My grim compulsion for all things death metal was initially born from a worship of the burgeoning Floridian and Swedish scenes,  spawned originally as a continuation of my immortal love of thrash. I was immediately addicted to the genre’s inherent heaviness and dark theatricality, but it wasn’t until I eventually stumbled into the path of the New York acts, who heralded a denser, altogether heavier wave of death, that I would come into contact with Immolation, marking the first time I would be exposed to truly oppressive metal. It was unflinching, uneasy and threatening, and wholly without its brother’s tongue-in-cheek horror movie sensibility – in its place was a darkly brutal polemic of anti-religious, sociopolitical proportions. Now, continuing a rare trend of career-spanning quality, the band are preparing to drop tenth studio album Atonement, and with it eleven new tenets of warped and titanic Christ aversions.

2013’s Kingdom of Conspiracy saw Immolation honing their sound into a faster and more typically aggressive model, and, although undeniably potent stuff, I wasn’t as enamored as I had been with predecessor Majesty and Decay, whose title summarized the record perfectly. Atonement, atoning for no musical sins at least, slows down the pace and sees the band returning to their more deliberate roots. Huge, tectonic riffs rumble through entire swarms of kinetic blasting, whilst lead guitarist, Robert Vigna, ever the master of the weft and warp of guitar dissonance, twists through a multitude of tremolo riffs and screaming leads. Opener, “The Distorting Light,” epitomizes the album and, by extension, the band, by showcasing their entire bag of tricks, vacillating between discordant guitar layers and colossal, mid-paced grooves.

Interestingly, in as much as Atonement exhibits the quintessential signatures that Immolation have been plying for the better part of three decades, it also introduces a few new concepts. Instead of the overwhelming chaos infamously wrought on Close to A World BelowAtonement instead sees Vigna incorporating chord progressions of an Eastern nature in his sporadic soloing, and even utilizing some black metal inspired picking. “When the Jackals Come,”  “Thrown to the Fire” and, expressly, album closer “Epiphany” all host destructive, semi-cinematic guitar lines, spotted with fractured melodies that raise the band’s usual fare of amorphous and abrasive rhythms into deceptively memorable territory. Devastating riffs abound, but it’s not all about methodical desolation; “Rise the Heretics” and “Destructive Currents” employ vicious pacing and a furious sense of momentum compounded by Vigna’s trilling lead work. Despite the focus of the atonal guitars, I’ve always admired the band’s rhythm section for its disciplined ability to restrain, then accelerate on the head of a pin, something that drummer Steve Shalaty does with aplomb with his effortless blasting and adventurous runs.

It’s almost redundant to point out what a monolith Ross Dolan is. He sounds no different than when I first heard him thundering all over “Into Everlasting Fire” years ago. His voice remains stolid and intelligible, and although he doesn’t possess the most dexterous set of pipes in extreme metal, I’ve always felt his monotone delivery fit the calamity of the music perfectly. His vocals sit level with the guitars in what is, unsurprisingly, a fairly compressed production. Although the mix couldn’t possibly detract from the stellar material, I would have liked to have heard Dolan’s bass a little more upfront – as it is, it drowns in the cacophony, leaving Shalaty’s kick-drum to supply the low-end.

All the while, whilst listening to Atonement I kept snatching at a familiar notion in my head; an insistent element of something on each and every play-through. Eventually, I came to realize that what Immolation kept reminding me of was, in fact, Immolation themselves. A rigid sense of self resounds on this record, an identity that continuously enables the band to produce exemplary and unique death metal almost 30 years after their inception. As such, if you’re not already convinced, then this most certainly won’t be the album to change your mind. Atonement isn’t immediate; it’s esoteric and spatially awkward. But its also rich and monstrously vast, and finds the band in extraordinary form and perhaps at their most consummate. To quote the album: “Lower and lower, my soul is sinking lower,” but, by Lucifer, I fucking love it down here!

Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 273 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast
Releases Worldwide: February 24th, 2017

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  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    I am erect.

