New York’s Immolation currently reside at the top of death metal. That may be a bold statement, but consider the following: Immolation are thirty years into their career and continue to release top notch, high quality albums that usually make year end, best of the year lists.
Immolation are also one of the most unique, and recognizable, bands in death metal with a signature sound that not many other bands emulate, successfully or otherwise; and Immolation take a serious approach to their chosen subject matter, a scathing critique of organized religion that doesn’t descend into silliness or self parody. In short, Immolation are a sort of “thinking man’s” death metal band.
Combine the above criteria with stellar musicianship, strong songwriting skills and a solid work ethic, and you have all the hallmarks of a band that’s going to rise to the apex of its chosen genre. Of course, label backing, successful merchandising, touring, etc., are all factors, and Immolation have honed their business acumen over the years by being on the rosters of labels that provide the necessary resources. Currently, Immolation reside on Nuclear Blast Records, one of the best labels in metal.
And so, Immolation release Atonement, their tenth full-length studio album and their first in nearly four years. Atonement continues in the vein of Immolation’s last two albums, 2010’s Majesty And Decay and 2013’s Kingdom Of Conspiracy, with a very dense, heavy production that gives the band the heft of the proverbial two-ton weight. Musically, Atonement is classic Immolation with lots of tempo changes, huge riffing with plenty of twists and turns, and with clearly enunciated vocals from bassist Ross Dolan, who continues to demonstrate why he’s one of the best vocalists in death metal.
The songwriting diverges a bit from the last two albums with plenty of slower moments that drip with menace, and even a few moments of acoustic guitars make sporadic appearances. Not as much emphasis is given to all out bursts of speed, although they appear on a few scorchers such as “When The Jackals Come,” and songs are given a degree of complexity that reaches new heights even for a band with the skills of Immolation. Songs such as “Fostering The Divide,” the title track, and the closer, “Epiphany,” nicely showcase the complex approach to the songwriting.
Dynamically, the eleven tracks mesh together over a running time of over 45 minutes, the perfect length for Immolation to offer their scathing critique of organized religion. In short, Atonement stacks up very well against recent albums from Immolation, but the complexity is going to require more attention from the listener to fully appreciate.
(released February 24, 2017 on Nuclear Blast Records)