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Point of inflection. - 90%

6CORPSE6GRINDER6, October 22nd, 2012

“Failures for Gods” featured drummer Alex Hernández and was recorded at Millbrook Sound Studios, but it wasn’t until “Close to a World Below” were the band’s drummer reached his full potencial as a drummer and the band recorded his best studio output in terms of production at that time, and for many their main opus. They did good giving the studio a second chance, they haven’t left it since. “Unholy Cult” is not as savage as its predecessor, in terms of production or composition, but it shows a more refined side of the band with a “delicate” twist, within the borders of their demoniac death metal of course. Hernández evolution towards a “riff oriented” and attached drum pattern preference fits perfectly some new tricks the band added in the string department, a more simple kind of riffing giving space to dissonant arpeggios and enchanted pinch harmonics.

Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication; this album is a living proof of that statement. It marks an inflection point in the band’s carrier because it is the first record were they choose utterly emotion over technicality most of the time, not always but mostly. While their performance got simpler on the fretboard, riffs got more memorable in this late period of Immolation. The doomed atmosphere they evoked is now spread wider with riffs focusing on the overall feel more that in the malignancy and awkwardness of their selves, having a more collective sense. The epics “Unholy Cult” and “Reluctant Messiah” are fruits of this glimpse of distress they acquired in the string work. The drumming is also more thought out because there are more slow paced sections to be creative, and they are well spent definitely. This is the first album featuring Bill Taylor on guitars; maybe his contribution is the explanation of the band’s sound evolution in strings.

Bass guitar is an integral part of the band’s sound for the first time I would dare to say, giving it a more surrounding and “hugging” edge. You can clearly hear between the guitars the nice metallic sound of the down tuned strings hitting the fretboard as if there is no tomorrow. The punch it adds to the riffs is incredible, because of the sweet and sober tone of Ross Dolan. His vocals are as tortured and god forsaken as they were the first day, raging against the son of Bethlehem with his trademark deep and crunchy growls that are yet still clear enough to understand the words yelled. The blunt and forceful, solid and convincing guitar distortion they developed with the years works perfectly over those bass lines, and better than the roach nest sound of the old days that I love I would say, nostalgic. This album production is overwhelmingly heavy and low end oriented.

“Unholy Cult” was in its moment where the band pushed further their limits in terms of composition, their most different record… at least at the time, latter on they decided to continue with this new sound, a decision I support entirely.

The Essence of Death Metal Incarnate - 100%

serial_killer_miller, June 25th, 2008

When someone says to you describe death metal. What do you say? I say if you want to know what death metal is just listen to Immolation's Unholy Cult album and you will need no further explanation. As my review title suggests to me Unholy Cult is the essence of death metal. I know that is a very bold statement however I will explain my reasoning so that hopefully I am able to persuade some of you nay sayers.

First off, this album has a fantastic opening track. It includes a build up and an absolutely punishing opening riff. It also doesn't hurt that the song has one of the most creative titles I've ever read, "Of Martyrs and Men" which really sets the tone for an absolute blasphemous onslaught that actually has some very creative and well thought out lyrics.

We all know that a tired cliché in death metal especially is the subject of anti-Christianity. We see it time and time again from bands such as Behemoth, Drawn and Quartered, Aeon, and of course Deicide. What sets Immolation apart especially from the later two, is that the lyrics are actually well thought out and you could even go as far to say there are some valid points within them as well. Instead of the typical "Kill the Christian" jargen. We instead hear lines such as "I Reluctant Messiah show us the way, don't let us down we have no one left" or "Our curse is our own, I Know we're to blame, We're born into shame, to live in despair." These are just a couple of the numerous examples found within this album that help to paint a grim picture of humanity as a whole and also deliver an actual message that may be painful to swallow for some, but it definitely has a lot of truth to it.

Another thing that makes this album stand out from a typical death metal album is the production. Unholy Cult is one of the very few albums whose production is absolutely flawless. You are able to hear every instrument in the way it was meant to be heard. The guitars are loud and clear, the bass is heavy yet not crunchy and it doesn't buzz either. Instead, it is the perfect bass line for this album. Alex Hernandez puts forth his last and best effort behind the kit. Every piece of his kit can be heard the way it is meant to be heard rich, pounding, and punishing sound.