    • Cold shower, then HR, then leave the hall.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        3 minute cold shower.

        • Is that like a rule?

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            More a preventive measure. We don’t want him getting any ideas while in the shower, so 3 minutes tops.

    • Francesco Bordoni

      Isn’t that stating the obvious? IT’S FUCKING IMMOLATION BRAH

    • sir_c

      Is that because of the sweaty man-bun? Or is it because of Immolation?

  • Akerblogger

    I adore everything about this band – their atmosphere, their kooky, off-kilter riffs, Robert Vigna’s shining baldness – and your review has also got me erect. There must be something in the water here at AMG.

    • Ferrous Beuller

      Bloody Steel and his roofies…

    • Vigna’s on-stage gyrations are also a wonder to behold

  • Óðinn

    Thanks, Ferrous Beuller. Glad to see this get a positive review.

  • Eli Valcik

    I’m not really a death metal guy but I can get down with this.

  • Westpaceagle

    Super excited and can’t wait for the live show!
    Ferrous, you have been writing killer reviews so expectations are now completely unrealistic for this. I would hate to see your extra ration of gruel be revoked for grade inflation…

    • Ferrous Beuller

      It was always going to be unlikely that I wouldn’t enjoy this, but, as far as I’m concerned, it deserves the score. And thank you for the compliment!

      (Find your payment of 1 million Rubles under the tree by the broken wall…)

      • Hulksteraus

        So, that would be $20 then?

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          That’s enough to buy the new Immolation album, so don’t complain!

  • Reese Burns

    Can’t. Fucking. Wait. This thing is gonna be nuclear!

  • Jrod1983

    Oh man I want this. Always the mark of consistency these guys, even their ‘weaker’ albums are still killer.
    Close to a World Below is my personal favorite and a f’n masterpiece as far as I’m concerned.

    • Akerblogger

      I’m going to be bold and say that Close to a Word Below is the best death metal album, ever, in history, ever.

      • basenjibrian

        I agree. But I absolutely love the song NO JESUS, NO BEAST off Failures For Gods as “favorite track”.

        • Ferrous Beuller

          It’s all about Here In After and Christ’s Cage.

          • Gage

            No Jesus No Beast is definitely one of my favorite IMMO songs. As for Here In After the title track and Burn With Jesus always get my blood pumping. I recall listening to Burn With Jesus when I was visiting the Sistine Chapel. Surprisingly comfy

          • thiR

            Yes! Here in After is insane and Christ’s Cage is probably my favorite Immolation song ever!

            So I guess HiA is my favorite, followed by Close to a World below and… well… Atonement I guess! After a couple of spins I find it better than Majesty and Decay, which is quite an achievement.

            P.S: Shadows in the light is also fucking awesome but often forgotten.

      • Jrod1983

        Damn close my friend, damn close. I’m not sure where I’d rank it myself, as I have many favorites, but I would say top 5 absolutely.

      • Ugh, hard to call it. Definitely one of the best death metal albums of the 90s, so one of the best death metal albums ever

      • sir_c

        There are some beasts out there. I think if you start digging deep you will find some gems that will top this.

        • Akerblogger

          I assure you I have done some digging. But in this case the best stuff filters to the surface.

  • ssorg

    I’m just pissed these dudes aren’t doing a headlining tour. I don’t really feel like paying money to see Igor and Max play all of “roots” (of all fucking records, really), just so I can see the NY-area’s best Death Metal band of all time.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      You can always leave after Immolation.

      • That reminds me of all the fools who went to a Slayer gig in 1994 (the Divine Intervention tour) to see Machine Head supporting and then promptly left.

        Don’t get me wrong. Machine Head were on fire that day, but Slayer absolutely wrecked the place.

        • Reese Burns

          I don’t understand the mentality of preferring Machine Head over Slayer…

          • In terms of recorded output both bands hit their nadirs at approximately the same point (Supercharger and Diabolus in Musica), Machine Head did claw back a lot of respectability with “Through the Ashes of Empires”.

