Originally written by Ramar Pittance
It’s only natural that every new Immolation release comes bundled with great expectations. This is due largely to the fact that with with every outing, they manage to expand their sound, or at the very least rise to a few new challenges. Therefore, their material faces the burden of not only having to be an impressive work of art in its own right, but it must also somehow outmode their formidable back catalog. With Harnessing Ruin, Immolation have lived up to the first standard, but have fallen just short of fulfilling the second. Their newest album is a fine production of modern American death metal, that may satisfy a bulk of the underground, but will likely strike long time Immolation lovers as a bit too safe.
In many ways, Harnessing Ruin plays as an attempt to expand the sound found on 2003’s Unholy Cult. The rhythmic complexity of prior releases has been toned down and been replaced by more accessible structures, in what appears to be an attempt to create songs that are more memorable. There are some are moments when this approach is devastatingly effective. “Swarm of Terror” starts the album, and is probably the most melodic tune Immolation has ever written. However, the way they manage to introduce subtle melodies without sacrificing heft in the creation of an epic death metal song impresses in a way that only this band can. “Challenge The Storm” tries for a similar effect, but falls just short due to some poor songwriting choices. Namely, the noticeably ham-fisted injection of some chromatic scale runs. Another area in which I see Harnessing Ruin falling slightly short are the moments where Immolation attempts to meld the bloodshot dissonance of prior albums, with their now more streamlined approach. “Our Savior Sleeps,” while featuring a fine guitar solo, is also witness to some jangling chord strumming and tribal drumming that don’t play very comfortably in each other’s presence.
The boys from Yonkers were never really the most technical band, or the most brutal, or any of the other clichés that come attached to death metal. However, they always seemed to be the most adept at evoking a feeling of degradation and horror, making them the envy of their peers, and rightly so. While I have to give them credit for taking their sound in yet another new direction, and actually writing a few strong songs in the process, I can’t help but feel they’ve lost a bit of their dark mystique. I can’t completely pan this album, it is Immolation, and as a result there are flashes of brilliance throughout. However, this might be the first time in a long time that long time fans find themselves let down by new material. Worth looking into, but proceed with caution.