Close to a World Below reviews
flaccid_sphincter on September 4th, 2014
Immolation Has Done Much Better
Immolation is one of those bands in the death metal world that seems to have a sound all their own, which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on the listener. Their songs don't really follow any coherent structure, they instead sort of form one mass of murky riffs that shift around, refusing to settle into a single groove for very long.
Where this album has previously been showered in several 90% and above ratings, I simply can't give this album such a rating, especially when Immolation has so many better albums in their repertoire, for example Failures For Gods, Unholy Cult, or my personal favorite, Here In After. So many seem to consider Close To A World Below the highest point of Immolation's career, but I simply don't get it, in fact, I would consider this album to be their lowest point myself. Everything that makes Immolation great is present here, the murky, shapeless riffs, the bludgeoning drums, the unsettling tonality and ugliness of it all, it is there, it just isn't quite up to snuff with Immolation's other work.
What immediately turns me off to this album is the production, specifically on the vocals. This is Immolation, so I of course expect a gritty, muddy sort of sound, but there's something about how the album sounds that rubs me the wrong way. It's hard to explain what's going on exactly, but it almost sounds like the vocals were recorded underwater. Ross himself sounds just as evil as ever, it's simply the production that ruins it for me. Speaking of Ross, the bass rarely ever shows its face at all, but the few times I manage to catch a glimpse of it, there is not a lot going on, though that's barely a complaint, as much of the basswork in Immolation's music is buried under the loud guitars. The drums and guitars sound just fine, there's just something goofy going on with the vocals.
There are a few really great riffs on this album, like Father, You're Not A Father and Put My Hand In The Fire, but it doesn't really make up for how so many of the rest of the rest of the album just falls flat and never really is memorable. I honestly remembered more about how ferocious the drums were than entire songs. Hernandez is a beast, and he is definitely the highlight of the album, even though the drums are a bit distracting sometimes due to their volume. His use of cymbals is quite fascinating just from how unorthodox he is with them at times, and his fills are always tight and creative to boot. If it wasn't for him, I would most likely consider this album to be in the 60% range, but he really makes up for how phoned-in the rest of the band sounds.
I've listened to this album several times, hoping to see the masterpiece everyone else seems to see in this album, but in the end, it never leaves me feeling as blown away as most other Immolation albums do. All things considered, I'd say give it a listen if you like Immolation, but I don't think it's something you'd want to listen to as your first experience with Immolation.
Empyreal on November 8th, 2013
An infernal bore.
Immolation’s Close to a World Below is one of death metal’s most loved albums of the 2000s, often called one of their best. It’s not that I can’t see why, it’s just that I’m not all that much of a fan of Immolation. And while I’m sure you’re ready to throw your coffee at the screen, I’ll explain anyway – this is just not that exciting of an album. It’s death metal robbed of all its spontaneity and savagery. Make no mistake, while this is very well produced and the writing is tight and focused, it represents the distillation of all of the untamed, unpredictable elements out of the genre – it’s sort of like a drug addict finally getting clean and going back to school.
And it’s not like this is completely bereft of aggression or anything – for the two or three of you that have never heard this band, the formula is pretty much what you’d expect from a modern techy death metal band – tight, dense rhythms, chunky riffs and deep growls about how much Christianity sucks. It’s all very evil and dark, without much to envy in terms of heaviness. For those of you who just want death metal to be as heavy as possible, you’re in luck here. If you want something resembling the actual imaginative peak of the genre, with that ferocity and unhinged nature that it was famous for in its infancy, well you may have to look somewhere else.
Death metal was never going to stay exactly like that; I get it. There are many offshoots to death metal like there are to any genre, and so expecting all of it to adhere to specific qualities I personally liked is a futile pursuit. However that doesn’t really make Immolation as exciting as I wish they were, or as other people make them out to be. These songs might be tightly written, with a lot of riffs and what not, but they’re not very interesting. These songs are very calculated and meant to evoke a descent into some kind of underworld, flogged by antichristian devils, but really the whole sound is just so jam-packed with riffs and technical sweeps and rhythms that it’s completely sucked dry of real atmosphere. I feel suffocated when I listen to this, and not in the way the band probably intended. The music is so tight it borders on anal-retentive, without any real room for it to breathe. Every second is packed with technical, cutting rhythms and blazing guitarwork, and while it all sounds good on first listen, there isn’t a lot to keep you coming back. Unless you just look for impeccable musicianship that doesn’t lean too far into Necrophagist territory, Close to a World Below and most of the Immolation I’ve heard just doesn’t leave anything to the imagination.
There is a complete exorcism of any of the thrash influence of death metal’s youth, and with it goes any sense of feral wrath or violence. There’s no point on here where the band just lets loose and rages. For music so uncompromisingly heavy and evil, this isn’t all that scary or foreboding to listen to. I guess some people may find it so, but personally I always found death metal scarier when I could never predict what was going to happen next, when the band sounded as if they would jump out of my speakers and kill me right there. Here you know what you’re going to get. It’s evil dressed up in nicer clothes and with a toning-down of real violence in the music. You don’t get the feeling that these guys are very dangerous. It’s more like they’re standing atop a tall pillar and shouting down to all the Christian sheep, proclaiming loudly their sins and wickedness – which I believe is what they were going for, so good on them. They succeeded at that, however I just do not find it as captivating as I believe they wanted me to.
When I say this sounds “toned down” in terms of aural violence, I don’t mean that the band is selling out or trying to appeal to any kind of crowd. I have no idea what their real intentions were – most likely just to make a good death metal album. But I don’t know, to me it just sounds restrained. Death metal was good – is good – because it was completely savage and unrestrained, defying any kind of standards for music. This kind of album turns that aesthetic on its heels and instead delivers music that is dark and heavy, but also very well performed and structured, without the sloppy unrefined nature that could turn albums like Altars of Madness or Scream Bloody Gore into works of art on their own twisted, fucked up scale. Try as I might, I just can’t really make a good case that this is anything to be excited about beyond the level of “woah, dude, look at how well they can play their instruments.”
