Immolation // Kingdom of Conspiracy
Rating: 3.5/5.0 — Nastier than a NYC subway bench
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU] [US]
Websites: everlastingfire.com | myspace.com/immolation
Release Dates: EU: 2013.05.10 | NA: 05.14.2013
New York’s own death metal juggernaut, Immolation have seen their stock rise steadily over their lengthy career, to the point where they’ve become one of the most consistent and impressive units in the field. Their ability to blend technical proficiency with savage and broootal, groove-based death has developed and blossomed through the years and rarely have they disappointed the metal masses with a dud release (though I didn’t totally get behind Harnessing Ruin). 2010s Majesty and Decay was a satisfying dose of blasting, bleeding noise with loads of tech chops and Kingdom of Conspiracy is a proper continuation of that style and approach. No surprises await long time fans beyond the high level of playing and extreme levels of heaviness, and all the hallmarks of Immolation sounds are here in spades. You get ten tracks of epic sized, churning, roiling chaos accentuated by inhuman blast beats, corkscrewing, ominous riffs and unpredictable time shifts and lurches. The classic discordance and slight regard for harmony and melody are here as well, though interesting melodic touches do lay buried in the cracks and crevices. This isn’t easy listening fare and like most tech-death, it takes a few spins to really make sense, but Immolation is the only tech-death band I regularly enjoy because they’re masters of making it as palatable as possible. It’s still heavy as a glacier though!
Most of the songs here drift between blistering speed and slower, more oppressive tempos, though each is fraught with unusual flourishes and embellishments to bewilder and befuddle. The tracks that really smoothed out my brain wrinkles include “God Complex” with its cascading riffs that twist and contort like a carny freak; the depressive black metal influence and more restrained pace of “The Great Sleep” and the reptilian, slithering riffs and drum work throughout “Keep the Silence.”
Other noteworthy moments come during the title track (lots of menacing, slow grind), “Bound to Order” (frenzied, but surprisingly melodic leads) and “All That Awaits” (which blends Morbid Angel‘s “Where the Slime Live” with unnatural blasting and razor-sharp riffs).
I wouldn’t say any song here is a failure, but “Echoes of Despair” and “Indoctrination” don’t hit me quite as hard as the rest of the material and they drag just a tad. Sound-wise, things are clear and maybe too clean and modern sounding for a death record, but at least you can hear every note.
Musically, this is tighter than a free Beiber concert held in a Burger King. These guys are fluid, solid players and they mesh exceedingly well as a unit. The guitar-work of Robert Vigna and Bill Taylor is insanely fast, varied and heavy, yet flashes melody in a way that never gets in the way 0f the brutality. Their playing makes the music epic, evil and crushing, yet so nuanced and interesting, it’s hard to find fault.
Keeping up with the Joneses, Steve Shalaty delivers a truly memorable performance behind the kit and at times, totally steals the thunder from the fretboard pyrotechnics (I especially loved his playing throughout “Keep the Silence”). Ross Dolan has a solid death roar, but he was never one of my favorites and at times, his delivery can feel one-dimensional and the weak link of the band. Still, he pulls his weight here and makes things heavy and nasty.
While this is a technical album, it never wanders into the realm of pointless wanking, nor does it cause me to zone out and lose the story. The band’s proficiency is constrained to serve the songs themselves and that’s what’s important.
Overall, a worthy addition to the Immolation catalog, and while I think it’s a slight notch down from Majesty and Decay, it’s still a high quality, no bullshit dose of brutality. These guys age like fine wine and they keep giving New York a good name (which is good, since so many other things are giving it a bad name these days). Mavens of tech death, your kingdom awaits you. Excelsior!