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Immolation is as close as you can come to an institution in death metal these days. They have a long, high quality discography as well as a distinct style. This was proven by their last album, “Kingdom of Conspiracy”. While a slight misstep by Immolation standards, it was still a pretty damn solid death metal record. The album had good riffs and solid songwriting, but it felt like the extra edge wasn’t quite there. Many songs faded into eachother stylistically, and the production was a bit lifeless and plastic.

Immolation - Atonement review

I’m guessing Immolation also felt that way, because they certainly redeem themselves in every way on “Atonement”. It is a testament of the band’s power, while never sounding like a rehash or a self-tribute. Right from the moment where opener “The Distorting Light” switches from clean guitars to a barriage of blastbeats and Ross Dolan grunts, it’s just instantly audible how much more focused this is.

Better production on “Atonement”

The production issues are also fixed. The drums don’t have an artificial, triggered feel anymore, and they’re also louder in the mix. The only thing about the mix that isn’t quite perfect is that the vocals from Ross are a bit too low. It’s still an improvement from “Kingdom of Conspriacy”, where he ironically was very loud instead. More than anything, this album sounds like something in between “Majesty and Decay” and “Shadows in the Light”. That also rings true for the music, though there are nods to all albums in there discography at some point.

Varied songwriting

For a death metal album, this flows exquisitely. The secret lies in how varied the songs are. Three Immolation styles are dominating and mixed to perfection: epic “Majesty and Decay”, straightforward “Shadows in the Light” (think “Passion Kill”) and a newfound, almost death/doom-like heaviness that fits right in. I have no problem playing this album in full, and I am still in awe at how fresh it sounds. It never feels like the band is repeating itself.

As usual, Ross and Bob run the show, and they both shine. Ross vocals are as menacing as ever. The way the songs are written almost feel like sermons at times, as he repeats parts over and over again to great effect. It’s very attention grabbing, and at no point does this become the white noise that death metal can become at times. The songwriting is overall way more branched out and mature than “Kingdom of Conspiracy”, despite keeping the song lengths around four minutes.

Tracklist filled with highlights

The riff styles are quite familiar for Immolation, but Bob just has a way to switch parts and tempos at the perfect second pretty much every time, making the songs both catchy and memorable. I never find myself bored despite how constantly extreme this is. It’s hard to pick song highlights, but if you’re only checking out one song first my tip would probably be catchy single “Destructive Currents” or epic stomper “When the Jackals Come”.

The lyrical themes are another reason to listen to “Atonement”. It generally deals with the declining state of our world, and often the herd mentality that allows for the decline. It’s a mature, thought provoking lyrical direction that doesn’t quite have any contemporaries in death metal. The profound power of the words also lends an extra authenticity to both Ross’s vocals and the overall atmosphere of the music.

Notable drum performance, even in an Immolation environment

I rarely talk about it in my reviews, but in this one I really have to talk about the drums as well, as Steve Shalaty outdoes himself on this record. He delivers a performance that is as calculated and tight as it is energetic. It’s not easy to play good enough to get noticed in a band as dense as Immolation, but he certainly has my attention. This is also done without unnecessary extravagance, as every move compliments the song at hand.

My roundup of negative points are usually delivered around here in the review. Despite my best efforts I can’t really come up with anything to say. I’m in awe at how this band just keeps churning out material of this quality. Listen to “Atonement” now, you won’t be disappointed!

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