Lyrics are another sticking point, as I just find this band’s whole message and imagery boring. Their only thing seems to be anti-Christianity, which is fine and well, but there just isn’t a lot to it…they just hate God and spend the whole album raving about it. The lyrics aren’t tasteless or boorish, they’re just predictable. These days it’s become more of a cliché than it even was back when this came out, so part of my boredom with these themes may be just in hindsight. But eh, this isn’t really the kind of thing that really gets me going lyrically. They’re not badly written but they’re just not very good either – they’re middle of the road all the way, just getting a workmanlike job done and that’s it.
This is what I like to call “dogmatic” death metal – along with certain other bands like Deicide after Legion and Aeon, Immolation’s music is very single-mindedly attacking just one thing – Christianity. Every facet of their lyrics and image is honed towards that goal, with little cross-appeal from people who don’t agree with that viewpoint. It’s very much dogmatic in the way that they throw everything into the theme and are completely about that one thing. I don’t really care if bands like this want to take that lyrical stance; it’s their prerogative – it’s just boring, is all. In condemning Christianity’s dogma, they create their own, and then proceed to rob their music of anything wider in scope or imagination. Bands like this write themselves into a little box from which they can’t really get out of, short of starting up a side project or something.
Death metal for me is about the emotion and rage behind it – an ephemeral quality which can’t really be held up as one ironclad standard which everyone agrees on. But bear with me. The most effective bands are the ones which retain some kind of humanity in their playing. It can be a possessed humanity, like Morbid Angel, a cosmic Lovecraftian one like old Entombed, or a deranged, bloodthirsty one, like Dismember – but the main strength of the genre is its ability to conjure up the darkness and insanity of the human mind. Some people say death metal is best when it’s totally removed from human emotion and feeling; I think it’s best when you can hear the last scraps of that humanity, clinging on like frayed strings on an old sweatshirt, shredding away moment by moment. That kind of swaying on the borderline between alive and dead, or human and demonic, makes some very cathartic, energized and exciting music – and that’s what I love hearing in death metal. Immolation is the removal of human emotion, evoking a demonic preacher addressing his satanic crowd, delivering sermons of hate and intolerance. It is that emotionless, clinical quality which some people hold up as the highest goal of the genre. Me, I can’t really get engaged by that quality.
In all actuality I don’t really have strong feelings about this album or this band one way or the other – they’re enjoyable in a very minor way to me, and I believe they succeeded in everything they were trying to do. On songs like “Higher Coward,” “Father You’re Not a Father” and “Put My Hand in the Fire,” they crank out heavy riffs and, with their rather unique guitar tone, produce a sound that’s much like molten lava seething out of the mouth of a raging active volcano. So it’s not like I’m saying I hate this or anything. But the fact that they did exactly what they wanted, unfortunately does not lend much enjoyment for me in listening to it.
erebuszine on April 23rd, 2013
Another matchless work by this great band
It can be very interesting to go back now, at this time in the history of death metal, and trace bands like this to their beginnings - only at times, really, in order to cast further light on where they are going perhaps, but especially in this instance for the painstaking task of gathering evidence to explain their current power. Immolation has always had sonic power to spare, it has been something throughout their career that they haven't seemed to really worry about summoning at any given instant... they just snap their fingers and it's there, the kind of diabolical might that people outside of this genre - or listeners new to the style - have a hard time coming to terms with, or even explaining on its own, separated from all the other musical factors or characteristics that go into making a modern death metal band. This power, a fluency of strength, has never deserted the band. Even on paths that some would say led them astray (I'm thinking of 'Here in After'), lost in an aesthetic or language that could not be resolved easily, a sort of message and series of ideas that evolved ceaselessly, without reaching definite structures or motives and intents, Immolation has always simply crushed through all the obstacles placed in their way, even if they were self-imposed. This virulence, or potency, is their strongest point, and in music it matches well with their own determination as musicians, or as individuals.
Now, while 'Failures for Gods' was an unleashing, once again, of this raw power, hardly encircled or encompassed by their creativity (and that creativity's efforts to restrain sonic savagery in the name of melodic art), it can be seen now as a final step on the way to this album, which not only sees Immolation finally resolving the conflict between their melodic originality, rhythmic schizophrenia, and (formerly) unrestrained aggression, it stands as a witness to the maturation of the genre itself, and a time when the first leading lights of the American death metal movement has all reached their own periods of impasse, and struggled through them, evolving, growing, or falling by the wayside. The genre survives nonetheless. But let me ask you: would the Immolation of 1992 have envisioned playing an exquisitely layered piece like 'Fall From A High Place' at any time in their near future? I doubt it. And while we can not exactly say that Robert Vigna's guitar playing has found its way into worlds completely separated from those early days, it is easy enough to demonstrate (to yourself, as an enthusiastic follower of this band, if to no one else) that his view of those worlds (always dark, malevolent, sinister, larger than life, filled with tremendous elemental forces) has grown by leaps and bounds since 'Dawn of Possession', and his rude, rough entry into their domain, trespassing at will among the dead, the decaying, the malicious territories and spirits of the nether (read: internal) world, where it was short and sweet in the old days, as unpolished and pure as any uncontaminated emotion could be, has finally reached the end of a long maturation process.
