Close to a World Below (Metal Blade)
by Tim Den
I have the utmost respect for Immolation. Born of a time when death metal was reaching its maximum population limit, they distinguished themselves not by being the fastest or the heaviest, but by customizing those prerequisites into a haunting, creepy sound that no one (other than Incantation) could claim their own. Beginning with the landmark Dawn of Possession debut, Immolation have always made their guitars sound like the deathcry of swirling angels, falling from the sky with their eyes gouged out. Forever dark and always unexpectedly intricate, they’ve put out nothing but surprising ventures throughout their career, making themselves known as one of the most uncompromising and progressive bands in the genre. They’ve maintained their weirdness on Close to a World Below, but they’ve surprised us yet again by becoming — gasp — more memorable and less morbid-sounding. The songs are still a maze of uneasy time changes made graceful, but the vocals and guitar sound no longer echo those of Holy Crap I Shit My Pants like they used to. I guess you can say this album has the NY boys grittier, more angry-sounding than eerie-sounding, but really they’re just continuing the tradition of never falling into our expectations. The only hunch I have is that their second record, Here in After, was so incredibly complicated that they’ve been trying to make up for it ever since. But who knows? Immolation is an unpredictable monster, one that takes our heads off every time, whether using technical machinery or their simple, meaty jaws.
(2828 Cochran St., PMB 302 Simi Valley, CA 93065)