Every genre of music has that band. You know, the one that completely changes the way people think about music and the ways in which it can be executed. Due to its countless subgenres, metal has a lot of those bands. While debating about which bands are really those bands is a fun and fruitful endeavor, there is a general consensus when it comes to certain bands; the ones that are universally acknowledged as true game-changers and pioneers. When it comes to death metal, Immolation is one of those bands.
These New Yorkers are legends in every sense of the word, and to be blunt, there are few bands who come close to touching them, even to this day. Many of their albums (arguably, perhaps, all of them) are considered classics and milestones for death metal. Dawn of Possession, Here in After, Close to a World Below…the foundation laid by Immolation is directly responsible for spawning many of death metal's most promising modern acts. Nearly 30 years after their conception, Immolation are still going strong, and their 10th studio album Atonement is hard proof of their continual mastery – and domination – of death metal.
Though the drummer and second guitarist position have rotated several times throughout Immolation's career, the core of the band has always been bassist/vocalist Ross Dolan and guitarist Robert Vigna, and it remains very much intact. These two are Immolation, and they're the reason for the band's unshakable consistency over these past 30 years. The return of the old-school Immolation logo that adorns Par Olofsson's striking cover art for Atonement is fitting, considering that this record calls to mind the band's early days.
"The Distorting Light" kicks off with a bleak melody before a full-on assault of blast beats, rumbling bass and Dolan's unmistakable bark barrages the listener. Vigna breaks into a purely headbang-able, chunky-as-hell riff, adding to the dark and sinister ambiance of the track. Mind you, this is only track one. Atonement is rife with that evil and tormented atmosphere that put Immolation at the top of their game early on, and even after 30 years of pummeling and destroying everything in sight, they still don't miss a beat.
Vigna's twisted riffs and evocative leads are front and center throughout Atonement, and they're as creative and unorthodox as they've ever been. As with most of Immolation's music, the grooves and hooks are not immediately apparent upon the first listen, and must be dissected in order to fully appreciate just how good this band is at what they do. The best part is, they don't need more five minutes to get their point across, adding to the accessibility factor of the record.
The complexities and technicalities of Immolation are on full display through Atonement, but never at the expense of good songwriting. The blackened strums of "Rise the Heretics" or the convulsing squeals of "Destructive Currents" are just a couple examples of the musical diversity to be found on Atonement and are further proof of extreme metal's versatility.
Overall, Atonement is yet another worthy addition to Immolation's legendary catalog. This is a band whose influence and importance in metal cannot be overstated, and although it's not a huge departure stylistically from any of their recent albums, they're just so exceptional at what they do that it doesn't really matter. Immolation remains a constant and reliable source of capturing the essence of death metal.
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