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Immolation - Shadows in the Light
Review: While the technical prowess of this band peaked, their knowledge of aesthetic wavered when they choose to incorporate too many metalcore and rock influences on Harnessing Ruin, so now they've doubled back, combining the concise and distinctive songwriting of that album with the urgent rhythms and brachitic song constructions of Unholy Cult. The result is the most powerful Immolation album yet in that it is devoid of unnecessary and unfinished parts, brings its power to bear on generating not dissipating focus, and by using larger and more varied intervals creates distinctive melodies like the best of radio metal from generations past.
On this album, Immolation streamline songs to a handful of riffs that work together structurally like puzzle pieces, each conveying the song in a different direction until repetition causes us to pull back and see it as a whole. Riffs have also dropped in complexity so that many are two-chord rushing rhythm work that, like many of the phrasal themes of this album, echoes the earthmoving power of early Black Sabbath in that it clears space in which the melodic hooks which Immolation have employed so well in the past can do their work.
Where previous albums created a mood of futuristic industrial havoc through their expansion into many directions at once, the tightening of motives on Shadows in the Light lets Immolation bridge the world of their influences, who wrote cinematic short and repetitively cyclic songs so that choruses could echo trenchant images from music videos, with the genre they helped create, in which each successive riff forces the reinterpretation of past riffs, driving the listener into a place where their brains must grasp structural relationships to separate the discernible pattern of the song from the overwhelming aesthetic in which it is cloaked.
The result, compelling as earlier Immolation albums, loses some of the otherworldly abstraction that made early death metal so distinctive but rebels against the linear integration of disparate and unrelated elements that marks metalcore, and instead surges toward syncretism by insisting on a tightly correlated relationship between parts in silhouetting a dominant theme to emerge and then making it develop. Luckily for those who enjoy Immolation, the band has room to grow -- hopefully in a direction like that of 1970s progressive rock or classical -- in making these phrases even longer and more ambitious, and leaving behind any elements of purely cyclic songwriting in favor of its snowball effect thematic integration. Having avoided the traps of both past and present, Immolation has only its own ambition to define its future.