Ilsa – Corpse Fortress Review

Band: Ilsa
Album: Corpse Fortress
Label: Relapse
Genre: Doom/Sludge
Country: USA
Release Date: 2 March, 2018

This one certainly starts out crusty and heavy and droning and unrelenting and does not let up. The songs vary here and there, some faster than others, but the overall tone, the feel, and the power and crushing authority, do not ever waver. Ilsa have delivered an album full of crunch and passion, one that should not be missed by fans of Doom and Sludge.

For ten years this band from D.C. have been working hard, steadily forging their sound in the fires of Hell itself to reach this pinnacle of their art. I can’t help but think these guys have to be very satisfied with what they’ve done here, as it’s the culmination of so much effort, time, and talent. They’ve created something dark and horrible and heavy, and yet it does have its moments of light, and never comes across as oppressive and unforgiving. Corpse Fortress strikes a nice balance so that when you finish listening, you don’t feel like crawling into a cave and dying, you just want to give it another listen.

Things open strong with “Hikikomori,” and as good album openers do, it lets you know what the future holds for your ears as you listen to this record all the way through. Doomy, heavy, swaggering, the vocals tortured and heated with horror, this one is filled with crust and swing and hits has hard as a rusty sledgehammer upside the head. The solo has a dissonant, almost slowed-down Black Metal feel to it, and the whole song swaggers with force and domination. A great start that promises great things.

Follow-up “Nasty, Brutish,” is just that, starting with some gnarly feedback and then cruising in, a headbanger at heart. The song has a nice, mid-pace that steadily builds in power as it rumbles along. The drums here really deliver a steady, war-like beat, the riffs thick and dirty, the vocals almost clean. Almost.

Some other highlights:

“Old Maid” feels like a punk song, it’s so much faster than everything else here. It gallops out of the gate at breakneck speed and really doesn’t let up. The guitars are heavy as hell, and the strangled cries compliment the overall mood. There’s a nice slowdown about 2:30 in, as if the band need to collect themselves, and their audience, before bringing the crushing, speedy Doom right back in. The screeching vocals added by special guest K.C. Oden really add to this twisted tale of a woman accused of witchcraft, tortured, and killed.

There’s something so primal and basic about “Long Lost Friend” that I find it compelling. Most probably won’t think it that remarkable, but the Doom, and the ringing twin guitar harmonies, and the constant chanting to Satan really hit the spot for me. Like the surrounding album, it’s primitive, with some nice guitar flourishes that remind me of the best of bands like Trouble. A grinder, filled with some tasty guitar soloing.

Closer “Drums of the Dark Gods” is just amazing. It’s heavy, gritty, dirgy, and packed to the gills with everything that makes Doom and Death so fantastic when mixed together. That single riff at the beginning is gargantuan, and combined with the tortured vocals, really create quite the atmosphere. The drums kick in and you get the idea that this one isn’t going to go fast, no sir, it’s going to go slow, and painfully, like being drowned in a sea of riffs so heavy you giggle as you die. The Dark Gods do rise in this one, summoned by a power so crushing, that when the song hits a crescendo 5:30, when you’re being drilled into the ground, and the singer shrieks “Terror unending,” you know you’ve arrived in the land of monsters, and you’ve just heard their soundtrack of horror.

Ilsa deliver on all fronts here. They bring the power and the glory of pure Doom and mix it with Crust, with Sludge, with Death, and create their own powerful, primal cocktail of poisoned stew. Feast upon the riffs, and enjoy this tasty treat.

One more thing: terrific album artwork, and nice nod to Fulci there.

Rating: 8/10

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 the Dark Gods

Total Playing Time: 47:42

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