Recorded just as 2020 began to close in on itself, the new record from Washington DC’s ILSA, Preyer, is clearly inspired by the isolation, death and chaos that the world finds itself descending into. This is death/doom for a doomed world, following in part the tale of Sean Sellers, a notorious killer who committed his crimes in a self described demonic possession. Preyer isn’t a concept album, but themes of depression, mental illness and death definitely linger within that tale and this. It’s out now through the mighty Relapse Records.
The opening note of this record, rumbling under a sample of someone talking about human sacrifice and murder, makes Epigraph a very potent ‘intro’ of sorts to what ILSA is about to unleash. The cursed devastation of Poor Devil gives you chills as the dense doom riffing lumbers forward, given a real sense of power by a bit of death metal ferocity. The band use power as a theme; how it corrupts and destroys, be it through religion, greed or illness. Moonflower thunders along with an evil purpose, slowing to a monolithic crawl at one point while the tortured howl of vocalist Orion rasps in the night. ILSA have a dose of sludge about their sound too, more apparent on their faster work such as Shibboleth or Widdershins.
The result is a record that can be punishingly heavy and unflinchingly raw…
This may paint itself as death/doom at times, but the band have a bit of a crusty d-beat thrust about them at times too, which meshes well with an old school sense of death metal. Coupling that with some torturously slow doom crush, like in the mammoth Mother of God makes Preyer an album that is right up my street. ILSA capture a mood of raging helplessly at the ills of the world, while stuck unable to deal with them, something we’re all feeling a bit right now. The title track sounds like someone pounding on a wall, desperate to get out of their own mind. This record can feel at times almost oppressive in its relatability, which is vaguely terrifying in and of itself. As The Square Coliseum brings us to a thunderous close, the crunch and weight is unmistakably brilliant.
ILSA are guilty of possibly attempting to merge too many styles and run the risk of losing them all at times, but they never do. Displaying a deft hand at using all their weapons and never letting one jam, Preyer sees them firing on all cylinders. The result is a record that can be punishingly heavy and unflinchingly raw at times too. Excellent.
Scribed by: Sandy Williamson