ILSA refuses to hold back on their debut for Relapse Records, Corpse Fortress. The D.C band’s 5th full length finds them continuing to hammer skulls in with the sheer density of their blown out brand of sludge. Dirty and squealing with feedback, something about their sound has always felt streetwise. This sense of danger makes me picture them waiting for a knife fight in the back alley of the club. This has not been diminished, though there is more of a metal feel to this album as they take a few more steps away from punk influence. There are more nuanced layers of guitar that create a darker mood than previous albums. The pace picks up into a chugged rumble with“Nasty, Brutish.” The vocals are phrased to give the coarse, scathing shouts more of sung feel, and the lyrics cut through the dense instrumentation more effectively with this delivery. The band then shifts back into more of a low end pounding, owing more to doom in the ominous rumble of “Cosmos Antinomos.” The momentum continues to build as the song progresses. The flatulent bass can be heard in the din at times, but the bass and guitars tend to hit as one booming frequency more often than not.
Listen to our exclusive stream of “Prosector” below:
The vocals take on an angrier, hardcore howl to aptly serve “Prosector.” At times an undercurrent of double bass flows through the bridges to create a death metal tone. “Old Maid” kicks you with punk energy. After setting the stage for “Long Lost Friend” with a surreal use of samples, they pull out a moodier guitar riff that reminds me of old Slayer. It’s pretty dense, only broken up by a well-placed guitar solo. The thick slabs of fuzzed distortion keep coming after you on“Ruckenfigur,” The vocals continued to be shouted out in a rough bark with punk intention behind it. Double bass comes in at the three minute mark and is it’s highly effective in giving the song more drive. This is an example of how the band has matured as songwriters, remaining true to themselves by keeping the more straightforward punk roots underlying their metallic exterior.
The band drags you down into festering, dismal doom with the sluggish chords of “Polly Vaughn.” Here, the vocals come across more like nasty drunken rantings. Closing the album with “Drums of the Dark Gods.” The guitar comes into set the tone with distant vocal howling behind it for almost two minutes until the rest of the band joins in and then drops back out midway into the song. This continues to create a polarized extreme of dynamics while dragging you along with a depressive lethargy. While not totally removed from the path laid out by Eyehategod, these guys are darker, with a more bleak misery to their sound. This album shows a great deal of maturation in the songwriting and overall guitar playing, without sacrificing any of the intensity. This might break them through to a larger metal audience, but it is on their own terms, and just as crushing as their previous releases.