            Christ Illusion had its moments, but Slayer have been in a death spiral ever since IMO.

            That said, Mr Pinto Guerra nails it when he says that no one sees Slayer for the new songs.

          • thiR

            Burn My Eyes is a great album. What I don’t get is liking Slayer and not Machine Head circa 1994 as they have quite a lot in common. Machine Head after Burn My Eyes is another can of worms though.

        • GardensTale

          I think it’s more like what I went through a few weeks ago: went to see “undead unicorns and space lasers” Gloryhammer, and left halfway through main act “old people sleeping” Hammerfall.

          • Reese Burns

            I’m most likely gonna be doing the same in July. Avenged Sevenfold open for Metallica, and I have no interest in seeing Metallica.

        • Poop King

          I did that at Megadeth’s headlining tour last year. Metal Church, Suicidal Tendencies, Amon Amarth…then Mustaine was so fucking annoying we left after 2 songs.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            At least you guys booed him before leaving, right?

          • GWW

            Megadeth is one of the worst “sounding” live acts ever. Besides the Mustaine screech and indecipherable lyrics, the whole thing is a mess. And that is going back to Marty RUST period.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Hell, it doesn’t matter what album they’re touring for one goes to see Slayer play their old songs!!

          That reminds me the one time on July 30, 2003 when they had the SARS festival in Toronto, Canada. The Rolling Stones were headlining right after support from AC/DC. Almost half the people in attendance left after AC/DC finished playing. I have to say it, AC/DC blew the Stones off the stage, but still… The Rolling Stones are living legends and one simply does not pass on the opportunity of seing them perform. Especially when it’s for FREE.

      • GWW

        He said he doesn’t want to pay to see…oh fuck it…

  • Alexandre Barata

    The big 3 “ation”s from NY can never fail to deliver! Eager to listen to this album

    Edit; even if one of the “ation” is from Pennsylvania, but you know what I mean

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      “Back in the day” my friends and I used to talk about “Death Metalation” to refer to all the “ation” ended bands.

    • Chris

      At the risk of seeming entirely genre-ignorant (which I probably am, compared to most of you): Suffocation, Immolation…who is the third?

      • TSV666


      • The Grand Galactic Inquisitor


      • mindbleach


      • GardensTale


      • manimal


        • Name’s Dalton

          Isn’t that Marilyn Manson’s side project?

        • Alexandre Barata

          That’s a favorite of mine!

      • Alexandre Barata

        My “favorite” of the three: Incantation! :)

    • Anarchist

      Immolation, Suffocation, and…

      I’m blanking on the third. Help me out here.

      • Alexandre Barata

        Incantation ;)

        • Flyingguillotine

          Just saw them with Marduk. Brutal show.

          • Alexandre Barata

            Saw them last year. It was a great show!!

  • Gage

    Immolation is probably my favorite death metal band that is still active today. I wasn’t a huge fan of Kingdom of Conspiracy but this album sounds amazing! If it is anywhere near as good as Majesty and Decay I will be pleased

  • Finq

    This review makes me so happy. I could not be more excited for Friday.
    Immolation are my favorite active Death Metal band and I absolutely love all of their records, but especially the last three have been spot on the kind of death metal I like.

    • thiR

      I don’t know. Kingdom of Conspiracy was a big let down for me and I consider it their weakest album to date… So imagine my surprise when I’ve heard Atonement!

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Oh Morbid Angel, why couldn’t you follow Immolation’s example? Why? WHY? WHY?

    • The Unicorn

      Because they done fucked up.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I know they done fuck up… But I just can’t bring myself to terms about WHY!

        • The Unicorn

          #1 Vincent is a jaghoff.
          #2 Trey smoked way too much weed.
          #3 ART????

