy, have so much atmosphere, have so much feeling, be so throught provoking, the list just goes on and on. Shadows in the Light is easily one of the best releases of last year, and one that I deeply regret on missing when it first came out (curse my obsession with other bands).

The first thing that instantly struck me out here was how the music is so melodic yet brutal at the same time. Really there is plenty of of melody to this stuff, yet it is so heavy. Yet somehow, it doesn't translate into "three riffs and lines then breakdown" music. Immolation take it and turn it into something that at one point will feel like you're being stabbed with a sword, hit with many shuriken, bludgeoned by a sledgehammer, shot by an automatic firearm, and then take sharpnel from a grenade many times all throughout the song. While it's not that progressive, it's still amazing that the band can make it this kind of heavy while making it so unmonotonous and catchy without doing anything in the realm of the metalcore garbage passed off as death metal (Rose Funeral anyone?).

Sure, it's not that rigid and as much of a blast-a-thon as Immolation's earlier material and there are plenty of more groove laden numbers here, but that's alright. It really helps to break up the monotony and the groove is not totally prominent and just serves to add some melody to the music. This is think is best shown in World Agony, Passion Kill, The Weight of Devotion, and the title track. Those places show off this incorporation of more groove oriented riffs into the songs along with their tradiotinal brand of Immolation flair. I doubt this will really turn off Immolation's hardcore faithful, because there is still much of the classic Immolation sound here for the fans to like. Just take a crack at Hate's Plague, Tarnished, Deliverer of Evil, and Lying with Demons to hear that again.

They also go out of their way to make sure that the songs are easy to tell apart and all sound unique yet have all the things that die hard Immolation fans like as well as some of the newer aspects. Most bands would not even think of taking those aspects into consideration these days. That is not the case with Immolation, and they did it in a way that sound fresh, not rehashed, and very unpretentious.

I think much of this has to do with the guitar work of Bob Vigna and Bill Taylor. I have to say, the way these two guys (especially Bob) crank out guitar parts does not sound like anyone else and that is honestly great. Lots of diminished chords and odd progressions that are really unique and technical but still at the time, catchy and very heavy. For a rhythm guitarist, Bill Taylor is very good. Doing more then just fill the gap betweenm Bob and Ross, Bill is essential to making the music and does much of the riff work on his own. What I mean by this is that he is always pummeling out some awesome riff in coinjunction with Bob and it just rocks.

At the same time, I havfe really grown to like the lead guitar work of Bob Vigna. While it isn't very advanced and not the most technical stuff ever, it's unique once again. And his solos do add a lot of franticness and feeling to the music that is hard to come by in death metal circles today. They are very dark, and I mean very dark and very frantic. Lots of tremolo picking and conventional (ableit very fast) legato runs. Think of it as a more simplifed and bluesier based version of Chuck Schuldeiner, or what it would be like if BB King or Muddy Waters decided to start playing death metal while using all their blues techniques. As lame as this sounds, yo u won't think it's lame when you realize just how much it contributes to the atmosphere of the song and that's something very hard to do in my opinion. The odd progressions he also pulls out and his harmonies are also just plain great and had a very haunting, etherreal atmosphere to the music without sacrificing heaviness. Sure, lots of tremolo picking is done by Bob that people do not seem to like. But unlike others, who seem to do it just to crank out more notes, Bob does it and makes more feeling to the music.

More astonishment comes from the drum work of Steve Shalaty, who seems to be the one under attack the most from fan's afflicted by Marty Friedman's Disease. This is another metallic disease in the same family as Helloweencongitis, where some member who planned on the band's best albums is replaced by someone who may be better musically but still they give the band flak for it. Shalaty is just as great of a drummer as Alex Hernandez was, a bit more melodic and has way better skills of reservation and filling then Hernadez did. Just dig his drum work on songs like Hate's Plague, Tanished, Breathing The Dark, and Whispering Death. All the songs feature downright awesome and fast drum work that doesn't sound boring and is very nice. His drum tone is also great. While I do think it could have been a bit more pronounced, it is very acoustic like and does not cut through the mix yet is not overpowered. Hard to do as far as I have seen.

Ross makes sure that his part is done with flying colors. HIhgly guttural yet somehow clear is something I had not heard up until listening to Ross Dolan. That's hard to do, really hard to do. On top of being able to understand the guy, his vocal patterns are also very catchy. Many death metal frontmen should really pay attention to Ross, because when it comes to that he's way ahead of most of them. Truly light years ahead of many, staying traditional while doing that better then many others.

His lyrics are just as good. Don't think of them as just depictions of demons slaughtering Christians by the thousands or bad Deicide knock off lyrics. These are highly thought provoking and really will make you question just how much religion holds in store and how powerful it is over people. Passion Kill shows off greatly the many inconsitencies with religion, Tarnished shows how one's soul is rendered impure and the futile attempts to cleanse it, and Breathing the Dark shows the brutal picture of someone on the path to self destruction, evil and insanity after trying to find the existence of a god through their soul yet are unable to do such. Yet among all the anti religious rambling, Ross finds time to write about problems with the world. That's shown on World Agony in a way that is best described as short, sweet, and comes to the point. All very thought provoking stuff that can be either downright scary or enlightening depending on how you think of them.

Ross's bass playing is not too bad either. Lots of triad usage that while not being highly advanced are more then most metal bassists do these days. The problem is that his bass lines aren't very prominent and really don't seem to be heard well in the mix. Too bad, the mix should have highlighted them a bit more. For a guy doing double duty, Ross does the other part of his duty (the bass playing) very well while singing awesomely.

The album is mixed amazingly, with loads of highly organic tones with nothing really overpowreing anything else serverly, except the guitars overpowring the bass and Shalaty's drum tone a bit "pushed back" if you get what I mean. That's all I could ask for to be better though. Otherwise, it rocks.

This is easily one of the best albums of last year and definitely worth the buy. If you're new to Immolation, this is probably the best place to get into the band and I know it was for me. This is one album that any death metal fan should let slip through their fingers. Shadows in the Light is simply stunning.