The seeker, in this case, has become the teacher. A virgin slash and vicious reaping motion, across the six strings, has ripened into glorious visions of Hell's layered blasphemies - as the levels of the underworld, so the layers of melody in Immolation's songs. So 'Dawn of Possession' has become 'Close To A World Below', not by repetition and the stale evolution of the death-obsessed, but by the evolution of the inward bound. This album sounds like half a dozen views of Sin's torments and Lucifer's punishments, layered one over another, proceeding stately in a pace that is immemorial because it is doomed, bleeding into each other, escaping from one's view only to reappear in other place, in another time, with another victim. A slice through the Earth's crust and innermost secrets, laying open the multihued (lurid in tones of black and red) cells of individual Hells, and then blending them all into one, because they are already one anyway. The damnation of one man is the fall of all men, and Catholic iconography of Immolation here moves past its overt limits to become statements on or criticisms of the human condition, moving the claustrophobic world of the Sin-cursed firmly into the realm of the universal.
In terms of genre specifics, this album is used by Immolation to display (if not flaunt) every single one of their strengths, most noticeably their rhythmic originality, and the ways that originality can be tied into the melodies of the songs. As in most death metal, Immolation's power comes from the propulsion of short, impacted segments of rhythmic movement, repeated and varied, repeated and varied, repeated and changing... what sounds the same isn't the same, and yet there is enough of the structure intact in the second coming to let you trace the connections between the two, and how they compliment each other. In the third song, for example, 'Furthest From The Truth' all other thoughts are laid to the side and speed becomes the avatar's deliverance, pushing the song forward at a pace so tremendous it is painful to listen to. And yet, even at these extreme velocities the music never ceases to attempt escaping the linear - in the first main segment, for example, the blasting drumbeats and short, staccato riffs appear to be leading straight forward, even while they are, in fact, just straight segments of a line that is always curving, up, down, and into itself again like a Möbius strip. The guitars rise above the rhythms, dictating on one level the direction of the song while they fly ever upwards on another, seeking to arrest the motion of the melodies, ever stopping shrill and piercing through perverse harmonics or tweaked additions. Stop, go, stop, go, stop, up, down, left, right, as if you are caught in Poe's maelstrom and moving so fast your linear progression seems arrested. And yet there is constant movement... this is the secret to Immolation's true gift, as I alluded to in my review of their last album: they write music that moves and stands still at the same time, dances and stands to the side, smiling sardonically, mocking, rises and falls ever upwards and downwards, lives and dies, that surrounds you and then leaves you behind, watching something that you are convinced must be an illusion, a ghost...
'Higher Coward', the opening song, moves upward into the light out of a sea of stress and ambient noise, before giving the lie to Christian apocalyptic cliches, and detailing the creation of the Sheepgod out of the frustrated desires of its pusillanimous followers - who are actually its designers, and who run into the light, once again, to blind themselves from this essential truth. Themes and lyrics aside (it's pretty safe to say that Immolation are always going to be waging a war against Christ-insanity), the music is what motivates me here. Monstrous, megalithic scythes gleaming with cast-off lightning fall again and again, reaping through the souls of 'good' and 'evil' alike, and Immolation turn this grim soundscape illustrating the evisceration of hypocrisy into a macabre dance with bouncing, pulverizing rhythm work. Ross chokes, swallows, and grinds his esophagus against the microphone, swelling his throat like a poisonous viper and spewing vitriolic visions into the eyes of the lost. His voice is like the grating of coffin lids, the cemetery gravel crackling under one's feet while serving as a pallbearer, like torrents of black rain falling on arms stretched upwards towards the Great Nothing. In the midst of 'Furthest From The Truth' he is transformed into an Anti-Preacher, himself an apostle, and his words ring out through a cursed, drowned landscape as souls scream in defiance and pain just behind him. Absolutely beautiful.
Since the beginning this group has stood alone, and they continue to march onwards: completely original, a final statement of the boundaries and abilities of their self-imposed genre, and a masterwork, in themselves, of the process of musical and/or stylistic evolution, as their albums now demonstrate (and this one brings the entire thing to a close, completing the circle) a path that seemed to lead outward, opening into the world, reflecting their own rage and hatred on the irises of others, and yet I believe (and feel, truly) that while there are people now calling this the 'most accessible' of this group's works, it is only so in the sense that their music has become so personal and expressive that it now has the power to cast their inner world in a light of individual transcendence, letting others find their own lost dreams in the inferno that these eight songs immediately blossom into, and as Vigna and his cohorts (brothers beyond the causes of the everyday) fall ever deeper into their own hearts and minds, finding again and again inspiration in their own lives and histories, so do they mirror more and more of the world they have seen through the last ten years, the world that has been completely colored now by a creation that was, in turn, brought out of the depths of themselves. A self-perpetuating machine, Immolation, and a force that has been made immortal by all the energy sacrificed in its name by these four outstanding musicians... yet another matchless work by America's best death metal band.
psychosisholocausto on April 11th, 2013
An outstanding, blasphemous, technical album
Immolation are a band whose technical prowess is only matched by their ability to create an intense and harrowing musical experience. They possess an immense level of musical depth that allows them to create what are widely considered to be masterpieces of the genre; masterpieces that have etched them their place in the death metal hall of fame. Of their extensive discography, several are thought to stand out the most, with "Here In After" and "Close To A World Below" frequently being cited as their finest works. Albums such as the latter of these are ones that showcase nothing more than the absolute best that the band could create.
"Close To A World Below" opens up with a mass of sounds that serve as an eerie build up before the first words of the album are spoken : "Didn't you say Jesus was coming?" From here on out it is nothing more than business as usual for Immolation as the album morphs into an ever flowing stream of nothing short of some of the finest death metal music out there. Quick frenzies of power chords mixed densely into a seemingly never ending flow of lightning fast, immensely creative beats are the main course of Immolation's 2000 offering. This is also an album with a lot of variety to it that keeps every song feeling fresh and interesting. Whilst tracks such as "Higher Coward" and "Furthest From The Truth" primarily remain in the region of moving at a million miles per hour, the band does not shy away from slowing down a little, which reaches its pinnacle on the monstrous closing track. This song is the eight minute title track to the album and it makes great use of many creepy sounding slower sections such as the introduction, where the cymbals are left to ring out whilst Robert Vigna and Tom Wilkinson play some high pitched tremolo picked lines. The effect that this has is overwhelming: think of the most atmospheric piece of death metal you can, and then cast that aside.
