For a band whose sonic brilliance and sheer might I did not fully realize until the late ’90s, I’ve quickly come to expect nothing less than near-perfection from NYDM legends Immolation. That’s just downright unfair, but who the hell can blame me? This is that rare breed of Death Metal band, cut from the same cloth as Morbid Angel, that can chill the listener’s spine through little more than brutality, ominous vibe, and the power of the riff. They’re one of the genre’s all-time heaviest and most insanely technical bands, yet have written some of its all-time catchiest songs, and they’ve had a beyond-remarkable run. Seven straight nearly flawless LPs. Seven!! That’s amazing! Unheard of! Put your thinking caps on, people. That’s an unprecedented feat in the annals of extreme music. By the way, it’s eight if you want to count 1991 debut Dawn of Possession —I think it’s a good record, not a great one— nine if you want to count this new effort… which I’m having a hard time doing. I can’t seem to put my finger on exactly why, but after 666 listens in 33 days, Kingdom of Conspiracy is still an in-one-ear-and-out-the-other affair for me. I have a few conspiracy theories of my own, none of which are probably strong enough to hold up in court. There’s the Super-Modern Production Theory. The same hindrance that plagued 2011’s Providence EP (still can’t find that bass guitar) is ever present here. The drums overpower everything, beastfucking the other instruments with a mix so polished it somewhat stifles the group’s inherent primal ferocity. Then again, I’d also be bitching if it was lo-fi for the sake of lo-fi at this stage of the game, wouldn’t I? There’s also the Lyrical Change Theory. Opting for a more doomed-society-of-slaves approach, perhaps the absence of anti-Christian narration for the first time on Immolation wax slightly lessens the dark, malevolent feel? Then again, how can I not consider lines like “The sadness of wasted life / The sadness of silenced dreams / Sorrow for these unwary victims / Witness the loss of all identity” to be the most pimp shit a motherfucker ever wrote down? No, I think there’s a logical explanation: It’s really fucking difficult to make brutal music memorable. So difficult that even the masters sometimes falter. It’s not like this is a horrible record. Ross Dolan’s bestial growl still sounds terrific, Robert Vigna and Bill Taylor’s atonal interplay is still awe-inspiring, and it’s all still oppressively heavy on an inhuman level. It’s just not as intoxicatingly hook-laden as efforts past. Vigna’s riffs usually have hooks that have hooks that have hooks. Here it seems as though he’s on guitar wizard autopilot. This could very well end up being Here in After 2 —an album that took a couple years to truly sink in— but as of press time, Kingdom of Conspiracy fails to live up to its dynasty of otherworldly predecessors.
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