So what do I say when someone asks me what is death metal? I tell them to listen to Immolation's Unholy Cult album, because it really is the essence of what a true death metal album should be.

A necksnapping nightmare! - 93%

HealthySonicDiet, February 12th, 2004

When listening to this album, I was headbanging so much and so violently that I could have very well snapped my neck or injured myself in some way. It's really uncanny that I would say that because Immolation is well-known for using blastbeats, meatbeats, and other staples of 'normal' death metal in moderation. Immolation holds true to that formula on this album, but the drums are played so quickly as well as the guitars that you just can't help it. Immolation could almost be called a progressive death metal band, at least on this record, because most of the songs start out with some kind of eerie intro and have a climactic ending or something like that, where everything becomes more turbulent. My favorite songs of the album would have to be the first song Of Martyrs and Men and Sinful Nature, the second one. Those two songs are the most accessible-sounding without losing their progressive credibility. The evil atmosphere seems most prevalent on those two songs as well. The guys from Immolation must not follow the "Save the best for last" philosophy because, IMO, the first two songs are the best to be found on this album. As far as atmosphere goes, I'm a little disappointed because there isn't as much of a suffocating, hellish atmosphere on this record as many reviewers on EverlastingFire.Com claim there to be. Maybe it will seem that way on subsequent listens, though. I guess I'll have to buy Close to a World Below to see the best example of Immolation's hellish atmosphere, but the lyrical content and cover artwork offends me.
Another thing that bothers me on this album is that the songs tend to drag and sound similar. This is something I've noticed in death metal in general. Sometimes its hard to distinguish one song from another or say that you have a favorite track from the album because you have difficulty pointing out certain unique highlights of certain songs. I suppose that's the price Immolation pays for not being just plain 'brOOtal deth metul" and trying to rely more on atmosphere more than aggression. I commend them for their creativity, though.
Overall, this is a sinister, brutal record with delightfully unconventional arrangements and soloing, something not very common and noteworthy in death metal.

Not your typical death metal - 85%

Life_Sucks, November 29th, 2003

Immolation are one of the most acclaimed brutal death metal bands, respected for their innovation and musicianship. While their first CD, Dawn Of Possession may have been a more typical death metal CD, they evolved into a band with a very unique sound of their own, marked by dissonant chords and odd rhythms. And yes, Unholy Cult is definitely different from your usual brutal death metal CD. Things kick off with Of Martyrs And Men, which begins with a cool acousic riff that fades in, gradually increasing in volume. Then the heavy guitars kick in playing dissonant chords to a blast beat. The main riff off the song, which starts when the vocals come in, is very odd sounding - the timing is wierd, making it sound off beat, like some of the notes are being played a fraction of a second too late. But this is typical for Immolation, and is a defining aspect of their sound. The next track, Sinful Nature is similar, with odd rhythms and dissonant chords. Track three, the title track, sounds more normal in terms of rhythm but the chords have odd harmonies, as usual. Immolation hardly ever use power chords, and instead opt for strange harmonies, which give the music an eerie feel. Generally, the songs are more mid paced, as opposed to all out blasting, though there are a decent amounts of blast beat passages, and a couple songs that are generally fast and blasting, such as A Kingdom Divided. The guitar sound is somewhat trebly and thin, and not thick and crushing, like it is with most brutal death metal bands. The bass is also very audible, and not buried in the mix like it often is in metal. The production is quite good. And the production, guitar sound, and mixing job all fit the music very well. Unholy Cult is a typical Immolation CD. It is a must have for all Immolation fans, though it is not quite as good as Here In After or Close To A World below in my opinion. I personally like Immolation's sound, though I must admit that it took a while for it to grown on me. But due to the generally awkward feel to their music, I can't get into them as much as other brutal death metal bands such as Nile, Suffocation, or Decapitated.