Ilsa – Corpse Fortress (Relapse)

Wednesday, 14th March 2018
Rating: 6/10

“Depraved” may be the appropriate term for Ilsa’s fifth full-length, Corpse Fortress, which also serves as their first for Relapse. The D.C. quintet has been branded as a satanic anti-fascist band, which is either a really fast way to earn fans or end up at the Taake tour picket line. It’s really neither here nor there when contending with the band’s muddled, volume-driven style of doom, none of which leaves much of a dent unless you’re factoring in earbud or sensory damage, to which there may be some due to the album’s overwrought guitar tone.

In some respects, Ilsa reminds of England’s Conan, a band who also fancies an unbelievably ugly approach in sound and aesthetic. The idea for both units is to be as near-unlistenable as possible, as in, keeping their feet on the ledge before totally falling off. Ilsa and their easy, blunt riffs are imposing on opener “Hikikomori,” a bare-upon-bare doom take, while the punk-infested “Nasty, Brutish” recycles a riff that everyone from black metal progenitors to the sludge beneficiaries have used over the years.

Embedded between some unmemorable, throwaway below-abyss doom takes likes “Prosecutor” and “Old Maid,” which sadly, is not to be confused with the classic card game, but rather a hearty stroke of Celtic Frost circa To Mega Therion thiefdom that would make Mr. Tom G. Warrior bristle, if only because he loathes copycats. While Ilsa demonstrates across Corpse Fortress they aren’t totally bereft of ideas, they do prove further capable of carving out their own niche in the growing field of “unlistenable metal.”

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