Album Review: Immolation’s Atonement Rips
It’s hard to say, at this point, whether the word “immolation” is an objectively kickass band name or if its powers were bestowed upon it by association with Bob Vigna, Ross Dolan and their magnetic death troupe over the past 25 years. Its scene-defining –TION sure doesn’t hurt in the immediate-recogniTION-as-a-death-metal-band department, and its superheated definition is horrific without being smash-over-the-head obvious. So yeah, great band name from jump, but since 1991’s Dawn of Possession the band have been pumping out evil death anthems with confidence and apparent ease. No hiatus, no acrimonious breakups, no embarrassing Y2K rap-metal detours, just one hundred (literally) hymns to darkness, societal ills and spiritual degradation. Immolation blazed a path, and their wake has been burning with the filthiest flames ever since.
Atonement rips. These eleven new tracks slither, pummel and growl with an abundance of righteous riffs that we didn’t have last year. Immolation shove the double bass blasts and malevolent chugging right up in your face, then bury tricky note combo moves and rhythmic complexity behind that spiky façade. It’s a headphones death metal record, for sure; if that’s never been a valid descriptor before, then Atonement forces the issue. Even the solos disguise some wretched bending and scraping somewhere in the back of the mix. Immolation have recorded an album meant to drop musicians’ jaws, as they handle their instruments with the utmost precision and professional acumen. The allure of Atonement appears to rest in the quality of its execution, and Immolation expect you to hang out long enough to take in (and be awed by) all their meticulous twists and eccentric turns. The songs – while certainly compellingly muscular and distinguishable each one from the others – take death metal as a starting point and then… pretty much just hang out there.
This is no slag on Immolation at all. They were one of the first true American death metal bands that mattered. They established a vision for their work, and they have carried out that austere program with admirable passion and worthy focus. They have paved their career with stone-cold genre classics, and Atonement sits comfortably among those high-water marks. This album marks their eighth straight visit to Millbrook Sound Studios, their eighth straight full-length recorded with Paul Orofino in a relationship that goes back nearly twenty years. My point? Immolation clearly know what they want and how to get it. Atonement is absolutely a realization of the most updated version of that vision, and any reservations about the record can be chalked up to personal taste rather than objective quality.
Some of you have been eyeing that several-millimeters distance between 3.5 and 4 (or 4.5) stars up there and daring me to nitpick. I can’t. Atonement focuses on texture and technique, and it doesn’t make me want to throw furniture or uproot trees. Will it survive until November or December to appear on multiple Best of 2017 lists? Undoubtedly. Will it deserve such recognition? Most certainly. Should you care? You should know the answer to that. Go fucking listen to it. You owe yourself that much, at least.