Immolation and Vader have been booked to play next year’s Bristol Deathfest. Immolation are still great live and Vader should be at least fun. The rest of the lineup is unremarkable at best. Check out Immolation play if you live nearby.
Immolation announced a new album in their recent style of taking their own material and simplifying or parodying it down into pop rock for a beer swilling speed metal audience who eat up every new Metallica and Sodom record of randomly rehashed tunes. Atonement is the story of Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and Robbie’s (James McAvoy) life turning to hell when Briony, Cecilia’s bratty little sister, falsely accuses James McAvoy of rape. Cecilia and Robbie die horribly but Briony becomes a successful novelist. Ross Dolan insists that Keira Knightley did a great job wearing that green dress in Immolation’s best sounding release to date despite the fact that Dawn of Possession still exists and was recently reissued:
Metal Blade Records has reissued the three Immolation albums that they hold the rights to: Here in After, Failures for Gods, and Close to a World Below. These three records, the latter two with flashier but less pure drummer Alex Hernandez, are some of the bands peak works and saw them completely leave behind the few vestiges of speed metal that remained on Dawn of Possession, which is perhaps still their best overall work. Following Close to a World Below, the quality of the band’s material greatly declined even though their last record with Hernandez, Unholy Cult, was still a strong release.
With the metal scene as it is these days, one out of three DMU-approved bands isn’t too bad. Marduk, Immolation, Origin, and a band named Bio-Cancer will be touring Europe throughout May 2016. While Marduk is headlining, their companions in general seem to have similar levels of notoriety; I wouldn’t dwell too much on the specifics of the headlines. I’m betting European fans of Death Metal Underground’s writing will treat this as a possible opportunity to see Immolation in concert. While that’s an optimistic appraisal, the band allegedly gives their older and stronger some emphasis when live, so if you can grit your teeth through the other material it could very well be worth your while. Otherwise, you’ll have to hope there’s good beer… and that there’s plenty of beer money in your pockets.
Article by Daniel Maarat
Immolation’s debut has recently been reissued with the original CD mastering intact for the first time since 1995. Closer to conventional speed metal and lacking the complex polyrhythms and syncopation of their prime material (including the masterful Close to a World Below), the album nevertheless remains an accessible must-listen. That this classic was out of print for over twenty years with even the Polish mafia, probably bootleg slammed remaster going for inflated prices on the secondary market shows just how much the Warner Music Group owned, formerly independent Roadrunner Records has been neglecting their back catalog in favor of pushing nu-metal and Nickelback to a lowest common denominator audience. Hopefully more licensed-out, quality digital reissues will follow as Metal Blade was permitted to handle the recent Mercyful Fate and Sepultura vinyl pressings.
Immolation’s Close to a World Below marked a clear departure from their earlier style. Their previous release, Failures for Gods, came out only the year before, but play the two albums back-to-back and you might be surprised it is the same band. On average, the songs are much slower. The dissonance is harsher and often tonality gets lost in a mess of pitch bends. At the same time, almost paradoxically, the production is higher: every part can be heard clearly and is given equal weight. At first glance, the songs are much more chaotic, but on further reflection, they have matured greatly in terms of structure and development. Exploring this idea will be the focus of the review.
In fact, this can probably be best understood by a thorough examination of a single track, “Father, You’re Not a Father.” The opening bass pattern is F descending to C scale-wise, but the catch is it is not a major or minor scale. The scalar pattern is the Locrian mode. Although this is typically considered a “standard” scalar mode, it is almost never used (parts of Sibelius’ 4th Symphony being a prominent exception), because the root chord is diminished. This makes the main chord of the key highly dissonant. The F to C construction is then used to introduce the first main riff (minor simplifications for readability were made):
The riff is offset from the start of the bass, so it occurs in a different place of the measure. It is also played in triplet rather than the bass duple. Everything about how these two main ideas are layered adds to the dissonance, confusion, and chaos of the sound. They even shift up a half step to F# and C# which layers a tritone on top of everything and pulls you temporarily out of the main key. Yet the whole riff is perfectly consistent and coheres with the introduction by being built from the same exact material. This is what I meant earlier when I said the songs sound chaotic at first but upon repeated listens, the internal logic emerges. We’ll call this section A.
