Review: Ilsa “Preyer” [Relapse Records]

Review: Ilsa “Preyer” [Relapse Records]

- in Reviews

After two years of silence the American crust/doom legend Ilsa, based in Washington D.C., has returned with a new album “Preyer”, the second one in a collaboration with iconic record label Relapse. Ilsa fits perfectly into conception of this dark grindcore and sludge-oriented music label, such a profitable partnership!

The Americans claim, that Ilsa is one of the heaviest and darkest bands in the States, and that’s not an empty statement, their music is creepy and harsh as hell by all accounts. They also draw inspiration in the darkest historical themes, like satanism, anti-fascism or like here – serial killers. The musicians have found the parallels between American serial murderer Sean Seller and the biblical traitor Judas Iscariot, so on the “Preyer” Ilsa has investigated the darkest matters of his demonic possession. So “Preyer” is a 45-minute-long musical journey – desperate, dirty, and brutal.

The extremely drone low riffs, slowed-down tempo and despondent screams are the forte of Ilsa, their unique sound is really outstanding among the sludge bands. Still, their hardcore-based side is also presented on this album, despite the doom/death deceleration, drawing parallels with D-beat (a là Skitsystem). Their aggressive punky mood hasn’t disappeared as well, the songs “Shibboleth” or “Preyer” are the actual proof of their affection for hardcore/punk scene. The tracks “Widdershins” and “Behind the Veil” are characterized by crust structure with messy sound and emphasized bass lines. The typical for American sludge/stoner scene southern fuzzy sound is also adopted by Ilsa occasionally (like in the last “The Square Coliseum”), but the craziest heaviness is obtained due to primitive doom/death passages, creating the depressive aura. Surprisingly, the material isn’t overwhelmed with drone and noise parts, leaving a space for melodic delights. The song “Poor Devil” even reminds a bit of melodic metalcore, but on the disharmonious death metal piece “Lady Diamond” the even melodic lines smooth away the crippling heaviness.

The emotional background is overwhelmed, the feelings of hopeless frustration and the dirtiest human subconscious dreams prevail on this gloomy record, sending the listener into blackest cathartic frenzy. The singer Orion shrieks and screams without mercy, and the strong guitar riffs echoed his insanely abysmal lamentations. Other than a couple of punky crust tracks, this masterpiece of Ilsa is very slow and profound, without contrasting tempos, and with a low buzzing riffs and heavily distorted instruments. And again, the minimalistic cover art complies with the general mood of this album, adding some extra symbolical features. And oddly enough, the anxious chaotic muddiness is still strictly disciplined, and that’s why “Preyer” totally lacks the sense of incompleteness, it is intelligent and elaborate creation to the last detail.

Ilsa has frightened the metal scene since 2008, they have improved their unique blend of crust, sludge and death metal to a new level on the last records, straining the musical conception to unknowable heights and muddying it in the darkest principles of human flaws. So “Preyer” isn’t just the technically skillful and compositionally strong record, it is also emotionally insightful and intricately exalted piece of art.

Release date: November 20th 2020

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