One thing that Immolation did even better than ever before on "Close To A World Below" is the evolution of their songs. Whilst they are rightfully recognized as being fantastic, tracks such as "Nailed To Gold" were slightly predictable to say the least, but that is not the case on here. Instead, the changes in speed come out of nowhere and hit you right where it hurts. The guitars meander around, constantly evolving and changing riff to create one of the most interesting slabs of death metal you are likely to hear. "Lost Passion" is a fantastic example of how the band has grown, shifting tempo constantly and frequently adjusting the nature of the guitar work to include pinched harmonics, tremolo picking and power chords in ways that even Cryptopsy could not dream of. The drumming on this song is also some of the best on this release. It includes a lot of double bass work and also a quite ridiculous section at around three minutes and twenty sections showing off the improved level of technicality on here. The vocals are as demonic as ever before; Ross Dolan sounds like an absolute monster on here. His voice is one of the most sinister and malevolent in all of death metal and he is arguably at his pinnacle on "Close To A World Below".
This is an album where there really are no flaws to speak of. Usually there is at least one niggle that slightly degrades an album but on this release there is nothing of the sort. Every song flows into the next one brilliantly and each captures the band members in their elements, with some intense riffing, fast drum work, monstrous vocals and cool bass lines, all of which is captured by a crisp production job. I recommend this to absolutely everyone who enjoys an immensely varied display of death metal done properly.
DomDomMCMG on November 14th, 2011
My skin is melting!
Rarely do I listen to an album like this and get blown away so hard. This is some of the most legitimately blasphemous and furious death metal ever released. I'd go as far as to say it is one of the best death metal albums ever released.
The riffs are groovy, slow-paced heavy as fuck death metal riffs with an almost doom feel, with solid basswork from frontman Ross Dolan to compliment them. The solos are quite played out and more epic feeling, rather than short bursts of wanky shredding, but let's face it, a Necrophagist style wanky solo wouldn't fit with this slow paced death metal assault. The band close the album with an 8 minute title track, which is truly epic and one of the best death metal songs ever made. It doesn't feature much progression, but somehow the band still manage to keep it fresh and it doesn't get boring by minute 6. Flawless.
The lyrics on this release are a bit like a perfect middle between Deicide's slightly immature "God is shit, bro" Satanism and early Morbid Angel's more sophisticated "Fools, your god is dead" Satanism. Topics such as God raping the virgin Mary and Jesus entering Hell, or "the kingdom of fire". They're quite well written, and very comprehensible, despite Ross Dolan's guttural bark.
The production is top notch. While it doesn't sound overdone, it's not underdone either. It's crisp and has a raw(ish) quality to it, yet each and every musical aspect can be heard over the other. Everything is perfect in the mix and it just adds to the atmosphere with so many different layers of music to listen to.
This is a truly punishing album that any fan of death metal must check out. Absolutely essential. Full marks, I can't think of anything wrong with it. It's honestly that good.
Svartekrist on September 11th, 2011
A Monument of Hatred through Passion
Close to a World Below can probably best be described as a monumental proclamation of hatred through passion. Hatred for Christianity done with a burning passion, simple as that. You could argue that other have done the same, and you would more or less be right. But that does not mean there is nothing to be found here. In fact, Immolation pretty much gave everything they had here, and the result is nothing less than a colossal and behemoth of a death metal album. So let us dig in a little deeper, what is going on here?
The guitars are dense and slow moving like thunder shaking the sky apart, but as for being technical, the guitars instead focus more or less solely at creating a thick barrier of shifting riffs and build up momentum, that usually leads to a neat lead. The bass guitar however, is very much tangled into the guitars, being somewhat difficult to entirely discern between the two. But if paying attention, it is heard, and while not doing anything noteworthy, it does add another layer of density to the music. As for the drums, they play out in a fashion typical for Immolation, mostly following the guitars, but that is not bad, so to say. The proficiency of the overall drumming is very much vital to creating the heavy atmosphere of the music. As for the vocals, they are deep and commanding, yet easy to decipher. They do lack a little in terms of variety, but can still be enjoyable, though a little weak.
And then comes the mixing and production, which is all in all pretty good. The issues found are the entanglement between the bass guitar and the guitars, but it ultimately is a rather miniscule issue. As for the music itself, the instrumentation is well executed, with all of the songs feeling very well composed, all directed in a great way. The songwriting leaves much room for many memorable moments, as well as the more dynamic parts which can be very heavy. And as well, everything feels very controlled, yet human, which is always good. But as far as the overall feel of the album goes, it can be a little hard to appreciate at first, but if being patient and attentive to all the details, it more or less comes off on a high note. So what does it all come down to? That Immolation with their Close to a World Below, is nothing less than an amazing product of quality and quantity, being very easily an album to be heard again and again.
It may not be perfect in every regard, but when you thing about it, what is perfect anyway? Especially when you can get something very close.
Stand-out tracks: Furthest from the Truth, Higher Coward, Fall from a High Place, Put My Hand in the Fire.
Vaibhavjain on May 27th, 2010
Jesus you suffocate me
There are two kinds of artists in this world. One type will create something with their emotions poured out. The other will create something with their brain. Floridian death metallers Immolation, with this release has proved to be a hellish hybrid of both. It is because of this that Immolation is a hard pill to swallow for many.
By this release, Immolation have proved that they are not a just a lumbering beast creating chaos, panic and disorder wherever they go but have turned into a lean and ultimate killing machine. The aural assault is a pestilential swarm of hate and redemption. CTAWB attacks you through an assault of complex time signatures, otherworldly blast beats and the only specimen of guitar work where it seems that the riffs and solos are on freaking fire. Never before has an artwork been so reflective of the music it encases within itself.
