At this point in their career, Immolation ranks as probably the most reliable death metal band when it comes to pumping out quality releases. Though it is unlikely they’ll match the heights of “Close To A World Below” again, it is impossible to deny that they always deliver a crushing death metal experience. The biggest flaw of their previous release, “Kingdom of Conspiracy”, was simply that the drums were too upfront in the mix; the music however, remained as potent as ever. As soon as “Atonement” begins, it is clear that this issue has been resolved, and the focus returns to Robert Vigna’s mind-twisting riffs. The opening song has one of the greatest examples of his pinch-harmonic abuse that so many try to imitate. Of course, there are none better than Vigna in this regard, and “Atonement” is filled with riffs that approach guitar playing in a very different way from anyone else. There is plenty of atmosphere and dissonance throughout the album, both of which are still created by Vigna's absurd tremolo-picking, ringing chords, and pinch-harmonics.
The other staple of Immolation’s sound at this point is Ross Dolan’s guttural voice. While some singers appear to be losing their growl over the years, Ross sounds as good as he ever has. He remains amongst the deepest-sounding singers in all of death metal, and though not entirely incomprehensible, he is definitely one of the more difficult vocalists to understand without a lyric sheet in front of you. Nevertheless, his inhuman sound is a great complement to the weirdness of the music he growls atop.
The biggest positive surprise of “Atonement” is the drum performance. Immolation has always had excellent drumwork, and Steve Shalaty has been with the band for well over a decade at this point, but this might be his strongest effort to date. A song like “Fostering The Divide” presents opportunities to experiment slightly in some of the more atmospheric moments. Additionally, the fills on this album are almost constant and always have something interesting to offer. His double bass playing is on-point, and accentuates the militaristic rhythmic sound the band often uses.
Relative to some of the band’s more recent releases, “Atonement” excels because of superior songwriting. As original as Immolation is, their style can feel one-dimensional without memorable moments. Fortunately, this record has plenty of them. The first four tracks in particular rank amongst the band’s strongest, and others like “Destructive Currents” and “Atonement” are similarly enjoyable. The re-recording of “Immolation” is a nice touch that adds a thrashier feel to the record, given that this track was written at a time when most death metal was more of an evolution of thrash.
Overall, Immolation has written another winning record. It is impossible to see a fan of the band disliking this album, as both the approach and execution are consistent with the band’s entire career to date. As always with bands who are fairly similar, some albums turn out better than others even if they are virtually identical to the unobservant listener. In the case of “Atonement”, this is certainly one of the band’s better efforts in recent years!
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"The Distorting Light"
"When The Jackals Come"
4.1/5 or 82%.
Written by Scott