posted on 4/2012 By:
New Jersey’s Immolith is about two decades late and several thousand miles shy of the epicenter of black metal’s second wave, but that hasn’t dissuaded these Garden State grouches from firing up the ol’ Icy Tremolo Melody Generator and bashing out a handful of proudly atavistic hymns to blood, darkness, bloody darkness, and so forth. Unfortunately for Immolith, ‘proudly atavistic’ and ‘mostly dull’ are not mutually exclusive attributes, and StormDragon ends up mostly dashing itself against the craggy shores of tedium.
As already suggested, StormDragon offers up a pretty fair carbon copy of the Scandinavian black metal scene circa 1995/6, when the early innovations had been tweaked and smoothed out into a generic blueprint. Think, if you must, of a watered-down Gorgoroth, Immortal, or Marduk. The mix here is mostly well balanced, though the bass drum is quite clacky, and the whole production lacks any of the atmospheric spark that gave the landmark albums in this movement an aura of otherness.
More importantly, missed opportunities abound. The two-note guitar keening that gradually emerges about a minute and a half into “The Obsidian Throne of Azazel” begins as a good idea, but then falters – instead of fading back out, or subtly altering that two-note pattern into something new, it plays out for a bit longer than is welcome, and then, just…stops. The thumping doom outro of “Hymns to the Countess,” replete with tolling bells, needs to hit a little harder to stand in effective contrast to the rest of the song, and when the vocals march in standard lock-step with each clanging chord of a guitar riff, as they do for much of the first half of “A Pact of Blood,” the effect is wholly underwhelming, sounding less like a full group striding forward as one than like an individual voice ventriloquizing its unison through different instruments.
There is nevertheless something almost charming in Immolith’s lack of any and all forward-thinking ambition, but that can only ever get one so far. “Rites of the Blood Moon” just kind of drags along, like a man whose bus is about to pull away but can’t be bothered to run after it in the rain and ennui. The relaxed, serpentine opening of “Storm Dragon” initially shows promise, but the band doesn’t seem to know how to effectively build from there, as witnessed by the transformation of that snaky melody to rudimentary quarter-note tremolo swells when multiple guitars enter. The man gives up on public transit altogether and half-heartedly hails a taxi by tugging limply on his soggy lapel. There is nothing shockingly bad about StormDragon, and thus whether you choose to hear the album as a love note to a bygone scene or a shameless and vitiated ripoff will largely depend on your predilection for the style. We can’t all be none more black, after all.
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