In every genre there are a few names, usually one or two, that you just know are going to be worthy of your attention. In the universe of classic Death Metal few would argue that Immolation are one of those bands, never putting a foot wrong while they continue to gnaw and chew at the boundaries of what’s possible for all things uncompromising, relentless and brutal.
While the purists hark back to the first three “classic” Immolation albums from the early 90s for me Majesty And Decay more than held it’s own in that illustrious company, so the bar is set pretty high for Atonement. This is Immolation’s opportunity to show the young pretenders to their throne how it should be done and break a few necks along the way.
The first impression you get of what’s in store is from the impressive album art. Immolation’s old-school logo stands on the shoulders of some post-apocalyptic angel of death type chap.
Ruined buildings.. Check.
Right, let’s do this.
Things start off heavy and slow with The Distorting Light which rumbles and snarls along setting a dark, sinister vibe. This old school neckbreaker sets Immolation’s stall out in no uncertain terms. Ahowitzer barrage of a track with riffs and ripping solos sailing past your ears like artillery shells while the rumbling bottom end makes the earth shake.
Whatever the elusive “it” is that makes something brutal yet listenable Immolation undeniably nail. The whole album just drips darkness and anger, riff after riff after motherf’kin riff. It never settles down either, you just get into the groove and it changes. Everything is put together with precision and Immolation know better than anyone that brutality doesn’t always mean letting rip at 100 mph, especially in the percussion department where it’s often more rhythmic sledgehammer than rattly machine gun.
Atonement is definitely another one of those albums that benefits from being listened to on a decent sound system, the production is pin-point and the underlying melodies are surprisingly deft and subtle when you consider the overall atmosphere of darkness and anger. This is especially true for Lower, which sees Immolation unleash some blistering guitar pretty sure to melt faces.
Not literally, nut you know what I mean.
If there’s a criticism of Atonement it would be that it does seem to be running out of steam a little towards the end, but that’s mostly just because the first 5 or 6 tracks are so damn unrelenting, beating you into aural submission. Still, stick with it because album closer Epiphany is going to have fans of the old school Death Metal days heading off to change their underpants.
With Atonement, Immolation have released an album that compares favourably with anything that they have done before and tops most of the recent Death Metal that’s dropped here at CB. Does it top Majesty And Decay though? Well time will tell but after the first few listens I think that it just might.
*makes note in album of the year list*