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Whispering Death - 68%

televiper11, May 17th, 2012

Shadows In The Light is veteran NYDM merchants Immolation seventh album. Following on the heels of Harnassing Ruin's mixed response, the band gets back down to business, pedaling ten tracks of relatively straight-forward NYDM. The hallmarks of the band's aggression are in fine fettle: high-strung riffs of some technical complexity and darkened texture unfurling over an abrasively hammering rhythm section. Rob Vigna brings his usual pinch-harmonic accents and soloing prowess even more to the fore. And Ross Dolan drops easily into his abysmal vocal register. It's everything you'd expect from a tightened up Immolation, though the songwriting doesn't completely meet expectations.

Highlights include the brooding "World Agony" with its martial drum beat and simple headbangable riffage. Again, Immolation knows how to stick the hooks in as the riffs throughout are memorable and the chorus is perfect for in-concert gang shouts. "Lying With Demons" is absolutely brutal. Harkening back to the earliest Immolation records, it delivers a pulverizing lesson in knotty aggression. Few bands can pitch this balance as perfectly as Immolation. It's almost ridiculous how catchy material this complicated can be. They also know how to slow the tempo down, hitting a weird off-kilter Prong vibe around the 90 second mark and going back to it with variations throughout. "Passion Kill" is another monster with a great chorus and lots of tornado riffs piling up and swirling around. When it comes to great textured riffs and solos, Rob Vigna really delivers. I particularly love the atmospheric closer -- "Whispering Death" has a tremendous build, is suffused with tension, and features incredibly dissonant guitar figures tracing around the latticework.

Unlike other Immolation records, Shadows In The Light doesn't display an overall unity of conception, coming across more like a collection of songs than a complete singular vision. Some tracks like "Tarnished" and "Deliverer Of Evil" feel slightly unfinished, sluggish even. "The Weight Of Devotion" has an amazing opening riff but they abandon it quickly, leaving it stranded and the rest of the song kinda drags behind the weight of unfulfilled expectations. A sort of sameness also creeps over the middle of this record, diminishing the impact of tracks that are more solid than they sound. Part of this problem falls squarely on the shoulders of the production.

Shadows In The Light has an absolutely shitty production job that totally enervates these tunes. Tonally speaking, this record sounds horrifically flat and brittle. The guitars have no heft whatsoever. The riffs are just bled dry, devoid of all heaviness. And the drums... what-the-fuck happened to the drums? They sound like wet cardboard, just sodden and murky and powerless. I hate the way this record sounds. I almost never crank it up because it angers me how bad it sounds. These poor songs are almost completely undone by this production job. The best tracks can surmount it but the more average ones simply cannot. Thankfully these errors are almost entirely mitigated on follow-up Majesty And Decay. But Shadows In The Light is yet another in a string of good-to-great Immolation albums suffering from botched production.