A stunning album, “Close To A World Below” is the most important death metal release post 2000. The album has its own black heart and burning soul, a living and breathing work of art that bears the testimony to the legendary four horsemen of the now so certain apocalypse that together combine to form a force so authoritatively known as Immolation. Yes it is true. Immolation deserve to be called legends and that is not an over statement purely because Immolation is one of those very few bands in the history of extreme metal that have aimed to re-invent themselves after a good number of defining releases and not sound crappy at the end of it all. They have breathed such life into a degrading genre and make it completely their own with this release. It would be safe to say that Immolation is to death metal now, what Black Sabbath was to heavy metal and what Dark Angel was to thrash.
In CTAWB, the music does all the talking. Here, Immolation ascend even higher than the standard they set themselves with their previous releases, delivering such ferocity for absolute perfection in song writing that it pushes the boundaries and aims for the absolute. Dolan’s signature growl and underlying bass work, Vigna and Wilkinson’s technical riffs, solos, breakdowns, Alex’s oh so very perfect drumming and blast beats that create a suffocating wall of sound for the listener and brilliant hatred fuelled atmosphere provide the reasons why I rate this album so highly. What’s more Immolation achieved this without any arrogance, pretentious song writing or over production. The mature use the instruments never sound out of context, and attach exceptional emotional depth to the album, acting as a fulcrum to a powerful attack of instrumental sections, soaring scales and fret burning solos.
A disturbing guitar based intro leads us into the first track, “Higher Coward” and makes way for the words, “Didn’t you say Jesus was coming?” and then BOOM. A sledgehammer of sonic brutality hits you in the face and does it over and over again. Don’t beg for mercy there isn’t any. Good luck turning off the music player after listening to this. Tracks like the fan favorite ‘Father, You’re Not A Father’ and the surreally haunting ‘Further From The Truth’ flawlessly merge the traditional Immolation styled death metal sound and unrestrained energy into a wholesome blend of jaw dropping perfection. ‘Fall From A High Place’, ‘Unpardonable Sin’ and ‘Lost Passion’ all display wonderful examples of the bands uncanny knack of tightening the grip on the listener’s throat with each passing beat making him a grateful slave to the new lords of the underworld. ‘Put My Hand Into The Fire’ speaks volumes of the bands attitude and the brilliant 8 minute track showcases the accomplished musicianship and heady extreme harmonies, traits which form the core of Immolation. Thus ends the 48 minute sightseeing of hell.
The sounds on this album conjure visions apocalypse, un harnessed hate, destruction, death, the meaninglessness of God, all of them with equal ease. These tracks herein referred to as works of art possess an innate sense between decay and new life, brutality and subtlety, faith and hate, survival and existence, destruction and creation. The concept of this album in its entirety connects the mystic sense of hell to the edge of extreme metal.
Exceptional lyrics speak with daft introspection, brutal honesty on the band’s part of their anti-God beliefs, speaking even louder if one takes the time out to read between the lines. “The flames from below dance at our feet
Soon to rise up and carry us through
The burning gates ablaze in glory
Marvel at the fall of man”.
With CTAWB, Immolation have re-written the code and gone where no other band has gone before. Immolation has written a chronicle of worthlessness of faith in God which is an ageless classic. The album is lifted into godly heights with its highly charged song writing and its mixture of otherworldly talent and rage. CTAWB is the band’s finest crowning achievement. Fans of the older sound will enjoy this change and will be turned on by the song writing and structures, but if cannot understand the genius of the band’s earlier releases chances are you wont find this interesting, so philistines stay away!.
No self respecting metal fan will pass up this piece of aggression, that was intended to pass one ear and exit the other, leaving a burning imprint in between. Immolation through this release will be known as a band that not only re-invented themselves but an entire genre. This will be forever known as a landmark in the forever shifting scenario that is extreme metal.
Take heed, this is a new beginning my friend… it is written.
NocturneFreeze on March 7th, 2009
Jesus came, and Immolation sent him back
After driving a wooden stake through his heart, slicing his head off while bathing in his blood.
Close to a World Below is perfect in any sense and is the basic example of how death metal should sound like. No technical parts for the sake of being technical. No constantly trying to reach the 300 bpm while filling every second with every availiable instrument. No absence of keys, aditional instruments or atmospheric parts because (apparently) that''s not brutal. Still, taking all these charasteristics in mind and looking at the "brutal" bands of these days, I can honestly say that Immolation is more brutal than the whole sum of those bands. Not to mention their evilness.
Alright then. The album starts sinister, evil and brooding, in an atmosphere that manages to keeps returning every song. After the infamous line "Didn''t you say jesus was coming" the song starts. On one hand it''s the typical death metal song. On the other hand, it''s much more than that. The drums are fast, but it doesn''t blast and forces itself in any nanosecond. Vocals are deep and throaty, on a good way. Not the forced way like Necrophagist. Guitars play semi-technical riffs,. Diverse, sometimes with a great sense of melody, yet completely aware of the groove.
Up until the very last epic song this quality remains. There is Father, you’re Not a Father with the catchy chorus. Furthest from the Truth with the outstanding shouting part. Fall from a High Place and Unpardonable Sin are the only songs that don’t add any extra’s, but they’re still quality tracks. Lost Passion with the doomy tempo and truly evil chord schemes. Put my Hand in the Fire, the most menacing song of the album. And at last the title track. Glorious, epic, truly evil, sick, death metal perfection.
Other than the somewhat disappointing lyrics (yeah we know you’re antichristian, try something new) everything is top-notch. Dolan’s voice is low and angry. The drums are extremely well applied, not only blast beats but many rhythm orientated beats. The two guitarists play a mix of a strumming style á la old school death metal style and riffs involving chromatic and minor scales, rather than atonal randomness. It all sounds like it came straight out of hell. Adding the right atmosphere created by some synth, perfect gloomy production and being epic the whole time. This, people, is what we call a winner. An album created by gods, or rather, demons.
