Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Immolation - Atonement (2017)

I know in the past it may have appeared that I've been a bit hard on Immolation, and to some extent that may be true but that is only because they are one of my all time favorite bands (dating back to 1991 when I first heard Dawn of Possession) and their first four albums are more or less untouchable to me. I mean, that's quite a fucking run, really. In the 'death metal' world, at any rate. Sure, there have been some hiccups, which I can only surmise was due to the fact that their creative fires burned so bright for so long that there was bound to be a stretch of darkness along the way to immortality, yet nonetheless, these motherfuckers have earned their place among the gods for having held high the flag of evil death metal for so long.

Whatever the band's perceived shortcomings may have been, it's clearly irrelevant in hindsight as they have been on an absolutely vicious tear for the past seven years or so starting with 2010's colossal 'Majesty and Decay', followed by the excellent 'Providence' ep and 2013's 'Kingdom of Conspiracy', an overall great album slightly marred by the deafening sound of the drums. All of which brings us to 'Atonement'.... Holy.Fucking.Shit.

First and foremost: The songwriting on 'Atonement' is placed safe and snug beside Immolation's post-'Unholy Cult' body of work, meaning there are scant moments of rampant technicality to be found, if any. The focus here is on simpler, smoother and more straightforward song structures, with, of course, Immolation's signature bizarro tendencies abound. Yes, this is the work of a band that never creatively "sold out", yet has been relentlessly on the hunt for "the perfect riff", casting aside the urge to mindlessly meander along the fretboard (not that that was ever the case, mind you). I'd be lying if I were to say that I do not miss the salad bar of rhythmic fluctuations the band had employed back in the '90's/early '00's, however, this new album is so good that I am completely willing to go wherever it is the band takes me and believe me, listening to and experiencing this album is one hell of a ride!

Speaking of bizarre intricacies, Bob is really firing on all infernal cylinders here! It would seem that he has rediscovered his love for harmonics as they are in full flurry and abound and their inclusion really cements in my mind that they are truly the rotten cherry on top of any evil riff.

I read somewhere that Ross was starting to show a bit of wear this time around. Whoever wrote that must be high on that homemade speed. You know, the kind that meth-zombies with ZZ Top beards out in the backwoods of Texas make by spraying RAID on a screen and shocking it! That motherfucker needs to go Frankenstein a new pair of ears because Ross not only sounds AS good as he has in the past but better. Even the drumming is on point in a way it hasn't been since Alex Hernandez was in the band. It's still not as deliciously kooky in its delivery as it was in the days of old but my man has certainly made it a point to divvy things up a bit instead of answering the guitars in the most mundane way possible.

The album is surprisingly mid-paced, overall, with a few fast and furious moments thrown in for good measure. It kind of reminds me of Morbid Angel's 'Gateways...' in that sense, proving that you don't have to constantly blast like a retard to effectively deliver a sound beating. It also has the feel of a concept album, in the spiritual sense, of course, where everything sort of works together building up to a dark and monumental conclusion.

At this point in the game I feel that Immolation (along with maybe Nile) are at the top of the heap in terms of quality and consistency and as always, I will be impatiently awaiting their next excursion into darkness.


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