Life has a funny way of reordering your priorities. At the end of last year, I checked obsessively for updates on Immolation's Atonement and couldn't wait for it to drop. But it was only this past week that I remembered that the album was in my possession. Things had gotten so busy in my life that the album just took up space on my phone for months without me listening to it. But I'm sure making up for that now, I tell you what.
Immolation is a band that I've been listening to since I was a teenager, but it's fair to say I never really understood them until recently. I don't think I'm alone in this; while Death clones appeared almost immediately after the Death By Metal demo, and Morbid Angel worshippers from Brazil and Poland have been clogging distro lists since the mid-Nineties, it wasn't until the last decade and the growing popularity of bands like Portal and Ulcerate that Immolation's impact on the death metal scene became apparent. Musically speaking, Immolation left a higher bar for both listeners and copycats to clear; maybe it just took longer for the rest of us to catch up to what they were doing.
Atonement pulls off the rare feat of being a new album from a decades-old act that continues in the same style that band started out in, and not only follows a string of impressive releases but surpasses them. And yet, the album doesn't do anything vastly different from what Immolation are known for. They've matured, certainly, and their recent recordings are better
produced and more accessible than anything they released in the
Nineties. [As someone who struggled and failed to assimilate a hissy, frequently jamming Here in After cassette 20 years ago, I appreciate that recording technology has brought coherence to the genre's sonic overload.] A few acoustic touches hint that Immolation have noticed what Gorguts have been up to lately, and liked what they heard. But other than that, a quarter century since they first unleashed their blastbeats and blasphemy on the world, Immolation remains Immolation. Ending the album with a re-recording of the eponymous anthem from their debut is a nice hat tip to long-time fans, but also underscores how little Immolation have strayed from their roots.
Bands that have been around as long and released albums as consistently as Immolation tend to follow a predictable career path: long stretches of palatable if uninspiring albums, with a few peaks and valleys (a la Vader or Cannibal Corpse), or decades of trying to recapture their seminal years after a brief period of clueless reinvention (Metallica, Morbid Angel, Slayer...the list goes on). It's rare that a band that has been around as long as Immolation puts out something this good. It's an accomplishment that shouldn't go unnoticed.
For fuck's sake, go get Atonement now.