TheCallOfTheAethyrs on February 20th, 2008
This album simply slays, top-shelf death metal.
The first Immolation song I ever heard was "Lost Passion", which is the sixth song on this album. I was immediately drawn to this often overlooked, underrated death metal band. Their style of death metal is more droning, dark, and eerie, with speed being used very sparsely. There was an atmosphere not very common with death metal. "Higher Coward" starts off in fine fashion, with a simple, yet sinister, guitar line being played repeatedly until a voice asks "Didn't you say... Jesus was coming?" and then the song kicks off, perhaps one of the fastest Immolation riffs I've ever heard. The drumming is frantic double-bass explosions, but a very controlled, precise chaos. Alex Hernandez has an excellent sense of timing. There is a great deal of variation throughout this album, and you never get bored. Some have said Immolation albums sound a lot alike, but to me this doesn't sound like anything they've done, past or present. Ross Dolan does a fine job as a vocalist, and the contempt he harbors for Christianity seems genuine, as his growls drip with conviction; case in point, during "Father, You're Not A Father" when he growls "You've raped MARY, OVER, AND OVER, AGAIN!!!!" His growls are deep, but intelligible. Most of the time, you don't need the album's booklet to understand the lyrics.
"Lost Passion" is one of the highlights of this album, with its atmospheric introduction and slow, churning riffs. The soloing in this song is very atonal, and ominous, effectively conveying a nightmarish, subterranean scenario, much like the album cover depicts. The song structures are very dissonant, and unconventional. Some riffs sound like they're being played backwards. There is a sense of melody to this album, but far removed from what most people consider "melody". Bob Vigna is one of the most talented and original death metal guitarists, in my opinion, and ex-member Thoma Wilkinson is no slouch, either. The title track finishes the album off in a perfect fashion, also the longest song on the album. Perhaps the darkest, too, both musically and lyrically, with the end of the song featuring a forlorn, foreboding, almost sad solo. And trails off into oblivion.
Immolation has impressed me with just about all their releases. This album might be a bit hard to find, along with "Here in After" (which I have as well, a masterpiece of 90s death metal), but if you consider yourself a fan of this band or death metal in general, get it.
GravesOfTheFathers on March 18th, 2007
Close To Perfect
I often find myself in a jam when it comes to pure death metal. I'm more an experimental metal person and usually enjoy bands like Opeth, The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Red Chord, and many others that are more progressive than purely metal. I've heard a great many "plain old" BM and DM bands, but very few leave a lasting impression on me due to the often one-dimensional anti-Christian lyrics and copycat "brutal for the sake of brutality" music. It can sometimes be great (Cannibal Corpse, for example), but sometimes it's just annoying (nearly every goregrind band out there).
Immolation has restored my faith in the genre. I never bothered to listen to the band due to some of my predispositions (namely, my aforementioned tendencies with regard to metal, and the fact that I'm a Roman Catholic). However, I finally just bit the bullet and purchased this album on a whim, hoping to at least get a nice slab of brutality out of it, if nothing else. It surpassed my expectations in every possible way and restored my faith in the genres of "true metal."
Let's start with the music. The completely unorthodox riffing, drumming, time signatures, and vocals are what make this band stand out the most. When I listen to songs like Higher Coward, it feels as if the band is playing everything backwards. Twisting and turning riffs complement the brutal, eerie drumming (yes, I just used the word "eerie" to describe a drumming style). I don't know what scales or tunings Bob Vigna is using here, but it's fairly safe to say he probably made up his own in "Drop Evil." The perfectly layered guitars complement each other to create passages which are heavy and dissonant, yet very reminiscent of classical music with their tension-and-release aspects. It's technical death metal without the overpowering "look mom, I can play fast!" approach that so many other bands take. The drums are an entirely different issue. They're ridiculously fast (though you don't often get the impression of sheer speed due to the production) and pounding with blast beats abound, and yet have a great degree of taste and memorable fills. Alex Hernandez probably ranks up with Tomas Corn, Flo Mounier, and Tony Laureno as one of the best drummers metal has (and ever will) seen. The bass is nonexistent, as in most metal, but it gives the album a good deal more breathing room.
Bassist Ross Dolan has something else to do, however- churning out what are, without question, the most brutal vocals death metal has to offer. Forget bands like Devourment with their inhaled pussy vocals and screech owls like Varg Vikernes- this man would hand them their asses without a mic. Dolan's growls are constantly at Brown Note levels, but never seem to get monotonous. Why? Because- make sure you're sitting down for this one- you can understand what he's saying...without having the lyrics in front of you. Yes, that's right, ladies and gentlemen- it may have even been a problem for Slayer and Morbid Angel at times, but nearly all Dolan's growls are entirely decipherable. Finally, metalheads worldwide can literally hear the voice of Satan penetrating their ears!
And what lyrics they are. Sure, I may have complained about one-dimensional anti-Christian lyrics (Deicide and Vital Remains, anybody?), but Immolation has something different to offer. Essentially all the songs on here are anti-Christian, but it's so much more than that. Instead of paying homage to Satan (pun intended), Immolation takes a more refined route. They're against organized religion as a whole, it seems, and merely use Christianity as a paradigm and punching bag thereof. The lyrics of the title track are brilliant and bring up some interesting questions, instead of simply being used for shock value. As I said, I am a Catholic, but I don't feel offended or annoyed listening to Immolation, or even at the cover art. Instead of being immature, whiny Satan praisers, Immolation take a more introspective, social, and philosophical look at religion, and give reasons in the lyrics for their hatred of it. To be offended or mocking of that would be absurd, as it's simply somebody's personal belief, and I won't knock that. After all, there's a reason atheists believe what they do. That being said, it doesn't take away from CTAWB's "evil factor"- in fact, it strangely increases it. The title track is absolutely dark, demented, and evil. Instead of using Satan- a creation of Christianity, after all- against religion, they're using religion against religion and drawing out the demons within all of us. Some might argue that those are all the more potent and disturbing.
