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Immolation - Unholy Cult
Review: Artistic output arcs between increasing ability and declining need to define the voice a band uses to express the ideas that processed through its worldview chronicle the journey of learning that is life, and with Unholy Cult, Immolation channel the power of their streamlined technical death metal into a return to influences. This both updates the cultural knowledge of genres past in the minds of the present, and infuses the Immolation sound with a vibrancy and cinematic frame of narrative that gives it new direction.
As in speed metal bands past, the focus of this album is smoothly abrupt transitions between tempi such that a sequence of riffs cycles and, as if generating a new pattern from the exchange of energy between parent patterns, spins off another riff that develops into a series before the patterns repeat. In doing so, songs find a mid-paced middle ground between the tugging bouncy dirge characteristic to Immolation and the higher-speed riffs that slide from offbeat percussion into cadenced muted strumming; this, coupled with the dynamic tendencies mentioned above, evokes older metal styles, specifically Mercyful Fate and Exodus.
In addition to this new style, the streamlined version of the technical riffing which defined Here in After appears, including the tendency to linger in droning melodic lead riffing suspended in a cage of two-hit drumming, and this gives motivic force to these riffs which speed metal never could achieve, turning the abrupt into the retrospectively logical and deriving an energy from a sequence of sudden changes so that the subtle can emerge again as a coloring for the forward direction of the music.
Like older styles, Unholy Cult gives prominence to lead soloing and a theatrical sense of narrative, in which riffs resemble a maze through which a character transits, noting guidepoints that appear as modulating symbol throughout the course, creating a sense of returning to a cycle that is forever evolving in the way a short movie or music video might. Dissonant chords and staggered strumming of the notes in a chord against the acceleration of tempo flesh out this style, as do the thick striated vocals of Ross Dolan, which without drawing attention to themselves guide these songs like an ineffable voice of reason.