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IMMOLATION Atonement

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 @ 4:05 PM


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IMMOLATION
Atonement

Nuclear Blast Records




Over its nearly 30-year career, New York's IMMOLATION has been one of death metal's most consistent, dependable acts. Led by founding bassist/vocalist Ross Dolan and guitarist Robert Vigna, the band largely has stuck to a sonic script it started with back in the day and has been working to hone it to perfection ever since, with but modest variations along the way.

On this its 10th album, the band once again doesn't do anything radically different – other than reverting back to the old-school logo it stopped using after 1996’s Here In After. Instead, it keeps doing what it always has with its usual murderous aplomb. Perhaps a bit more so, in fact, this time.

Dense, oppressive and utterly malevolent, Atonement stands as some of IMMOLATION's finest work. The album's menace is palpable in its vengeful tone, the merciless churn of Vigna’s guitaring, Dolan’s bowel-loosening growl and the methodical, martial pace set by Steve Shalaty. Though it is laced with blast beats and double-bass thrum throughout, Atonement feels almost dirge-like - especially when compared with 2013’s bracing Kingdom Of Conspiracy – and moves forward more in undulating lurches and heaves than all-out sprints. The effect is all the more crushing.

Atonement begins innocently enough with the serpentine guitar strains that open “The Distorting Light”. But that comes to a resounding end when the full band kicks in a few seconds later with jarring abruptness. There's very little in the way of anything similarly placid over the rest of the album, save for an equally brief introduction to the monumental “Lower” that turns tumultuous just as suddenly.

With the departure last year of longtime second guitarist Bill Taylor, Vigna was left to perform all the guitar parts on Atonement – new guy Alex Bouks, ex-of INCANTATION and GOREAPHOBIA, did not play on the album – and he does some inspired work. The meticulously crafted wall of sound - a blend of ominous layered riffs and looping progressions contrasted by elegant, graceful solos and topped by some intermittent Eastern flourishes - is truly impressive. Punishing, majestic and hypnotic all at once.

The Lurch-like guttural monotone and measured delivery of Dolan’s vocals, however, are never anything less than brutal. And IMMOLATION again both peers into the dark heart of man and heaps scorn on the faithful, Dolan leaves a trail of fear and dread in his wake. “Pray all you want for your sins. Beg all you want for your soul. There is no atonement,” he declares on the title track, while offering “I see it now. The lies have all been burned away. We've fallen our last time. Nothing left to save,” on “Epiphany” with grim finality. Just about everything else here is as equally cold-blooded.

There's precious little to complain about on Atonement – and even that is nit-picky stuff like some repetitive, recurring riffs and themes or Dolan's voice either being a bit buried in the mix or not quite projecting with the force it once did. But IMMOLATION's dogged purpose in unquestionable, and the vehemence the band musters – and with such seemingly natural ease – here after three decades in the trenches is rather awe-inspiring, if not a bit terrifying.

4.5 Out Of 5.0

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