I’ve always really valued this band’s work in general. You see, what separates Immolation
from the majority of their peers in technical death metal throughout their career is that they don’t use technicality as a mere end, they use it as a means, crafting some incredibly captivating and unique music that also just happens to be complex. Dawn of Possession
, their debut effort, already more than showcases what makes this band one of the absolute titans of death metal.
Basically, on this album Immolation
play a rather unorthodox style of death metal that really didn’t have all that many contemporaries in the death metal field of the early 90’s. The early efforts of Morbid Angel
are a somewhat close touchstone to the style of songwriting exhibited on here. The riffcraft on here is actually pretty diverse overall, ranging from tremolo-picked, some thrash metal-based riffs, and even some strange-sounding, off-kilter high-pitched riffing; all written with a broad yet dark harmonic sensibility and a subtle yet significant level of technicality. The lead guitar work of Bob Vigna on this album is especially laudable, with a strangely alien and creepy sense of melody to them. The melodic approach taken with these solos are very unique in my opinion (the only other band off the top of my head that has such a similar melodic ideal would’ve been Adramelech
’s Psychostasia), and they’re executed with an absolutely superb level of taste and precision.
Drumming is, for the most part, very good, as the songwriting often utilizes unorthodox time signatures and the drum match them very well. My complaint about them – and pretty much the only significant complaint I have about the whole album - is that they tend to be ‘overplayed’ on occasion – the fills are intended to closely follow the guitars (ala Morbid Angel
), but they’re not utilized as tastefully and effectively as later Immolation
and come off almost as gratuitous at times. (the first two demos show a pretty different part of that story as well, though they had a different drummer then) The bass isn’t particularly notable, as it’s pretty much entirely buried in the mix. The vocals are outstanding on this album; Ross Dolan is without doubt one of the best vocals in the genre, with a guttural depth that still remains almost completely decipherable throughout and with a strong sense of enunciation to boot.
The songwriting is fantastic on this album – despite the unorthodox nature of their songwriting, Immolation
are one of those bands that can grab the listeners attention from the get go and keep it for the album’s entire running time. “Into Everlasting Fire
” is the most obvious classic from this album (they still play it live) and is an excellent song, replete with excellent riffwork, and an initial verse-chorus song structuring before going into a more progressive approach. Despondent
Souls is in the same vein, albeit with a more off-kilter feel to both the riffwork and the drumming in the verses. “Those Left Behind
” and “After My Prayers” are the two epics of the album, the former of the two sporting an incredibly dark, ominous feel with that intro tremolo riff. (an interesting note is how said riff is perfectly complemented by the bass drums – another example of that unorthodox streak) The former song has one of the most masterful guitar solos in all of death metal in the middle as well – complex yet emotional. “After My Prayers” is a little more straight-forward but it still has some excellent riffs and a very weighty, multi-faceted structure to it. “Internal Decadence
” is probably the most overtly memorable song on the entire album, with a very obvious verse-chorus arrangement, but it works out very well (since it’s barely above three minutes). The title track and “Burial Ground
” are fairly similar in style (though going for a more flowing construction here) as well. “Immolation
”, the closer, sports probably the most overt Morbid Angel
influence out of any of the songs on here, with the main tremolo riff and the trem riff that appears at 1:20 sounding very highly influence by Altars
of Madness. The rest of the tunes I didn’t mention are great in their own right, although not quite as much so as the highlights.
The production is a very interesting matter on here. Whereas most modern technical death metal bands often use overly clean, bright, and sterile production jobs, Dawn of Possession
uses an incredibly dark-sounding production job that perfectly fits the nature of the tunes on here. The guitar sound is dark and heavy, almost even murky-sounding but retaining more than enough clarity to fully make out the riffs. The lead guitar has a strange, almost ethereal tone to it that, combined with the odd melodic sensibility that Vigna uses with his solos, gives them an incredibly unique feel. The drums have an even stranger tone to them all around; the various parts of the kit are very oddly mixed between each other, in that the crash cymbal, hi-hats, and the bass and tom drums tend to be more prominently represented than the snare drum is. The toms have a somewhat thin and sharp tone to them, and the bass drum has a very high-pitched tone to them – it’s not the typical over-triggered bass drum sound either. Bass is pretty much buried for all intents and purposes, and the vocals are mixed towards the front without them being overpowering. (I have the version with the original mastering job, for the record; I have no idea if the recent remaster actually changes the sound all that much)
When all is said and done, despite a few minor flaws, Dawn of Possession
is an excellent album for any death metal fan to own in their collection. It’s what technical death metal should aspire to be: with the more complex and technical elements intelligently integrated into the songwriting without succumbing to mindless virtuosity, like a lot of other death metal bands in the technical field. This is absolutely essential.