Immolation - _Harnessing Ruin_
(Listenable Records, 2005)
by: Jackie Smit (
Whichever way you care to cut it, few can deny that in the grand scheme of things, Immolation have been handed a pretty raw deal. While their peers have been basking in the increasingly warming glow of the popular metal press, Immolation remain the choice of a decidedly left field niche, despite being arguably a tier above the majority of bands in their genre. The evidence for this statement was of course amply laid down with 2000's _Close to a World Below_ and 2002's _Unholy Cult_ -- two records that continue to astonish on several levels, not least for the New York quintet's distinct, pitch-black approach to song writing; a proposition that has been refined and distilled even more on _Harnessing Ruin_.There are those who upon investigating the record will regard the return of Paul Orofino to the producer's chair, and the subsequent similarities that _Harnessing Ruin_ has to its predecessors in terms of sound, as symptoms of stagnation. But equally one could ask what direction Immolation really could have taken with this record. As such the album represents a logical continuation of what has come before, a damn fine perpetuation it is too. True, it doesn't eclipse the likes of _Unholy Cult_, but it doesn't pale by comparison either. The brooding staccato riffing of "Our Savior Sleeps", as a prime example, represents a band who have developed their signature sound to a level where they are almost transcended to a genre of their own. But the true highlight of this record is the title track, and it is here where Ross Dolan proves himself as one of death metal's finest front men, simply by virtue of how his voice is able to drive the song forward.With a number of potential highlights already slated for release in 2005, unfortunately _Harnessing Ruin_ may end up passing the uninitiated by. Whether that's a good or a bad thing from the viewpoint of a longtime fan is up for debate, but one thing is certain: whoever casts their lots into the death metal pool this year will have a lot to live up to.[Todd DePalma: "_Harnessing Run_ is an intelligently subversive album in terms of actual musicality. Slickly modifying the identity of sound with Morbid Angel-esque riffs progressing in bombastic lifts, "Swarm of Terror" opens this album and sets the tone for the record as metamorphosis that occasionally looks back to earlier themes, creating the most diverse mood of any album they have released. Individually these may be Rob Vigna and Ross Dolan's finest performances. In another time Vigna may have been a classical violist, his solos slide up and down the fret board in dizzying, atypical modes that screech and puncture through the accompanying rhythm section as if to carry out most (non)divine retribution. Dolan remains the strongest (and most easily understood) vocalist in death metal and indulges in some novelty as well with varying degrees of effect. "Dead to Me" comes close (for a short time) to approximating rock cliché in the form of Dolan's spoken word over a clean guitar intro -- it sounds forced and misplaced (see the infinitely more convincing trade off between phrasing styles in "Son of Iniquity"). Unfortunately, the departure of Alex Hernandez left a hole that remains un-patched. Steve Shalaty is competent, but sounds far less distinguished and heavy aside his band mates. Immolation has always been a band of intense power and inventiveness -- scary given their modesty. Each album since _Close to a World Below_ has become less atmospheric and experimental, but thankfully in reason and still grounded in expanding -- rather than arrogantly abandoning -- their style. But it raises the dual question of what can possibly come next? For now we sit stuffed, even relieved."]
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