Album Title: Atonement
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date Of Release: 24 February 2017
I feel a little bit of a fraud writing a review of this record because, despite the New York death metal juggernaut being widely regarded as one of the very pioneers of the death metal genre, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Immolation. Or, to be more accurate, I’ve never really had the opportunity to become much of a fan. My musical journey has taken me down the death metal path many times but I have always seemed to skirt Immolation amongst others for some reason. It’s usually a lack of time if I’m honest. Writing upwards of 10-12 reviews a month for a print publication meant that I wasn’t given an awful lot of time for much else. And aside from a few staple favourites, I didn’t get a lot of choice over who I reviewed either.
Now that I am in charge of my own destiny and am writing my own blog, I suddenly feel like I have a lot more freedom. I can review what I like, when I like and it is like a breath of fresh air. I can start to right the wrongs of the past and fill in a few of the gaps that have remained in my knowledge base.
So when the opportunity arose to be able to listen to the new Immolation album I didn’t have to think twice.
I naturally had to do my research before attempting this review and I was shocked to discover that Immolation have been in existence for nearly 30 years, releasing nine albums in that time with ‘Atonement’ being their tenth. At the heart of the band is bassist and vocalist Ross Dolan alongside guitarist Robert Vigna. They have been ever-present since the beginning and in 2017, they are joined by drummer Steve Shalaty and guitarist Alex Bouks. As I have finally discovered, these guys make quite a noise together.
I can’t compare and contrast ‘Atonement’ with previous releases but what I can say is that it is a very impressive slab of uncompromising death metal indeed. The Americans take absolutely no prisoners on this record, pummelling the listener with eleven almighty cuts of extreme brutality over a 44-minute period.
Those staple ingredients of aggressive and brutal death metal are all present and correct, meaning that there are blast beats aplenty to set the fast-paced and intense foundations. Scything and punishing riffs abound, often veering into sections of meaty and insanely weighty groove. Pinched harmonics show their face and solos are effectively placed to add further ingredients to the cauldron. And then on top of all this sits a palpable atmosphere of evil and darkness that is the perfect foil for the underlying cacophony, further enhanced by Ross Dolan’s hateful guttural vocal performance.
What I really do like about ‘Atonement’, apart from the fact that the album feels so honed and incisive, is the way in which the songs begin to burrow their way into your brain with repeated listens. At the outset, it can be difficult to hear beyond the incessant driving force of the music as it bulldozers everything in its malevolent path. However, the experience of the Vigna/Dolan partnership means that there a number of subtleties hidden within the tracks to only reveal themselves to those that give their creation the attention it deserves. Get to this stage though and there is a surprising amount of melody to be discovered, meaning that there’s a definite longevity to the music beyond what I initially thought would be the case.
Personal favourites include ‘Fostering The Divide’ thanks to its behemoth of a groovy riff as the track develops and ‘Rise The Heretics’ for its clever blend of pummelling speed and understated melody, not to mention the intriguing inclusion of a lone clean-toned jangly guitar for good measure. The churning and sludgy ‘Thrown To The Fire’ has a touch of Morbid Angel about it and gets my head nodding every time whilst ‘The Distorting Light’ is a killer opening that dovetails some of the fastest material on the record with yet more fat, addictive groove. And then there’s ‘Epiphany’ which closes the entire album out in marvellous fashion, containing enough by way of both melody and contrasting ideas to make it feel like the most grandiose track on ‘Atonement’.
I have finally found a missing piece in my death metal armoury and it feels good. It is much the sweeter experience because ‘Atonement’ has proven to me what a great band Immolation truly are and why so many hold the American quartet in such high regard. These stalwarts clearly have plenty of gas left in the tank and have lost none of their extremity as ‘Atonement’ more than ably demonstrates.
The Score Of Much Metal: 8.0
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day