Immolation - Close To A World Below
Metal Blade
Death Metal
8 songs (42:01)
Release year: 2000
Immolation, Metal Blade
Reviewed by Dylan
Archive review
For the longest time, Immolation was a band that I never read or heard a bad thing about, yet one that I was hardly familiar with. It’s strange, considering how much death metal I consume, and how uniform the praise each of their albums has been from reviewers and fans everywhere. What makes my Immolation deficiency nearly blasphemous is that I’ve managed to acquire four of their albums over the past year without giving any of them a thorough listen. I’ve recently realized the error in my ways and began to wade through their dark discography. After weeks of absorbing myself in their highly dissonant, rhythmically complex style of death metal, I have noticeably gravitated to this album more than the others. Close to a World Below is exceedingly dark, and relentless in its brutality.

The production may be messy, the songs may sound a little too uniform, and Dolan’s vocals never shift above their demonic growl, but there is something undeniably heavy and sick about the entire album. Once the evil swirl of Higher Coward fades in, it becomes apparent that this is very angry, pessimistic music. Ross Dolan’s unflinching growls sound like they come straight from the gut, while guitarists Robert Vigna and Thomas Wilkinson spew out riff after unsettling riff. The use of tremolo in the lower registers of their instrument and riffs liberally laced with pinch harmonics really prevent anything pleasant or optimistic emanating from your speakers.

And let’s not forget the awe-inspiring work of what many consider to be the band’s best drummer, Alex Hernandez. His drumming keeps everything intense, but never gets stagnant. Sure, there are plenty of blastbeats to be found on the album, but Hernandez was far too talented to limit himself to such straightforward pounding for these eight songs. His complex fills, morphing time signature changes, and seemingly natural skill add a great deal of complexity to the album. All things considered, this is Morbid Angel played with a black metal sensibility.

Every song has one point, one moment where everything converges into a glorious moment of heaviness. The aforementioned Higher Coward starts things off in a fury, and ends them with a pounding breakdown that will surely cause the muscles in your neck to be covered in lactic acid. It’s a great opening track that quickly gives way to my favorite Immolation song, which was also the first one I had ever heard: Father, You’re Not a Father. I’m smart enough to know that the percentage of pedophilic priests in the Church lies firmly in the minority, but when this track starts it’s brutal mid-paced groove, my level-headedness becomes a thing of the past as I sing along. This is Immolation’s Angel of Death, and is one hell of a great death metal anthem.

Furthest From The Truth mixes the blinding fury of Higher Coward with the groove of Father, You’re Not a Father. Blastbeats, pinch harmonics, and rolling double bass are all used together to create a brutal slab of death metal. The distant-sounding chorus of “No!” repeating over Dolan’s rhetorical questions gives me the mental image of a massive army about to storm the gates of heaven. It’s one of the best moments of the album, and shouldn’t be overlooked. Fall from a High Place has some of the best lyrics of any of the songs found on Close to a World Below, and contains more of the dynamic drumwork of Hernandez and blatantly heavy riffs of Vigna and Wilkinson. Things aren’t quite as impressive in Unpardonable Sin as they are in the tracks that precede and follow it, but it’s still a solid track. Lost Passion seems like a better version of this song, and is grinds away at a pace that could warrant a “death ‘n roll” tag.

Tucked in between Lost Passion and the furious eight minute closing title track, we have Put My Hands in the Fire. This song contains the most atmospheric moment on the album. It’s truly amazing how a simple riff, a rolling double bass beat, and well-employed feedback can enhance the lyrical description of a hellish fire consuming the body. I can almost see the flames in front of my eyes when the 2:00 mark makes its sinister arrival.

It seems like Unholy Cult or Here In After is usually regarded as the best album from these New Yorkers, but I stand firm in my bias towards Close to a World Below. The differences between their albums are subtle, but none of them seem as vitriolic and brutal as this one is. The less than perfect production is usually listed among this album’s greatest faults, but this is one of the rare examples where I think that it suits the music better than a crystal clear one could have. The drums sound natural and are given a great mix, along with the beastly vocals of Dolan. Unfortunately, his bass does get buried under the muddy guitars, and I feel that the overall sound quality could have been boosted with more low end.

Immolation makes albums that take time to understand, but won’t leave your head once they have left their scornful mark. My shrine of Ross Dolan & co. is nearly complete, and my relationship with God has never been more strained. If you haven’t taken the time to absorb yourself in this gem of the death metal world, I feel worse for you than the savior on the cover.
Killing Songs :
All but Unpardonable Sin.
Dylan quoted 89 / 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 - Shadows in the Light reviewed by Alex and quoted 93 / 100
Immolation - Harnessing Ruin reviewed by Alex and quoted 81 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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