Immolation - _Shadows in the Light_
(Listenable, 2007)
by: T. DePalma (9.5 out of 10)
Consider that Yonkers New York's Immolation are perhaps the best example of perseverance and dedication to craft that any one band in the death metal genre has embodied. And that while being projected well-short of a gimmick, it is the closest thing the band has to any collective persona outside of their music. Their contemporaries like Deicide, Morbid Angel and Behemoth have since coasted on sensational exploits and over the top imagery. But for Immolation, who continue to launch their salvos against thrones both real and invisible, the music, as they say, speaks for itself. While doubtlessly hard to compete and sell a similar brand of anti-religious resentment when coming from some of the most normal looking guys on the planet, the same plainness they exude in matters outside of music is also what's kept their records free from spoil.

Yet even for a musician in metal's current "boom" period, it remains far from a lucrative profession. Remember that in the last year, both Kingston Jacoby, long-time bassist for Deeds of Flesh and Deceased's Mike Smith were forced to bow out of any future tour dates with their respective bands. Jacoby vaguely imparted that the he could no longer live the life of a touring musician while the Deceased camp went on to explain that responsibilities at home and work had taken precedence. Some years before, similar circumstances led to retirement of Immolation's original guitarist, Tom Wilkinson, who now works in the cable installation business.

With this in mind, it was not so surprising to read the initial press reports and interviews that began the build-up for this latest pair of releases, both of which are seen (along with a much more conventional single / video in "World Agony") as a chance to reintroduce the band and connect with new listeners of more varied tastes. On top of what could already be guessed from their last effort, this marks the first time Immolation have explicitly stated their intention to actively market themselves outside their core death metal fanbase. Frontman Ross Dolan:

"For anyone not familiar with the band or not really into this type of music, but still into heavy stuff, if they hear this song ["World Agony"], it might be something that they want to pursue looking into, which is what you want to do with a video track. It's going to be in front of a lot more people than you normally would playing at a death metal show, so the point is to get something out there that might appeal to people with other tastes."

"Casting night on God's domain
Haunting presence that shadows life
Exhaling death without grace
Burning chaos on the promise land"
("Hate's Plague")

_Shadows in the Light_ is Immolation's seventh studio album and their second with drummer Steve Shalaty. Almost immediately, fears that the group might be abandoning their specialty in favor of reaching out for mass appeal are completely scorched and forgotten. Dolan's remarks may seem (rightly, with metal's track record) like a caution to some, but are rarely the caveat for what follows. The band seems to thrive on this challenge, one that seems less likely to cheat its way toward monetary gain, than it provides them with fresh avenues to launch their ideas -- ones that deserve to be heard and that people even ought to hear. That Immolation's lyrics have always been written non-esoterically and from an easily identifiable standpoint has continually left open the door to greater recognition, and one of the main reasons why they are so well regarded in the first place.

Although the entire group feels much more together this time around, it's Shalatay who benefits the most individually, monstrously underscoring the brutal, often militaristic aspect of _Shadows_. "World Agony", the first single for the album is basically "Harnessing Ruin" part two: a marshal advance driven by guitar and drums, Dolan's great bear-like voice breathing heavy into a relentless, cold and uncaring charge. It's short and trim and succeeds where it needs to in conveying exactly what the title means to say and in as many ways they can show in a three-minute space as well as being the only track of its kind on the entire record.

"The body, the essence, of all life now fades
There is no escape, from the silence that waits"
("Whispering Death")

Up till now, new influences in the group's sound appeared genuine but unsuccessfully worked into the material or not fully accepted by their audience. Problems that the new album either improves upon ("Passion Kill") or wholly eliminates (_Harnessing Ruin's_ ill-received experiment with clean vocals, backed up by rockish guitar entrances) all while moving forward but at the same time reincorporating much of what made their early albums so distinct.

As a small but welcome regression, tracks like "Tarnished", "Breathing in the Dark", "Lying With Demons", "Deliverer of Evil" and "Whispering Death" recall the darker exhibitions of _Here in After_ and _Failures for Gods_, tones as likely to frighten as well as inspire with an almost devotional quality. On the other hand, "The Weight of Devotion", "Passion Kill" and the title track reach borderline perfection between the hardcore influenced, machine-like earthquake of sound featured on _Unholy Cult_, proving that bands do not (or should not) have to sweeten their sound to be considered "melodic" or that they need sacrifice sophistication to write a decent groove.

Lyrically, Immolation no longer attempts a throttling of Christianity by name (being for some time redundant, but more -- probably incapable of saying it any better than _Here in After_). Instead, God is invoked as salve and silencer; religion a false, toxic retreat into shame, torture and death that erupts -- as it can never contain itself in deed or ideology -- in a war that will swallow the entire world.

"Find their way, lose themselves
Find your faith, lose your mind
Give your trust, take your chance
Heaven promised, death achieved"
("Passion Kills")

All of what's heard on "Shadows in the Light" represents a somewhat necessary reinvention forced by time and in every respect marks a refreshing, more complete and solid turn from their last effort. Heavier too. While some reviewers apparently went ahead with the first circulating copies of a rough mix, Orofino's production is not the nightmare of "mud" styled after their early backlog. The final mix is logical step in keeping with their partnership. It is clean and loud and preserves all voices in accordance with _Shadow's_ ultimate aim, to strike beyond distortion and the error of faith, the worst of our illusions.


(article published 10/6/2007)

2/22/2005 J Smit Immolation: Hail to the Conquerors
5/13/2001 P Schwarz Immolation: A Truly Individual Sin
7/7/1999 P Schwarz Immolation: Incinerating Yourself to Live
2/9/1996 G Filicetti Immolation: Continuing the Crucifixion
8/23/2013 A El Naby 8.5 Immolation - Kingdom of Conspiracy
3/7/2010 J Smit 9.5 Immolation - Majesty & Decay
6/10/2007 T DePalma Immolation - Of Hope and Horror
1/20/2005 J Smit 9 Immolation - Harnessing Ruin
6/30/2003 P Schwarz 9 Immolation - Unholy Cult
1/10/2001 K Buchanan 9 Immolation - Close to a World Below
7/7/1999 P Schwarz 9.5 Immolation - Failures for Gods
1/17/1996 G Filicetti 7 Immolation - Here In After
6/3/2005 T DePalma Deicide / Immolation / Skinless / Despised Icon / With Passion Tear Through the City, Tear Through the Soul
5/21/2003 J Smit Immolation / Malevolent Creation / Aborted / Noctiferia A Kingdom United
5/21/2003 J Montague Immolation / Malevolent Creation / Aborted / Noctiferia Goth Club Destroyed by Death Metal Gods
3/16/1997 A Bromley Cannibal Corpse / Brutal Truth / Immolation / Oppresor Cannabis Corpse and Friends
5/10/1996 V Singh Deicide / Fallen Christ / Immolation / Incantation The Wave of Death
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