But lest we forget, death metal is about kicking ass, and kick ass this album does. It's highly intellectual and brutal technical DM which does not relent for a second. Immolation has something for everybody. If you listen to metal (which, reading this, I would assume you do), buy this album. I promise you that you will not regret it.
In_Vino_Veritas on December 14th, 2006
Close to B-lowing
When it comes to death metal, I can see how a premium is placed on rhythmic propensity, and this band is definately in the upper stratosphere of rhythmic understanding. This album features excellent musicianship, for the most part. But honestly, what percent of extreme metal bands DON'T feature excellent musicianship? Maybe 10-15% of bands any metalhead with a job has heard? This album seems to be exalted almost specifically because of the nearly impossible rhythmic complexity, but the guitar riffs are hit and miss. There are quite a few great riffs and sections on this record, but for a record to deserve an "A," the guitar riffage, the bass rumbleage (or clankage if your bass player has small dick syndrome/listens to rancid), vocals (for lack of a better term), and drums must be more than cohesive. They must COALESCE. They must have synergy. The whole must be > the sum of the parts. And this record has some lame parts, that probably should have been re-thought. Or re-worked. Or rejected. Just because they can pull off the 7/4 blast section in "Furthest From the Truth" doesn't mean it becomes more than a 7/4 blast section. It's just there, and it's great for people who like listening to bands because it's "technical" and have no comprehension of what exactly is going on. But for those who can understand what they're doing with the rhythms, well, we're just waiting for them to make an arrangement that makes concludes itself. Or goes somewhere besides the random off-kilter clinical execution.
In a nutshell, although impressive as sonic force, this SOUNDS forced in parts. Immolation should use their rhythmic complexity to ebb and flow with the songwriting, using off time signatures in parts to raise tension, and blast sections and "groove" or "breakdown" riffs to relieve it, so to speak. If Dream Theater made a well-executed technical death album, full of aimless pretension and half-cocked ideas, it may have sounded like this.
And be that as it may, many will find this to be quite enjoyable. You might get a kick out of showing your friends how "brutal" and "technical" this is, but if you desire complexity of SONGwriting, you may be let down by this highly lauded death metal album.
emperorjvl on May 13th, 2005
Underrated death Masterpiece
Death metal masters Immolation return with their fourth full length to obliterate all fake "evil" bands. I have always admired this bands capacity to write songs that make you want to murder people. Believe me, musically, only Incantation can match Immolation's evil sound (though the latter's excessive use of feedback and rather monotonous drumming are rather detrimental to the listening experience).
Having hit a bit of a problem with the production of 99's "Failures for Gods", Immolation have improved their sound tenfold and have unleashed a monster of an album that ranks as highly or better than their second (and best, in my opinion) album "Here in After". Let me describe the first three tracks for you. Opener "Higher Coward" starts fast with and an atypical drum pattern consisting of double bass drum and cymbal barrage with a more controlled snare, then shifts to a multiplicity of fast drumming with fills,followed by a slower double bass drum pattern. The vocals are pure demonic growl, no unintelligible belches here. "Father, you're not a Father" follows with a midpaced style that goes into frenzy then backs down again. The part where Ross Dolan growls "you've-raped-MARY!!!" could probably make a christian angry at god. "Furthest from the Truth" follows, in what is undoubtedly one of the nastiest songs in all of Death metal. Must be listened to, I'm not describing it here. Fucking incredible. And those are only the first 3 tracks. Further along, I'll just say that the song "Close to a World Below" is a fucking death metal epic masterpiece, and that "Lost Passion" could be musical gateway to despondency. Minds not used to anger-inducing music should definitely stay away from this album. This is the complete antithesis of the relaxing sea sound cd.
On a side note, my hat's off to Alex Hernandez [I originally wrote Marquez instead - my apologies to Mr. Hernandez] for his incredible, complex, full drumming on this album. It complements perfectly the chords and song structures, and makes the whole journey that much darker.
Any self-respecting fan of true death metal should own this album. Enough said.
(Originally written by me for http://www.infernaldominion.com/ still on hiatus as of May 13 2005)
GodlessDolphin on January 23rd, 2005
Close to a Masterpiece
I can tell by the lyrics that Immolation are no fans of Christ, but I cannot believe that an album this remarkable could exist without some kind of divine inspiration. Close to a World Below is exactly what death metal needs to survive in the new millennium: a focused, well-thought-out work that manages to be memorable without sacrificing the brutality or unconventional arrangement that makes death metal what it is. The album manages to be cohesive and dynamic at the same time, kind of like Monstrosity's excellent In Dark Purity. In other words, though all the songs have the same characteristics--rumbling, often midpaced rhythms with odd sustained lead flourishes--the quality of the songwriting and shifts in feel from one song to another keep the listener engaged throughout. The guitars are a big part of this album's success--Robert Vigna and Thomas Wilkinson deserve credit for their ingenious lead work, which gives each song a distinct character. That's not to say that Alex Hernandez and Ross Dolan don't give great performances, but the guitars are clearly the breakaway stars here. And if excellent songwriting and innovative playing aren't enough to sway you, consider the production, the crispness of which buries any bad memories of Failures for Gods's too-clicky sound. The sound here is compact, but not smothered, resulting in brutality that will tear your fucking head off when you crank it higher (and you will). And if that's not enough, this album has something rare for death metal, a cover you can whack off to. Apparently they don't let women into hell unless they're packing at least thirteen pounds of breast. I can't believe someone has already dethroned Nile as my pick of the year, but Immolation have delivered something so righteously blackened here that it's impossible to deny its godhood. This band is fucking elite.
