Part 2 of 6 on Immolation
Immolation were in no hurry to release their second album, which came five years after their first, and is a suitably worked-over, defining statement by the group. Although a number of the more brisk songs () recall the debut, the newer elements are: an unconscionable heaviness, more dissonance and guitar squealing, the word "Christ" prominently in almost every song, and longer guitar solos.
What this all adds up to is a belated response to Morbid Angel's Blessed Are the Sick. No longer is the band content to pummel away, as though "brutality" were enough to win over the listener--rather, the composition is varied, and almost pretentiously intellectualized ("time signatures" and whatnot). On the other hand, as with the Morbid Angel album, the songs are catchier than before, and completely "legible," not to mention spacious. Where most other death metal is a cluttered horror vacui, Immolation here almost approach--gasp!--dynamics.
While many bands have "technical" components more remarkable and overstated than this album, they are rarely as integrated: for instance, Necrophagist could be accused of mere window-dressing with technical frills, while obviously a number of other bands are just metalcore bands who throw in some shop-worn cliches to pass themselves off as "brutal technical death metal." Immolation, like Darkthrone on Soulside Journey, are not aiming for mere effect, but subordinate everything to the song.
That all being said, this is not my favorite Immolation record-- it is completely immersive and listenable, but the best songs (see below) tower above the rest of the record (the middle), much like Slayer's Reign in Blood. The result is that the disparity between existing songs becomes the disparity between the middling songs and their unrealized potential: "Why didn't they just write a record full of hits?" Unlike Reign in Blood, the middle of the album does not consist in short songs that just race by.
Great album to put on and sit through, although not every song is a hit. Still, staggeringly more thoughtful than most other death metal.
score: 4 stars (****)/5