  • contenderizer

    I knew I had a reason to live around here somewhere…

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Hit play, started reading review. Song finishes, review finished and I wanna hit play again and read some comments…damn hitting play again, turning it up, involuntary head banging begins. Next thing I know the air guitar is out and shredding begins.
    Ahh Immolation you’ve done it again!

  • The Unicorn

    WELL DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Nick Maestas

    Hell yea can’t wait for this! Immolation just keeps getting better and better! I don’t know how they don’t run out of ideas? Suffocation and Immolation are the best veteran US death metal bands in now in my opinion. Glad that they have spawned the new kids Horrendous and Blood Incantation! Not saying they’re the only influences for these two bands but they are revolutionary and a ton of death metal bands owe it to Suffocation and Immolation.

    • SegaGenitals

      I think you just named the two most talented emerging bands in the genre. Perhaps add Artificial Brain.


        new ab in a few months cant wait

      • Nick Maestas

        Oh hell yea man those bands are some great stuff and Artificial Brain? I will check them out are they on bandcamp?

        • SegaGenitals

          Ya think so. Full album debut on YouTube. Tell me what you think

          • Nick Maestas

            Heck yea dude some good stuff following them on bandcamp for sure

  • Zach Ward

    I feel like immolation are one of the most consistent death metal bands of late. Excited to hear this.

  • Viktor Svensson

    Speaking of Immolation, does anyone own the new vinyl releases? Here in After, Failures for Gods and Close To a World Below?

    In the press release the talk about a dedicated vinyl master. Has anyone heard it? Is it any good?

    • DMC 85

      Just got the new “remastered for vinyl” versions of Dawn of Possession and Close to a World Below and they do indeed sound great ! Highly recommended !

  • Tyr

    A lot of Immo material left me cold after Dawn. That said
    the most recent releases, this one especially have me really pumped. Always good
    to see groups go back to their roots.

  • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

    I think Immolation was solid, but not truly GREAT until they released Unholy Cult. That’s when they really turned the corner in my eyes. Every release since then has been fucking stellar. Kingdom of Conspiracy felt like they were slightly treading water, but it was still a very enjoyable album. Majesty and Decay is the jewel in their crown. I can respect and understand the love for their 90’s releases, but to me the quality/memorability of the songs just wasn’t there like it has been for the last 15 years.

  • Noobhammer

    I love how they went back to their old logo font. Unholy Cult was what really got me into appreciating death metal, and I was so happy seeing them on the Lucifer Over America tour with Rotting Christ.

    Ross Dolan is also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, and truly appreciates his fans. I told him about my love for Unholy Cult before their set, and during the set, for the last song, he called out, “This one is for the kid in the front here, from Unholy Cult, ‘Bring Them Down’. One of my concert highlights to say the least. Class act band.

    • thiR

      Yeah they are all super nice and really chill.

  • herrschobel

    Bingo Bongo as we say in the Jungle…this is exactly how it´s done. Watch very closely all you aspiring Priests of Death and drunken Vikings…this could very well be one of my new favourite Records..very intriguing

  • SegaGenitals

    Atonement is the finest work I’ve heard by Immolation, and my first great album of the year. Do I detect a bit of Imperial Triumphant influence on this one?

  • sweetooth0

    Immolation destroys! This album rules! One of the best live bands I’ve ever seen too!

  • Gage

    Well, I just bought the album. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the 4.5/5 but it definitely does. It might even be better than Majesty and Decay.

    • thiR

      It is better. MaD was among my favorite Immo album (in the top 3)… but I think Atonement just took its place!

  • Tom Hardy

    As a massive Immolation fan, I can safely say this is extremely weak. Everything unique or good about them is stripped in this album. 3 good tracks, that’s it … how is this considered any good? It sounds like Majesty 2.033 all over again. TO say this is disappointing … is a grave understatement.

    • basenjibrian

      Ohhhh Tom. Always a gloomy gus. Always (jk/lol) relistening to the album and running through old comments. 4.5 for me.

  • I listened to this tonight on a long drive and was compelled to read this review. I think this may be the best review ever written on this site. Perfection.