Ilsa’s fifth studio LP and Relapse debut, Corpse Fortress is a foreboding experience drenched in murkiness and horror. If this is your first taste of Ilsa, the death/doom act weave elements of sludge into their work, establishing a wretched and sinister sound. The music is like taking the best parts of Hooded Menace and blending it with acts like Eyehategod. Haunting vocals, misty distortion, and a nightmarish atmosphere come together to make Corpse Fortress a sincerely dark record worth praising.
The drumming throughout “Hikikomori” is calculated to the point of building tension. It lingers with slow beats for the majority of the track, creating anxiety as the distortion pounces alongside the vocals. The bass makes a thunderous presence as it sends tremors through the material. The work sticks to droning for the most part and helps to establish the emotion and aura that Corpse Fortress sets out to unleash.
“Nasty, Brutish” kicks things off with a much livelier guitar rhythm as Sharad (bass) and Joshy (drums) ramp up low-end tempo. The vocals cut through the instrumentation, producing a great mix of shrieks and growls. Rather than drone on, Ilsa goes for pure adrenaline this time around. There’s a wicked solo that bursts in towards the end, creating a sonic wail. “Cosmos Antinomos” opens on subtle drumming and lingering streaks of distortion. Orion (vocals) screams, “Bear me on broad back / Chiron / Sprint across skies / Buzz alongside / Ah-Muzen Cab / Xunan Cab / Yum Chimil.” These lyrics feed into the instrumentation and vice versa, undoubtedly building upon the fear and darkness the work exudes. All these songs have the potential to land on a horror movie soundtrack; they produce an invasive feeling of tension and unease.
Halfway into Corpse Fortress, listeners will certainly be pleased to hear all the variety the band has to offer. There’s just enough of droning doom and chaotic rhythms to keep their formula moving. This is in large thanks to Brendan and Tim (guitars). On a technical level, Ilsa is constantly keeping their work expanding, changing up style and song structure with each track. This all works in favor towards the record’s atmosphere, and creates a truly creepy and furious experience.
“Old Maid” roams in dense distortion before taking a drastic shift into a hectic rhythm that makes for a sludgy crust approach. “Drums Of The Dark Gods” drops in with an immense weight of distortion. The material focuses on consistent droning, allowing each guitar chord to linger, slithering their way through the progression. As the record’s final track, the minimalism ends up making a grand aura of unease and devastation.
Ilsa’s Corpse Fortress is a superb experience because it offers riveting song technicality and grand emotion. With each release, the band continues to grow their sound and grow as artists—-Corpse Fortress being one of their best works so far into their career. Their blend of death, doom, and sludge creates a cosmic atmosphere of dread and mystery—grabbing audiences and dragging them into a profound darkness.