Thursday, June 5, 2014

Best to Worst: Immolation

Dawn of Possession (1991)

The best. I mean, the absolute fucking best! This is by far the greatest achievement of New York's finest. Between the band's bizarre riffs and pattern arrangements and Harris Johns' flawlessly haunted production, 'Dawn of Possession' is a masterpiece and the penultimate display of evil death metal wrought from the Northeast. The perfect companion-piece for a hike through Untermyer Park in Yonkers (where Immolation is from) as that was the hangout for occultists in the '70's and '80's, not to mention the Son of Sam himself, David Berkowitz. Prepare to be blown away as you listen to 'Those Left Behind' whilst staring at the Jersey Palisades overlooking the Hudson. Theme music for your ass, mofo!

Failures for Gods (1999)

Not as densely technical as 'Here in After', 'Failures...' can be perceived as the band's first step towards catchier songwriting. That's not to say that this is some sort of journey into the realms of soft rock and easy listening, but it was rather obvious that the band were going more for feeling and vibe on this one than it's almost jazzier predecessor. As far as songwriting goes, I place this alongside the band's flawless debut but the one thing that fucks it up a bit is the production. I could only imagine this with a Harris Johns sheen. Aside from that one flaw these songs are among their best and this is perhaps the second most played Immolation album in my domain. Also of note is the performance of then new drummer Alex Hernandez, who not only fit the band's style like a glove but managed to add more "kook" to Immolation's style.

Close to a World Below (2000)

The production here is a slight step up from the band's last album but can at times be a bit on the muddy side. I'm not sure what the deal is with Immolation's long-standing battle with production standards but...

Musically, the evil is still here in all it's glory along with the band's knack for bizarro riff intricacies. Unfortunately, Immolation would lose one of their founding members (guitarist Tom Wilkinson) after this album's release and despite all of the praise that other guitarist Bob Vigna gets to this day, I strongly feel that an important piece of the band's sound left with Wilkinson. Nevertheless, 'Close...' is a highly enjoyable record and in many ways I view it as the end of the truly essential Immolation albums. After that it's been a creative minefield of hits and misses. Nothing terribly offensive (ie: Cold Lake, Illud Insanum Divinus), but nothing terribly inspired, either.

Here in After (1996)

After a lengthy hiatus, Immolation returned with their sophomore album and I had slightly mixed feelings about it. Now don't get me wrong, I don't think this album sucks by ANY means, but topping 'Dawn...' is a fucking TALL order. For me, at any rate.

Some of the band's best and most memorable material is found on this album as is their most technically challenging. Despite this, I was actually glad to hear the band return to a more eerie approach to riff-writing with the follow-up, 'Failures for Gods'.

Majesty and Decay (2010)

After what I consider to be Immolation's "dark age" the band came back with a fucking vengeance in 2010 with this monster of an album. The band had finally achieved that "perfect" production and overall this is the album that I feel should have come out after 2000's 'Close to a World Below'.

Kingdom of Conspiracy (2013)

KoC finds Immolation back in the throes of production woes. Instead of an undercooked and dry sounding album (ie: Failures for Gods, Unholy Cult, Harnessing Ruin) KoC is WAY overproduced. Fortunately this takes absolutely nothing away from the songs themselves as 'Kingdom...' finds Immolation continuing on the path blazed by their previous album, 'Majesty and Decay'.

Providence (2011)

Tasty little treat that manages to score lower than 'Kingdom...' and 'Majesty...' only for its shorter running-time. Really this release is about equal to the aforementioned duo in terms of quality and likeability. There are moments of pure evil on here that remind me of the band's earlier works.

Unholy Cult (2002)

Now we get to that part of the list where things get a bit hazy.

I'm not sure what it is about this album that I find fault with as many of the songs are damn good but it exists nonetheless. Maybe it was my inherent prejudice against the band replacing Tom Wilkinson or maybe it was the fact that 'Unholy Cult' broke the cycle of stupendous album covers that adorned each Immolation release up until this point. I don't know. The fact is, 'Unholy Cult' is not a bad album by any means but it would seem that my agitation by the band's simple changes would be a sign of things to come.

Shadows in the Light (2007)

Easily the band's worst production (and that's no small feat). The drum sound on this album is absolutely fucking awful. Just awful. The songwriting isn't the worst but it's far from the best. Though there are some genuinely aggressive moments on this album, the weirdo-ism's of days past are just that... long fucking gone. Thankfully the band snapped to their senses and released a smashing follow-up worthy of the early half of their catalog.

Harnessing Ruin (2005)

By far the lamest album the band has released. I don't know WHAT the fuck was going on in their personal lives, but whatever it was it obviously stunted the creative flow of the band. Nothing evil. Nothing interesting. Just lame. Lame. Lame. Lame. Lame.

Hope and Horror (2007)

The only reason this scores lower than 'Harnessing...' is that it's an -ep- and the songs here are just NOT interesting whatsoever. Obviously the writer's block that plagued the band during the writing process for 'Harnessing...' had not quite worn off during this time.

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