There is death metal and then there is IMMOLATION. By that I mean the 17-year veterans are New York-style death metal to the bone, but create quality songs that sound like no one else. The menacing sound, those layered riffs, textured rhythms, and evil-ass Ross Dolan (decipherable) growl came together to form the best album (at that time) of their career with 2002's "Unholy Cult". Finally gaining what seemed to be some long-deserved recognition outside band, fan, and critics circles, I was eager to see whether they could possibly top the beast. They've certainly done so with "Harnessing Ruin".
The band has somehow managed to take the aforementioned qualities of previous albums and add a layer of, dare I say, accessibility. Fear not, IMMOLATION fans, this does not, in any way, shape, or form, mean the band has gone soft. They've simply raised the bar, taken a slightly more focused approached, and made the most memorable songs of their career. Opening track, "Swarm of Terror", is a mere 3:15 fer chrissakes! In fact, the four-minute mark isn't exceeded until the fourth song on the disc, "Harnessing Ruin". All that means is that the group hits you harder and faster with those same anguished riffs (especially on standouts "Swarm of Terror" and "Our Savior Sleeps"), but does so with a stronger sense of melody, relatively speaking of course. And it's mainly due to Bob Vigna's soaring lead guitar playing; perhaps his best work to date. Quite honestly, I was taken aback at the feeling in Bob's playing this time around. When coupled with the band's trademark delivery, the effect is breathtaking.
As for the rest of the album, there isn't a weak track in the bunch. Tunes like "Son of Iniquity" and "My Own Enemy" (6:07 and 6:46, respectively) are more along the lines of the trance-like dread grooves on "Unholy Cult", although no song sounds like anyone but IMMOLATION. Hell, Dolan even adds whispered vocals to "Dead to Me" and "Son of Iniquity", making the riff heft and growled fury that abuts these sections even more devastating. New drummer Steve Shalaty (replacing Alex Hernandez) fits right in and the band doesn't miss a…um…beat. The icing on the cake is Paul Orifino's production — he still piles the dirt on, but doesn't sacrifice clarity in the process. On "Harnessing Ruin", IMMOLATION strikes the perfect balance between progression and familiarity. No one — fans or newcomers — will be disappointed with this one. Trust me.