If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Yonkers’ Immolation understand this principle very well. It has been almost four years since the release of 2013’s Kingdom of Conspiracy which, like most others in Immolation’s back catalogue, was well received by critics and fans, and saw Immolation take their coma-inducing death metal to dark new heights. In the time since the band has clearly lost none of its resolve. Once again teaming up with long-time producer Paul Orofino, their 10th album and latest offering Atonement does not stray from the path they have laid so solidly.
A disgustingly dissonant guitar lick that sounds an awful lot like a clock from hell ringing out doom gives way to the pummeling opening track, “The Distorting Light.” From this point on they almost never let up on the attack save for a few bars here and there, like the opening moments of “Lower” which sounds like it could be a post-grunge song until it doesn’t. This is not a record for quiet contemplation or simple background escapism. This music is as intense as it gets and it means business. The Nile-style (ha, that rhymed) guitar passages are constantly evolving and collapsing into each other in beautifully orchestrated chaos.
What’s most impressive about Immolation is how they keep coming up with new ways to make old school death metal sound fresh. This album may not feature the most complex or technical riffs you’ll find in the zeitgeist, but the melodies continue to intrigue, and the rhythms continue to surprise. Drummer Steve Shalaty is, as always, a pleasure to listen to. He really understands the textured nature of extreme metal in a way that few others do. One need only check out the constant shifts in the aptly titled “Destructive Currents” to hear just how well he executes an otherwise jarring transition. There’s so much style in his fills, so much venom in his blast beats.
Growler Ross Dolan is also at the top of his game, sounding as much like he’s been possessed by the devil as a human being can sound. Whatever he’s roaring about, be it nightmares or fire or death or hell or any of that good stuff, he gives the weight needed to throw the anchor under these tunes, so they never lose weight.
All in all, this is not a record that’s ever going to bring any new listeners into the death metal fold, but definitely a necessary addition to the connoisseur’s collection.
Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy