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Ilsa - Preyer Award winner

by Chris Hawkins at 08 March 2021, 4:15 PM

From the swampy capital of the U.S., ILSA was formed back in 2008.  Since then, the band have released six full-lengths including the latest, “Preyer”.  This album transcends the limiting description of clever title.  No, ILSA sounds like an incredible tight live band.  The modus operandi, stripping down the production, is key to the album’s success and now permanent status as an eminent example of how sludgy Death Doom should sound.

The first track, titled “Epigraph,” has a mid-paced Sludge sound, almost oppressive in its heaviness.  Between the bass and guitars with monstrously thick distortion and drums with copious amounts of bombast, this is a finely-tuned, down-tuned, machine tuned to Metal.  The definition for the title, “Epigraph,” refers to an inscription on a building, state, or coin.  It is an auspicious title for the sound of the band is simply monolithic.  A clip plays throughout with a guy testifying to the rapacious voracity of being involved in a Satanic cult that promoted human sacrifice.  It begins with a gratuitously low bass making a statement and when the full band arrives, it is with exuberant, palpable energy.

Poor Devil” follows and builds off the momentum of the previous song with regal fervor.  There is so much to unpack though it seems prudent to comment on the vibe.  This is simply an album that exists outside of time meaning it could have come out three decades ago in the ‘90s.  In no way is that meant to be denigrating; rather, it speaks to the effectiveness of the production to exacerbate the album’s inherent live feel.

To go a bit deeper on production, this example is exemplified by its ability to transfer the listener to the middle of the room where the band is jamming.  The guitars are massive but, like any solid Doom band, the bass is the real game changer.  From the vacuous depths of the sonic spectrum, one valid concern would be whether the bass would be audible but this is refuted by the deep, malevolent growls of the four stringed instrument.   Interlocked with the drums, a threatening atmosphere is created by the earth-shaking groove.  The point here is that the production is excellent and helps to propel the band to new heights along the way.

The fifth track, “Mother of God,” ventures into Death Doom territory,.  One can almost hear the results of a hypothetical what-if that goes something like, “what if members of INCANTATION, CROWBAR, and OBITUARY made a band?”  This would be it and combined with the strength of the track following it, “Scavengers,” as well as the tile track, this album is an incredibly visceral, bludgeoning experience.

This is an album I had high hopes for.  By the arrival of the third track, “Moonflower,” I was entangled in the web of the band’s vibe, much like the Millennium Falcon getting hopelessly trapped in the Death Star’s tractor beam.  Unlike that particular film reference, this is an incredible, exuberant experience delivered by six members whose combined influences merge to create a successful album that moves, chugs, and resounds deeply within the listener.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

1. Epigraph
2. Poor Devil
3. Moonflower
4. Shibboleth
5. Mother of God
6. Scavengers
7. Widdershins
8. Preyer
9. Lady Diamond
10. Behind the Veil
11. The Square Coliseum
Sharad – Bass
Joshy – Drums
Brendan – Guitars
Orion – Vocals
Tim – Guitars
Dylan – Guitars
Record Label: Relapse Records


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Edited 11 April 2021

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