In Memoriam, Ill Omen
posted on 10/2009 By:
With three-fifths of the band also making up the somewhat obnoxious Nazxul, I’ve been a little hesitant to tackle In Memoriam, Ill Omen, from Australia’s Pestilential Shadows. Thankfully, a few casual spins revealed a decent black metal affair that wasn’t the least bit grueling to endure, and after giving it respectfully concentrated additional listening time, further intricacies were unveiled that helped this disc ascend bargain-bin mediocrity. So, if you’re in the mood for black metal that sets a mood without smothering you with atmosphere, and keeps the ‘metal’ quotient quite high throughout, then stick around.
As “Weapon Against The Sun” rolls out in a blasting flurry, things begin in rather uneventful yet still rockin’ fashion, with razor-sharp melodies and slightly buried, cavernous middle-ranged vocals (think Instinct: Decay/Assassins Nachtmystium). There’s a strangely individualistic air to In Memoriam…, although I can definitely pick out Norwegian influences including just about every era of Mayhem, Enslaved, and Gorgoroth at various points in their careers, aside from any industrial phase Mayhem went through. But this isn’t a bad thing, especially when they ease their attack and settle into a more reserved, clean and pensive Enslaved-influenced approach that temporarily soothes before transitioning into spacey, tersely picked semi-melodic leads (“Beautiful Demise”). I was pleasantly surprised by the respectable amount of bass guitar this track highlighted as well, most notably just before the sudden closing piano segment, ending the tune with a fair amount of class and sophistication.
The production here is also very interesting, to me at least, mostly due to the separation of all the instruments in a very concise way, but brought together by an overall reverb that barely exists enough to notice half of the time. It is at once crystal clear, impenetrable, and undoubtedly metal at its blackened center, with the genius of it being that it really highlights the musicians and the nuances of their music in a very cool, organic way. The excellent clean introduction to “Of Loss And Suffering Inherit”, as well as the vocally wrenching “With Serpents I Lay” are good examples of the clarity and heat this great mix gives off, while again displaying the band's faithful use of bass guitar as a central component that is given ample room to breathe away from the drums and guitar riffs. I can’t help but give a few extra points for this, and it brings back just enough of the old school to add a comfortable familiarity to blazing tunes like “For Man And Heaven’s Ruin”.
What makes this album so good is the fact that it makes you have to work for the payoff a little bit: there’s no instant gratification here at all. Pestilential Shadows are very similar to bands like The Chasm, Ulcerate, The Gates Of Slumber, and Rosetta because every single one of them, in their own way, gives you their own initial trial by fire to go through before you finally connect on a deeper level with what they’re doing, even if what they‘re doing a lot of the time is rather elementary. Sometimes it just doesn’t click, and never will. But what I eventually found appealing was the way In Memoriam, Ill Omen uses cleaner, more subtle passages to create a dominant mood without sacrificing any contempt, tempo, or anger while doing so, which ends up sounding nice and crisp with just enough dirt in the gears to keep things sounding natural. To that end, this is a damn solid effort by a band that has a back catalog I’m suddenly curious to hear, and yet another dark horse in this awesome year for black metal.
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