Album Review: Immolation – Atonement

By Francisco Zamudio

Epic is a term reserved for times like this, when a band like Immolation writes songs with such apocalyptic feeling that the skies open up and demons and angels go to war. Through decades, Immolation has consistently demonstrated their unique brand of avant-garde death metal without any necessity of overly progressive or technical songwriting that can sometimes tune out some purists of the genre, and yet in many ways these veterans were ahead of the game to have that ability as part of their style. Now, nearly 30 years and 10 albums later, Immolation has once again unleashed a dark, pummeling and unrelenting creation in what is their third release though Nuclear Blast, ‘Atonement’.

This band from New York has not only managed to maintain their raw style that helped define them, even with the growth of recording technology that just makes them sound so much more massive, but also managed to maintain their lineup for the most part. Bassist and vocalist Ross Dolan along with guitarist Robert Vigna, have been at it since 1988. And although Steve Shalaty is the “newest” member, he has been harnessing ruin on drums with Immolation for over a decade and five albums.

Despite the absence of Bill Taylor, who had been on guitars since Unholy Cult (2002), plus three years and relentless touring since ‘Kingdom of Conspiracy’ (2013) – it did not impede Vigna’s ability to write. His dark and unique songwriting ability, undoubtedly recognizable, fills ‘Atonement’ with those great complex yet catchy riffs and haunting solos. Shalaty’s ability to lay down some outstanding work with sporadic blast-beats, melts into sick grooves with such weight and really emphasizes this controlled chaos. The band’s sound is well rounded out by Dolan’s vocals that add such brutal exclamation to each and every song, turning them into doomsday anthems. And now with the addition of Alex Bouks, (former guitarist of another heavy-weight group, Incantation), Immolation have turned a new violent page, embracing their roots.

Part of what helped Immolation’a raw sound is having worked with long-time producer Bill Orofino. Now along with the mixing and mastering expertise of Zack Ohren, whom they had worked with since ‘Majesty and Decay’ (2010, Nuclear Blast), they successfully honed in the sound and re-captured what felt missing on their previous release, ‘Kingdom of Conspiracy’.

Track to track, ‘Atonement’ flows excellently, giving you get a great balance of heavy from the extremely fast and chaotic, to the slow and meaty. If you caught an early hint into what ‘Atonement’ would bring from the single ‘Destructive Currents’, you’ll be more enthralled by the intensity on the opening tracks ‘The Distorting Light’ and ‘When the Jackals Come’. You still get that doomy Immolation brand of heavy that only they can bring in tracks like ‘Thrown to the Fire’, ‘Lower’ and ‘Epiphany’. Without spoiling much, you may know Immolation and their dynamic songwriting, and with standout tracks like ‘Fostering the Divide’, they definitely go beyond expectations on this album.

Hailing from the late ’80s/early ’90s, these death metal veterans are a band that never had to stray or re-invent, nor give in to the trends in metal music. The extreme metal outfit has stood the test of time and has continuously brought some great longstanding albums to the table which you have to go back and listen to, if you’re not already familiar. So, although we are barely a month into 2017, Immolation has once again achieved that brutal level of consistency with ‘Atonement’ and will surely take up room on that best of 2017 list.

Rating: 9/10

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Record Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: February 24th 2017

Track Listing:
01. The Distorting Light
02. When The Jackals Come
03. Fostering The Divide
04. Rise The Heretics
05. Thrown To The Fire
06. Destructive Currents
07. Lower
08. Atonement
09. Above All
10. The Power Of Gods
11. Epiphany

Immolation links: website | facebook | twitter