Illdisposed have been in the death metal game for a long, long time, with their first release in Four Depressive Seasons way back in 1993. 23 years later, the band is still going strong with Grey Sky Over Black Town, their 13th release in their 25 years of activity, and their fifth with Massacre Records.
The reality is that Illdisposed is a band that, despite many releases throughout the years, has seen little evolution in their sound. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up to you, but at the end of it all, it makes for an exhausting listening experience time after time. Illdisposed’s dedication and stalwart nature is admirable, if anything, as they so vehemently adhere to the endless number of death meatl tropes. From the staccato riffings to the relentlessly punishing drums, Grey Sky Over Black Town is a death metal album through and through and excellently ties into the sound that Illdisposed have cultivated over the years.
Grey Sky Over Black Town succeeds the most when Illdisposed break away from their death metal conventions and create interesting hooks that reach into other genres outside of their own. The short break partway through “Again” that slows down the track’s brutal pace would have better served as a jumping point to change the track entirely and send it in a new direction instead of returning to form. In fact, the same could be said about a lot of these more interesting “moments” throughout the album.
For example, “I Tried to Live” introduces a splendid post-black metal vibe a little over halfway through the track that is righteously engaging and, like the break in “Again,” shows off the exploration capabilities of the band before jumping into a groovy three-note ascension that melds perfectly with the ferocious groove throughout the song. With “My Flesh is Sealed,” there’s a delectable black metal breakdown in the middle of the song that builds up from the sludgy intro of the track itself, largely disconnected from its overall thrash/death metal vibe.
That’s the problem with Grey Sky Over Black Town, however, and likely speaks to a grander issue with Illdisposed as a unit rather than the record itself—the album has moments throughout that delve into uncharted territories for the band, creating fascinating atmospheres that are appealing to evolving sensibilities. Illdisposed is an act that has remained largely unchanged in their two-and-a-half active decades, with their sound being largely established around the early 2000s with 1-800 Vindication and thereabout. This would be fine if band wasn’t producing records approximately every two years, but aside from the production values in the music, which are, to be succinct, magnificent, the music itself leaves much to be desired in the way of a fan of the band or even death metal as a whole.
For fans of Illdisposed, you probably know what to expect with Grey Sky Over Black Town, which could be a very good thing for you. However, for death metal appreciators looking for a band with a lengthy career that has unfolded in intriguing ways, this trite record—or even this band—may not be for you. Had this been released ten years ago in Illdisposed’s lengthy catalog, it may have been hailed a masterpiece. In 2016, Grey Sky Over Black Town is little more than an average death metal album.