Immolation - Harnessing Ruin
Olympic Recordings
Technical Death Metal/NYDM school
9 songs (44'51")
Release year: 2005
Immolation, Olympic Recordings
Reviewed by Alex

I guess it would be safe to say you aren’t much into death metal if you have never heard of Immolation. At least, its American New York branch. ‘Cause it is impossible to be into death metal and not hear about Immolation, one of the stalwarts of the scene. For years now the gloomy fire of Immolation has been raging. The first commonly accepted major milestone was 1996 Here in After. Immolation is not into the business of producing albums at the fast clip, sometimes taking years between albums. Two more slabs in between, 2002 Unholy Cult brought together highly technical guitar playing, the trademark of the band, and really accentuated melodies which were as dark as if the Hell itself spawned them. I think it would be safe to say that the new opus Harnessing Ruin continues very much in the same vein, exploring the shadowy nature of men and evil, putting it all in the musical context.

As long as Bob Vigna and Ross Dolan remain in the band Immolation will stay Immolation. These two guys form the band’s nucleus and its brand sound with Vigna’s guitar histrionics and Dolan’s up front malicious vocals. On the other hand, you can’t force leopard to change its spots, so these guys will always produce the music they know how to do and apparently like to do. In other words, Harnessing Ruin stays true to the core of Immolation beliefs, varying little from the direction Unholy Cult took. If you were a band’s loyal base fan, you will find yourself elated one more time. If you were to check the band out for the first time, I can’t say why you should start with Harnessing Ruin, and not, let’s say, Here in After.

Describing the album song-by-song is a very moot point, as these beasts squirm, evolve and revel through some of the craziest guitar works you can find. What can superfastly shred one minute abruptly ends in a breakdown rivaling Suffocation in its epicness (Swarm of Terror). Even though just about every title on Harnessing Ruin has its signature riff, a ton of arrangements is built around it, so in the end you can hardly recognize the main “rod”, so to speak. Throughout all the wa-wa’s, bleeps and tangents, Immolation’s guitar morass just simply makes sense, as I always found it fun to follow the individual song’s flow. Groovy grumbling (Son of Iniquity), doomy plodding (My Own Enemy) or a subliminal Egyptian lead (At Mourning’s Twilight, Our Savior Sleeps), Bob Vigna always finds room for weirdest atmospheric harmonies that give Immolation its trademark devil-worshipping sound. Just check the outro of At Mourning’s Twilight, frantic eeriness on Crown the Liar or apocalyptic chords on the title track and see if you agree that this is how the End of the World should sound like. The variety of signature riffs on the album will lead to every fan picking up a track he/she would cherish the most. For me, it is, without a question, Dead to Me, where whisper and regular death metal vocals variation only adds to the overall effect. In general, Ross Dolan’s vocals are impossible to subtract from the Immolation sound at this point, guttural but very recognizable, high in the mix, prophesying doom.

Alex Hernandez is replaced on drums with Steve Shalaty. I am not sure if it is this personnel change, but drumming is a major difference between Unholy Cult and Harnessing Ruin. Alex’s style was more forceful, while Steve dazzles with his technicality and countless rolls and fills. There is little of just full-on blasting on Harnessing Ruin which makes the album almost progressive from the technical standpoint, but also laid back by the death metal standards. Even though I don’t think the band changed the producer or studios between the two albums, Harnessing Ruin came off, for me anyway, to sound a lot less brutal that Unholy Cult which was a lot more vicious. Harnessing Ruin pushed drums further down in the mix. They sound very natural, but play almost a complex weaving background for the guitars.

I always found Immolation not easy to get to from the first listen. Constant tempo variations don’t let the listener to fall into a groove, but every other spin-through discovers something new. A sign of a true music depth. I would certainly recommend you more straightforward death/thrash music if you are just beginning to discover death metal or simply want to headbang. For the fans of the genre, and the band in particular, Harnessing Ruin did not deviate from the main concept and you will find plenty to like on the album. I guess it is just a matter of my personal taste then that I still like songs on Unholy Cult a little better.

Killing Songs :
Swarm of Terror, Dead to Me, At Mourning's Twilight
Alex quoted 81 / 100
Other albums by Immolation that we have reviewed:
Immolation - Atonement reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Immolation - Kingdom of Conspiracy reviewed by Jared and quoted 82 / 100
Immolation - Majesty and Decay reviewed by Charles and quoted 90 / 100
Immolation - Close To A World Below reviewed by Dylan and quoted 89 / 100
Immolation - Shadows in the Light reviewed by Alex and quoted 93 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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