PICK OF THE WEEK: Satan, horror still Ilsa’s deadly killer cards on punishing ‘Corpse Fortress’

The haunting season remains a good while away (I see all you people counting down to Halloween every day!), but that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in some horrific tales and music that would please the red man downstairs with the pointed tail. Be it terrifying tales or anthems to evil, anytime is a good time to revel in the madness, no matter the season outside the door.

Which brings us to tried-and-true sludge death crushers Ilsa, who have been doing their thing for a decade now and still are burying our faces in the dirt to this day. They’re back with their fifth album “Corpse Fortress,” their first for Relapse, and it’s another dose of filth and outright destruction. The DC-based killers come at you with nine tracks that spill over nearly 48 minutes, and they fit right along with earlier work such as what was packed onto “The Felon’s Claw” and “Tutti Il Colori del Buio.” The band—vocalist Orion, guitarists Tim and Brendan, bassist Sharad, and drummer Joshy—mixes muddy fury with a penchant for grinding, ugly death metal, making for a formula that’s perfect for telling their horrific tales and spreading their bloody madness all over your psyche.

“Hikikomori,” Japanese for being pulled inward or being confined, rips out of the gates with the drums kicking up, sludgy power shaking its hips, and the band settling into mauling, bruising death. Orion’s vocals belt you in the chest, while slurry soloing mesmerizes, savagely dealt chaos bubbles, and the track bleeds into noise. “Nasty, Brutish” is aptly named, as a doomy groove is set free, and ferocity blasts at you, with Orion warning, “Say your prayers, prepare to die!” Soloing goes off, as the track gasps its last breath. “Cosmos Antinomos” rumbles, with monstrous growls from Orion, devastating playing, and a pace that’s heavy, yet grinding your face in the mud. Black melodies are unleashed, while the track chugs ahead and ends in animalistic violence. “Prosector” is wild, as Orion wails bloody hell, sludgy riffs bruise eyes, and doomy lumbering comes your way with no hint of mercy, as this ends heavily as fuck. “Old Maid” is a change of pace, with the punishment going off as KC Oden’s harsh vocals enter the mix, sending shrieks down your spine. The track is catchy but incendiary, with both Orion and Oden’s vocals twisting and strangling.

“Long Lost Friend” starts with a voice running down an epic list of sins before a smudgy swirl lets loose, and the band enters into open assault. The cries for Satan are hungry and bloody, while warm guitars add some light, and the doom hammers later drop and maim. “Ruckenfigur” has a doomy stomp, with vocals piercing your flesh, and grisly playing opening up old and new wounds. A gravelly sung chorus gets the adrenaline flowing, while a brief pull back sets the stage for a thrashy attack and the final blasts for good measure. “Polly Vaughn” surely is the most twisted, deprived version of the old traditional Irish folk song, with these guys hammering at its corpse and warping its original form into a new nightmare. The song never was a happy one, and these guys make sure you feel every ounce of misery. Closer “Drums of the Dark Gods” has guitars droning and sounds boiling, letting its massive cloud drag for about four minutes before the band pulverizes you with power and horror, with Orion wailing, “Torture unrelenting”! The noise fog only spreads, thickening and poising, coating your lungs as you heave for clean air.

Ilsa’s decade-long run covering us in disgusting sludge and horror-filled devastation is well known by those following their bloody path, and “Corpse Fortress” should give their hungry audience exactly what they need. Bloody tales and satanic madness are delivered in full, and their arrival at Relapse should expose them to even more people. This band has delivered consistently vile, punishing metal over their time together, and there’s no reason to think they’ll ruin out of content anytime soon.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/ILSADC/

To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords