(We’re fortunate to have a return visit from our guest contributor The Baby Killer, with his review of the new Immolation EP released for free by Scion A/V.)
We all love hearing success stories in death metal; bands withstanding the test of time and consistently pumping out quality tunes for years and years. Everyone knows the big names like Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation et al, but one name you don’t hear often enough is Immolation. More than two decades have passed since the band first put music to tape, and they’re still standing strong, ready and willing to go toe-to-toe with any modern death metal band, and as their brand new EP Providence shows, these New York veterans still pack a mean punch.
If one were to sum up this EP in one word, it would have to be “ominous”. Each of the five songs has its own individual flow and feel, but they are all tied together by a sense of foreboding, something Immolation have always been good at capturing in their music. From the opening track “What They Bring” to the closer “Swallow the Fear”, the band’s twenty-plus years of expertise in all things dark and evil shines through, permeating everything from Ross Dolan’s signature monstrous growls to the beefy, precise drumming of Steve Shalaty. Many newer bands would do well to take notes on Immolation, because if you’re trying to sound evil, it’s not about how low your guitar is tuned or how many dead priests you have on your album art — it’s about the tone, pure and simple.
Another thing that stood out to me about Providence was that it seems to follow a much steadier beat than the majority of the band’s previous efforts. When they first came around, Immolation were notorious for their syncopation and unconventional time signatures (I’m pretty sure “No Jesus No Beast” is in 3/3, or something close to it), but this time around they seem more focused on creating a steady, driving rhythm tailor-made for head banging and scene-kid stomping. This is obviously not a bad thing, though, and for two reasons. (more after the jump . . .)
First, it allows the songs to be very catchy without sacrificing any of the heaviness that we’ve come to know and love, and second, it lets the experimental guitarwork of axemen Robert Vigna and Bill Taylor take the spotlight, particularly in “What They Bring” and “Illumination”.
And speaking of “Illumination”, that song is definitely the highlight of the whole thing. It starts off with a low-end string intro (cello, I believe?), and then seamlessly transitions into what is essentially a three-and-a-half minute imperial march with double bass and guitar solos. Plus, at the end of the song there’s some very cool fade in/out trickery, fooling you into thinking it’s over and then fading back in just in time to end for real.
Unfortunately, after “Illumination” the music starts to lose a little bit of steam; “Still Lost” and the title track are the ever-present, good-but-not-memorable filler tracks. But luckily, the closing track “Swallow the Fear” picks it back up, especially when the solos kick in.
It’s safe to say we metalheads are no strangers to guitar solos, but it’s always refreshing when a solo actually does spice up a song instead of just padding out the running time, and that’s exactly the case with the ones in Providence. They may be a little on the brief side and leave you wanting more, but they are very well composed. They’re not really technical solos per se, and it’s definitely not mindless shredding, but something in between. Maybe it’s because they follow the key and beat of the songs really well, or maybe it’s just because Immolation have been doing this for decades and they know what they’re doing, but either way it works. And unlike the solos, by the time the EP itself is finished you’ll be thoroughly satisfied.
All in all, Providence has just about everything you’re looking for: clear production, demonic vocals, thundering drums, catchy riffs and tastefully written solos. The bass is a little hard to hear save for the low end, but everything else makes up for it tenfold, so nobody’s going to get up in arms about it anytime soon. It’s heavy as all hell but still very accessible to newcomers, so if any of you have friends who are just getting into the extreme metal scene, this would be a great place for them to start. It’s a legendary band playing some really solid material, so if they like what they hear then they can start getting into the other, more well-known albums, and if not, it’s less than twenty minutes out of their day, no biggie.
And if the past four paragraphs haven’t done it for you, then here’s the cherry on top: IT’S FUCKIN’ FREE! If you get the chance to see Immolation at any point on their current US tour or have access to the Internet (which you obviously do if you’re reading this, if not you’re in the Twilight Zone or something), you can pick this bad boy up for literally nothing, and trust me, it’s good enough to pay for. (HERE is the link that will take you to the download page.)
Kudos to Scion A/V for collaborating with Immolation on this; those guys really seem to have their shit together when it comes to top-notch death metal and grind (see also the new Scion stuff from Wormrot and Magrudergrind). These New Yorkers don’t look like they’re going to be slowing down anytime soon, so I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next.