Review Summary: Kneel and fear, for the death metal monolith is roaring once again.
Since its inception, death metal has been constantly evolving, mutating, spawning a host of sub-genres that, despite orbiting the same core, have taken on different forms. It is synonymous with stylistic vitality. Something that distinguishes it from neighboring genres, such as thrash or classic metal, which have always found it difficult to expand their boundaries. Yet there are cases that deny the possibility of change, not because they can't but because they simply don't want to. New Yorkers Immolation fall into this niche. With a portfolio strongly rooted in its origins, the band epitomizes the spirit of perseverance and consistency, never straying too far from their original NY death metal formula. While there are subtle differences between songs and albums, they rest on common creative foundations, carved from the same sonic monolith. A massive structure that results from the interaction of three core elements: Robert Vigna's unorthodox labyrinthine riffs, Ross Dolan's deep gutturals, and intricate drumming that rejects any kind of conventionality. A distinct recipe, which ultimately separates the band from the rest of the pack. Whether it's revered releases like Here in After
or Close to a World Below
, or personal favorites such as Dawn of Possession
, Unholy Cult
or Majesty and Decay
, Immolation have been dropping some of the most iconic albums within the genre. A remarkable legacy, only within the reach of a chosen few.
As predicted, Immolation's eleventh studio album honors the past while still showing subtle contrasts with its predecessor. Its lengthy nature (which makes it the longest album of the band's career) and mid-range mastering were the aspects that struck me the most on the first listen. Its broader approach also distinguishes it from Atonement's
hermetic character, giving it a more modern look and feel without detracting from the band's DNA. Although fifty minutes of punishment may frighten some listeners, it is important to stress that Acts of God
has a remarkable flow, sailing through various dynamics along the journey. All songs feature tempo fluctuations, swinging between slow-tempos and intricate blast beats, lending them a restless, lively personality. Nevertheless, despite Acts of God's
elaborate approach, the slow-paced segments are undeniably one of its most defining traits. 'Immoral Stain', 'Derelict of Spirit' or 'Let the Darkness In' not only verify this argument but also push the album into majestic territory, somewhat analogous to 2010's Majesty and Decay
. Immolation's slow yet dynamic sections catapult the music to colossal dimensions as if embodying a march of ancestral titans. This surrealistic setting, although present throughout their discography, now takes on greater preponderance, contrasting with more up-tempo moments, such as the opening track, 'The Age of No Light', 'Broken Prey' or 'Apostle'. The balance between these dynamics is thus vital to the album's identity.
While it can be argued that Immolation possess a somewhat monochromatic, repetitive formula, it is no less true that it is also indicative of strong character. And once again, the lads have shown they're not willing to delve into uncharted territory. Except maybe for the blackened The Ruins Of Beverast-ish texture on 'Noose of Thorns', Acts of God
will not catch the listener off guard. Immolation's reliability has always been one of the collective's hallmarks as well as one of its greatest strengths. In this sense, the album is both familiar and engaging, stylistically consistent with the band's legacy. As are the quartet's musical performances, which remain instantly recognizable every step of the way. The music keeps orbiting Vigna's dizzying riffs and Ross Dolan's towering vocals, anchored by Steve Shalaty's phenomenal performance. While Steve's drumming has always been impressive, it has probably never shone as brightly as it does now, arguably being one of the album's highlights.
Like a vengeful God, Immolation once again ravage the earth with mighty wrath. A growl from below that while familiar remains as lethal as ever, for it mirrors one of the darkest sides the genre has to offer. More than an accomplished new chapter, Acts of God
stands as a death metal monolith carved to endure the test of time and change, unaltered in essence and form. Immutable. Because, my friends, there are things that were meant to remain unchanged.