The second main riff is introduced shortly after some vocals. A texture change happens for this riff, because it is played as power chords rather than single notes. The time signature also changes to 4/4 from the 3/4 of the beginning. The feel is naturally slowed by the use of quarter notes instead of eighth notes or eighth note triplets from section A. The riff itself ascends in opposition to the A idea which is descending.
All of this taken together is great songwriting, because the slower note values, longer measure, and power chords all contribute to a heavier feel. Each change they made between section A and B contributes in the same emotional direction. Many modern bands don’t understand this type of consistency. I wrote out the B idea for reference, but it there is enough going on that it could be heard differently by different people (maybe some fifths should be in there?):
The track returns to the A idea and then the B idea with some slight changes and vocals layered in. This can be seen as a development of the initial ideas or merely as a restatement. The next section is a true development section, because Immolation take a classical ornamentation idea and appropriate it into their own context. A mordant is a rapid alternating of the main note with a neighbor tone (sort of like a short trill). In this song, they glissando the whole thing and create an ugly, intensified version of it. This develops the A idea into its own groove which gives way to another development in which they elongate the opening bass motif.
While all of this is going on, more and more textures, intense drumming, extra dissonant notes, and layering of power chords contribute to a whole song build to the climax. The climax is the fantastic solo near the end. It teases by starting slow and slurred, almost like the guitar is trying to hold a single note that is unstable and can’t help but flick around. It then erupts into a short burst of technical prowess, and of course, quotes the A theme to tie it all together.
Overall, it is this type of excellent songwriting that makes the album worth listening to (and a departure from their earlier material). The songs are tightly constructed, coherent pieces that simultaneously feel unraveled and chaotic. They achieve a rare balance that speaks to both the mind and the emotions. Many newer bands have tried to copy the style unsuccessfully (the recent Ulcerate album comes to mind). They miss that this is not just static dissonance, but forward moving and organic in addition to being technical and rigid.
NYDM founders Immolation are in the studio and preparing work on their ninth full-length album, according to apeshit zine.
According to the report, Immolation are in Sound Studios in Milbrook, NY with veteran producer Paul Orofino with Zack Ohren behind the mixing desk. The band state the album will be “one of their strongest yet.”
Starting out in the late 1980s as a speed metal band with death metal vocals, Immolation morphed in death metal and then technical death metal with 1996’s Here In After, regarded by many as the apex of the band.
After a long absence, they returned with a series of late death metal albums like Unholy Cult which used a simpler but more streamlined style of death metal.
With 2010’s Majesty and Decay, and later the Providence EP, Immolation went in a more commercial direction, taking the simple songwriting of radio metal like Slipknot and adding to it death metal and speed metal riffs.
As long-time fans, we’re hoping they’ll return to death metal because they do it so well, but we’re not so delusional as to forget that death metal very rarely pays the bills. Good luck to this long-running NY band.
To sweeten the pot of the Hope and Horror EP, Immolation added a live DVD of a show demonstrating material from throughout their career. Pound for pound, this recording is one of the better live video and audio combinations to come out of extreme metal. The sound is a single track extracted from the soundboard, leaving out most crowd noise and faithfully capturing the instrumental sound in a thin but clear quality where optimally guitars would be louder. However, nothing cannot be heard and there are no fade-outs, which makes this a joy to follow along, especially since the videographer specializes in capturing tight shots of the playing of instruments as well as wide pans that show the enormous synchronicity and professionalism of this band. Unlike most videos, there are enough shots of the drummer and they linger long enough for us to see the interplay of hands and feet. The performance Immolation delivers merits quality cinematic treatment because it is technically precise, with medium levels of energy that allow the music not performer aerobics to be the focus of the video, and with none of the unprofessionalism or confusion that can make metal shows drag like extended sentences in foreign prisons. For technical reasons as well as the power of the performance itself this video should be commended.
