Close To A World Below
Metal Blade Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/10/2001
When I was in college in the early '90s, I developed a love for grindcore death metal. The faster and more aggressive it was, the better I thought it would be. I used to put on groups like Napalm Death to chase the drunks out of the dorm - and it always seemed that we went from alcoholic raucousness to dead silence in five minutes when I played these CDs.
As I got older, I realized there was more to grindcore than just playing fast and loud. There actually had to be something to the music. Lord knows in the four years I've been running "The Daily Vault," I've heard my share of grindcore bands who just don't cut the mustard.
And then there's Immolation, whose latest album (and fourth overall) Close To A World Below shows not only that this genre is still alive, but that it can be as exciting and as musically challenging as ever.
The band - bassist/vocalist Ross Dolan, guitarists Robert Vigna and Thomas Wilkinson and drummer Alex Hernandez - deliver the goods with a fury I've not heard in some time. While I would have preferred to have heard Dolan's bass a little further up in the mix, the mastery these guys have over their instruments is nothing short of astonishing. How Hernandez is able to throw fills in while frantically pounding out the grindcore rhythms, I'll never be able to understand.
What sets Immolation apart from so many other cookie-cutter death metal bands is that, to a point, you can understand what Dolan is grunting about. (The inclusion of lyrics in the liner notes is also helpful.) Tracks like "Higher Coward," "Lost Passion" and "Father, You're Not A Father" all contain powerful verbal payloads that not everyone will appreciate, but are delivered with conviction. (Memo to Metal Blade: why not send a copy of this disc to every one of those phony televangelists, and watch those hairpieces catch on fire? Make the first package to Benny Hinn... I wanna see that jagoff melt like butter on a hotplate when he hears it.)
If there's any drawback to Immolation's style, it's that the energy level on Close To A World Below is almost impossible to maintain throughout the disc - and indeed it sags a bit on "Put My Hands Into The Fire" and the title track. They're still good numbers, but not quite on the same level as the killer material.
Close To A World Below is the kind of disc I wish I had back in my college days, and is sure to be getting a lot of time in the CD player of the Pierce Memorial Archives. Anyone who likes their metal with the gentleness of a three-car pileup will love this disc as well.