Sunday, 4 March 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: IIsa - "Corpse Fortress"

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 02/03/2018
Label:  Relapse Records

After five full-length and three split releases, Ilsa is at a creative and musical high water mark. As such, "Corpse Fortress" is an outstanding experience.

“Corpse Fortress” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Hikikomori
2. Nasty, Brutish
3. Cosmos Antinomos
4. Prosector
5. Old Maid
6. Long Lost Friend
7. Ruckenfigur
8. Polly Vaughn
9. Drums of Dark Gods

The Review:

Fans of D.C. death/doom powerhouse Ilsa have been treated to a feast of albums over the years. Since 2009's "The Maggots Are Hungry," Ilsa has churned out a consistent and crunchy blend of extreme music that boasts a fresh intensity every time. "Corpse Fortress," the band's Relapse Records debut, shows that on its latest Ilsa is in prime shape to continue the band's five-album trip into savagery.

At first blush, "Hikikomori" feels like an unusual opener. At over six minutes, it is one of the record's longest cuts, and its languid drums fill the cut's first 15 seconds. Almost immediately thereafter, however, you are reminded why Ilsa has its reputation of impossibly heavy music, with thick bass lines and guitars cutting through the drums. Bassist Sharad Satsangi sets an impressive pace here and in the subsequent song, "Nasty, Brutish" – supported by guitar lines by Brendan Griffiths, the songs plant the flag for "Corpse Fortress" to be the distortion-fest of fury and noise that it is.

Vocalist Orion Peter makes the most of the incredibly dark atmosphere, painting grisly imagery in its anguished words. In "Cosmos Antinomos," he howls, "Show me your circles of violence." In "Prosector," his words are just as withering. "Ever-consummate capitalist/Ever-compassionate Christian," Peter seethes amid flailing drums and relentless guitars. "So slow to forgive, yet quick to forget/The sins of thine own." He and the rest of the group are at their best on a track like "Long Lost Friend," with vocals that singe the ears and a rhythm section that rumbles the gut. The guitar work remains peerless even this far into the album, as the band sinks into some of its best work yet.

Insatiably sinister songwriting, with sharp commentary, has been a hallmark of Ilsa's sound. Slayer's "Disciple" is widely recognized as one of the most excoriating metal songs about religion, by Ilsa's 2010 cut "120 Days" is a close second in the discerning music fan's book. With lyrics like "Trampled underfoot, all life that springs forth afresh/Unnoticed, till broken under grinding wheels" ("Traphouse") and many more gory sonnets, Ilsa has a flair for the hostile. Tracks on "Corpse Fortress" such as "Rückenfigur" ("Willful ignorance, painful indifference, pedantic inquiries") mix at moments social critique of the rot around us. While imagery of beasts and demons may be the stuff of nightmares, Ilsa reminds us that humanity's ignorance and violence ("Old Maid") and pure happenstance ("Polly Vaughn") may be the most fearsome of all.

For nearly a decade, Ilsa has been seen as among the best of breed when it comes to the strain of hardcore/crust-influenced metal that has only grown more in recent years. The group has also been showered with lofty though good comparisons to Eyehategod and others. With such high expectations, it is impressive to see that there is really very little to pick apart about "Corpse Fortress." The nine tracks each compose a very formidable package, with no filler or songs you might not consider as strong as the rest. After five full-length and three split releases, Ilsa is at a creative and musical high water mark. As such, "Corpse Fortress" is an outstanding experience.

“Corpse Fortress” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || Facebook