1. Swarm of Terror (03:09)
2. Unholy Cult (06:25)
3. Into Everlasting Fire (05:27)
4. Dead to Me (04:11)
5. Sinful Nature (03:14)
6. Harnessing Ruin (04:27)
7. Unpardonable Sin (04:26)
8. Crown the Liar (04:41)
9. No Jesus, No Beast (04:45)
10. At Mourning’s Twilight (06:07)
New EP, called Providence, out soon.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Majesty and Decay. The epic songwriting was gone, replaced with some simplified stuff that didn’t fit together except rhythmically. It’s what Harnessing Ruin threatened to be: a transition to mainstream material and a corresponding loss of self, sort of like some allege Turbo to have been for Judas Priest.
The mind can’t erase what the soul can’t embrace
The most anticipated death metal release of 2010 (along with the upcoming Morbid Angel, of course) Majesty and Decay has everything to please any sophisticated fan of the genre, yet still doesn’t quite meet the impossibly high standards of the group’s past. The 2007’s Shadows in the Light while it seemed to have retained all the ingredients of the New York masters’ brew somehow failed to live up to spoiled listeners’ expectations. The unfortunate flirting with “nu metal” elements as well as almost complete discarding of drumming-based structure poisoned the arrangements and conveyed a bad aftertaste to the whole record. Still head and shoulders above any fellow North American squad Immolation has taken the prolonged break in order to revise their direction and yet again prove themselves the ruling kings of the genre.
The best news Majesty and Decay has to offer is Steve Shalaty’s drumming. The man has been replacing Immolation’s godly Alex Hernandez ever since 2005’s Harnessing Ruin but it is only here that he unlocks his true talent. Steve has surely developed his own musical language since 2007 and the band has finally regained its rhythmic “pillars”. Everything has fallen into place at last: blasting endurance, inventive drum breaks and mid-paced punishment. The “inverted” riffing – although not as all-pervasive as on, say, Close to a World Below, – stresses the drumming very nicely and allows for some smooth gliding down the interwoven landscape of melody. Indeed, what sets the album apart in the vast Immolation discography is the use of melody. While the band is still a riff-fed beast, the heavy metal melody injecting the solos and seeping through the riffs enriches the sound world of the group, introduces “humanity” to the demonic environment of their instrumentation. The songs are shorter compared to the classic 90s era material, more to-the-point composition-wise, and definitely more “human” than we have come to expect from these New Yorkers.
Vigna (wonderfully supported by Bill Taylor as usual) goes right after Shalaty in this album’s list of heroes. The tight, powerful riffing, the wild soloing echoing with sadness and despair – all of it enhanced by the tasteful and balanced production ensures a satisfying listen. Guitars are put to good use in both the “Intro” and the “Interlude”, which indeed set the atmosphere very well. Ross Dolan’s vocals have become completely decipherable on here without loosing the emotion and recklessness, while his bass is so elegantly put into the mix that it acquires percussive quality at times. All of the above perfectly reflects the lyrical themes of the album: the loneliness of modern man lost in the midst of colossal fight for world domination, the evaporation of values and purposes igniting intrinsic hells and leaving no hope for the spirit.
“Our threatened kingdoms The world is divided Trample ourselves While we claw for the prize”
Still, the album comes with its share of flaws too. The band implements the tension buildup/release approach in some of the songwriting here and not only fails to achieve the desired effect, but sometimes looses momentum completely (most notably “The Purge”, “Divine Code”, “Power and Shame” ). The distribution of Immolation’s volatile energy here often reduces the impact instead of boosting it. This new trick is still very raw/unrefined and cannot fully replace the mathematic complexity of their 90s output. The classic (and eagerly awaited) “last song devastation” is also pretty much wasted here: next to all the best, epic songs scattered across the album “The Comfort of Cowards” feels pretty weak (while certainly not entirely filler) for a killing blow. The cover art is a disgrace. This computer game-like visual representation does justice neither to music nor lyrics. Also, the band probably needs to consider revising their logo after all these years of using a stretched font as one.
All in all, this is a mandatory purchase for anyone with at least a slight interest in today’s metal. It is entirely possible that Immolation’s return will be the finest mainstream death metal album by the end of the year (even with all the mentioned flaws taken into account) as this reviewer doubts Morbid Angel or any other competitor for that matter has the guts to top this material.
-The Eye in the Smoke-