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Immolation | Shadows in the Light | review | metal | Lollipop
Shadows in the Light (Century Media)
by Tim Den
After almost 20 years together, Immolation have all but written a death metal language all their own. 2005's crowning achievement, Harnessing Ruin, finally saw them peak in terms of songwriting and execution after a string of top-notch records, so the question facing Shadows in the Light is not so much "where to now?" but "can they live up to the standard set by Harnessing Ruin?"
After hearing first single "World Agony," my head almost exploded from the overwhelming genius. Just like Harnessing Ruin's standout (the title track), it wrangles and confines the malevolent EVILNESS of Immolation's trademark ghastly riffs into a comparatively accessible song structure, transporting a ghoul-filled nightmare in an almost straightforward time signature. The groove is instantly gratifying, the guitar interplay rife with subtext and blood-spitting heaviness, and then there's the ending breakdown. Good sirs (and the VERY FEW madams among you), I use no exaggeration when I say that the fucking thing redefines the word "breakdown." This isn't Victory Records' breakdown or even Christ Illusion's breakdown, this is on par with classic Napalm Death and Sick Of It All breakdowns. How often do you hear a breakdown that carries with it a bent melodic hook and an encompassing, swirling, omnipresent, floating chord progression that sounds like the apocalyptic battle between man and machine? If your brain doesn't explode from the menacing catchiness that's at once intimidating and inviting, your body will break apart from thrashing to it so hard. I almost threw my neck out the first time it hit me. Whew!
But what about the rest of the album? Is it on the same level as "World Agony?" Yes and no. Yes in that it continues to juggle squealing dissonance and traditional death metal fare, no in that it never quite achieves what "World Agony" offers. Opener "Hate's Plague," "Passion Kill," and "Tarnished" are all aural slaughters worthy of countless repeat listens, but none of them are transcendentally magical. It also doesn't help that the second half of the record is much weaker than the first, with highlights only coming in during the breakdowns of "Lying With Demons" and the title track. But does that mean Shadows in the Light has failed to uphold Immolation's legacy as one of death metal's few who've an almost flawless track record? Hells to the no. It just means that - while completely engrossing and captivating - Shadows in the Light has its weak moments and not enough truly devastating revelations. And that's totally okay with me, cuz a fucking awesome Immolation album instead of a godsend Immolation album still means that I get to blow my eardrums out ad nauseam.