I consider death metal to be a perfectly viable form of art, meaning that unlike some other places, I don’t grade death metal on a curve.
Many people point to “Close To A World Below” as the best Immolation album, and I’d have to agree. It seems that Immolation were firing on all cylinders, and some of the best songs they’ve done were on “Close To A World Below”. “Close To A World Below” also had great production, and death metal is one of those genres where powerful production usually helps immensely. Good raw production is much more difficult to achieve though, and unfortunately most Immolation albums have production so poor that it detracts from their albums.
It’s difficult to actually put the sound of Immolation into words. They certainly use some dissonant tones, as well as some strange melodies on top of the rhythm guitars. They’ve never been the fastest, most brutal, most extreme, or most offensive death metal band. Instead Immolation has made a choice to stay on the path of trying to focus on writing good songs that bring up a general feeling of despair and depression (something actually quite different for a band that isn’t doom/death).
Immolation have also painted themselves in a corner, because they’ve constantly changed between albums. They made an exception to that rule, which were the last 2 albums, “Unholy Cult” and “Harnessing Ruin”. You can add a 3rd to that list, because I think they’ve simply become too comfortable doing what’s easy.
I can’t help but feeling that everything is standard. From the album art of fire burning behind an angel statue, to the recycled riffs from the previous albums, but lacking many of the hooks, with the exception of “World Agony”, which the band has made a video for. I guess even in the world of death metal people are making singles… Song titles like “Whispering Death” and “Deliverer Of Evil” just scream clitche, leading me to the feeling everything on “Shadows In The Light” has already been done by Immolation a few times already, only before they did it with more effort and passion.
I normally don’t like to mention production, because I think it’s something that regular people shouldn’t worry about. The only time I mention production quality is of course is when it gets very bad. That snare drum has little bit of clang, just as the toms often sound flat, almost like hitting leather. The guitars could use a little bit of tuning, as they sound like the strings are often old, and have a little slack, and certainly could use some tweaking to bring some power out, as well as bring out the individual instruments would help as well. Why is it that Paul Orofino produced the best recording Immolation album, “Close To A World Below”, so why can’t he do good production a second time?
Death metal has made a comeback in a big way, and there are lots of bands from the old school that have made a name for themselves by being creative and crafting a signature sound. I just find it too bad that Immolation doesn’t put a lot more effort into making a great album at a time when so many young kids would be choosing between buying an old-school death metal album over some lower-tiered metalcore band.