GS_Abbath on August 9th, 2004
Immolation - Close to a World Below
This truely is the soundtrack to hell. Never has an album conveyed a feeling of impeding doom and evil so vividly as this. That being said, it should also be considered among the greatest metal albums of all time.
Immolation has been in the biz for over 15 years now, and like a fine wine, they simply get better with age. Gone are is their older, more primitive style, now we get Epic scope and endless songwriting innovation! Fast and furious, yet very cerebral in its brutality, they have the perfect pacing for a Death Metal album. They don't just invade our eardrums and pund them untill we can't hear, now it's far more methodical then that. They will give us moments of intense evil, slow it down a notch and cap it all off by a blasting chorus! ou just don't really know what to expect with this album.Immolation have always been recognized with using odd chords and chord progressions, but we are assulted with all sorts of obscure tricks that they manage to pull out of their bag.
Technically, they are very adept at what they play. However the material is never overbearingly complex, as to allow a certain comfort zone. Superb guitar work by their duo, presise drumming, suprisingly present bass and otherworldy vocals. Truely, they are masters at crafting an album, and they show it big time with Close to a World Below.
For its terrifyingly evil sound and perfect excecution, this vaults Immolation into Death Metal royalty (even if they are still rleatively obscure in compairison to certain genre mainstays). They are worthy of this title, and will continue to impress (as can be seen by their follow up, "Unholy Cult").
The_Emperor on June 30th, 2004
a death metal masterpiece
“Didn’t you say Jesus was coming?” New York-based death metallers Immolation have been going strong for the past 16 years, releasing one great album after another. In 2000 the band released what many, myself included, consider to be their masterpiece. That album was entitled Close to A World Below, and it has one of the more recognizable covers in metal. Lamented souls all over, demons from hell, a large crucifix in the center, all surrounding by what can be nothing but the fires of hell itself. From the pounding intro of the opener Higher Coward, to the closing riffs of the title track this album is an ass kicker.
Instead of going through the album song by song, I’ve decided to simply focus on a few tracks that stood out to me. Now this is not to say that there are any bad songs on the album, no that is not the case here. The album is filled with excellent riffs provided by Thomas Wilkinson and Robert Vigna, pounding drums by Alex Hernandez, and a nice bass sound provided by Ross Dolan who also handles vocals.
Higher Coward starts things off with a slow building intro that prepares you for the ass kicking you’re about to receive. As stated things start off kind of slow, building and building, until WHAM! It hits you full force with Hernandez pounding away at his drums, and Wilkinson and Vigna providing excellent riffs that set the pace for the rest of the song. Then the vocals kick in provided by Mr. Ross Dolan. Dolan has some of the best death metal vocals in metal today, they’re understandable yet don’t lose any of the fierceness. The lyrics of this song, and the rest of the album, are filled with venom and hate for organized religion and Dolan does an excellent job of conveying the bands distaste. This is most evident when Dolan delivers the lines: How can you glorify and praise / One so weak, imperfect and insane / The magnitude of his madness is so clear / In the eyes of the herd that he keeps.
The next track on the album is called Father, You’re Not A Father. This song lyrically deals with priest stealing the youth and innocence of a child, only to hide behind their collars and pretend they’re still righteous. It is on this track that I feel Dolan’s vocals shine in terms of conveying the anger and hate that the lyrics to this song are filled with. The song is filled with excellent riffs, and on this track Hernandez doesn’t use as much blasting instead opting to provide us with plenty of double bass and fills. The part of this song that really stood out to me comes around the 2:10 mark with the lines: I hailed Mary…over and over again/You’ve failed Mary/You’ve raped Mary…over and over again.” You can hear the anger in Dolan’s voice whenever he delivers those lines, simply amazing.
This whole album is filled with killer songs from beginning to end, no fillers are to be found here. Immolation have become one of my favorite death metal bands, they’ve not released a bad album yet from what I’ve heard by them. Close to A World Below is indeed a death metal masterpiece, and one of Immolation’s greatest albums if not THE greatest. This album, and the rest, are highly recommended to anyone who likes death metal or is just getting into death metal. I certainly look forward to many killer releases from this band in the future, and hope they keep going at this pace. Check this band/album out, you won’t be disappointed.
Necrobutcher on August 14th, 2003
The soundtrack to hell
Immolation's "Close to a World Below" is one of the catchiest death metal albums I've heard and rightfully so, is considered Immolation's best work. Combining brutality with slower death metal grooves, Immolation pull of some killer rhythms and time changes. The first track, "Higher Coward", is a fucking awesome opener, starting off with some distorted noises, then jumping into a brutal opening. Needless to say, a good way to start off a death metal album. The 2nd track, "Father You're Not Father" which is heavy as hell, and again, uses both brutal rhythms and catchy slower grooves. Next is "Furthest from the Truth" which starts off brutal and has some catchy riffs in it. "Fall From A High Place" is a pretty good track, but one of the ones I don't listen to much. The fifth track, "Unpardonable Sin" is one of my favorite tracks. The vocals are one of the highlights of this song, since they make the song catchy and enjoyable on first listen. Next is "Lost Passion", which has a catchy main riff and a killer groove. "Put My Hand in the Fire" is a good track and has a nice use time changes. Then there's the 8 minute closing to the album "Closer to the World Below", which has an intro that just sounds evil by listening to it. The whole song is awesome and a great way to close out the album.
One of the main things about this album is that Immolation uses a lot of different speeds to play at and are able to fit it all together. Ross Dolan's vocals are incredible and are some of the best I've heard since Morbid Angel's "Domination." With CTAWB, Immolation definitley proove themselves as death metal masters by creating such a classic release.
Close to a World Below track list
|2||Father, You're Not a Father||05:03|
|3||Furthest from the Truth||04:26|
|4||Fall from a High Place||04:37|
|7||Put My Hand in the Fire||04:12|
|8||Close to a World Below||08:19|
Close to a World Below lineup
|Ross Dolan||Bass, Vocals|