Immolation have been part of the US death metal scene for over thirty years now. Theirs is a name that I heard mentioned a lot back in the 1990’s but for one reason or another, never really listened to.
If you’re anything like me, death metal will have become something of a blurry memory of days gone by. It’s fair to say that the music scene has moved on, but the genre lives on (or should that be remains undead?) and there are still some die-hard bands out there producing very high quality music.
I found this album completely by chance when it turned up in my Spotify Discover feed a couple of days ago and it’s proved to be a pleasant surprise. My first thought was ‘Immolation? Are they still going?‘ Apparently they are, and their current album is a testament to what three decades of practice, touring and recording can do for a band.
Anyone over thirty will remember death metal sounding a certain way, particularly if listened to on cassette. Purists can buy this album on limited edition tape if they so desire, but personally, I’m enjoying the digital version. It’s really satisfying to listen to extreme metal made by mature musicians in a high definition digital format. You can actually hear the drums! This record sounds absolutely fantastic. The musicianship is impeccable, with each riff and blast beat delivered with the surgical precision that was often aspired to in the death metal days of the early ’90’s but seldom achieved.
Atonement is a very modern-sounding record, as mentioned above. The guitars and bass compliment each other perfectly, and the band manage to keep things interesting across the eleven tracks, despite this being little more than a trad-death metal run-through. The lyrical themes follow the imagery of the cover (a winged demon/angel rising from the ruins of a dystopian cityscape), which looks fantastic and makes me want to get the record on vinyl just to check out the full size cover! The sexual violence and other distasteful imagery that has dogged the lyrics of certain bands in the genre is not present here, which helps too!
I’m not a huge fan of death metal vocals, but those on offer here are well executed and mix in well with the band without sounding overly aggressive. They’ve got the balance just right. Listen to Arch Enemy straight after this and you’ll notice what I mean about too much vocal aggression. You can try too hard, and thankfully, Immolation have realised that.
If you loathe death metal, avoid this album, as it will not change your mind one iota. If you remember it from your youth and don’t believe it can sound good in today’s world of sludge and stoner doom, think again.
Atonement is out now on Nuclear Blast records.