Album Review: Immolation – Acts of God

It’s been five years since New York death metal monsters Immolation released Atonement. That was their tenth release and maintained a consistency that the band, propelled by the duo of Robert Vigna and Ross Dolan have been delivering since the late 1980s. With their latest line-up completed by long-time drummer Steve Shalaty and rhythm guitarist Alex Boulks who returns for his second album with the band, the time is right for the world to feel the crushing intensity of a band who are rightly legends within the brutal and raw edged genre.

If Atonement propelled Immolation to greater exposure and success, then Acts of God should comfortably maintain the momentum. The brooding intro “Abandoned” is merely an initial taste of what is to come. The eerie bell toll crumbles in the path of Immolation as they burst out of the traps with opening track “An Act of God”. An aural smash to the cranium, it’s immediate, unrelenting and above all irresistible. Punishing walls of bludgeoning riffs are balanced with exquisite, technically precise work that is provides the immovable foundation for Dolans deep growls and Vigna’s searing lead breaks. Five minutes gone, and you can only rub your hands as another 13 tracks are lined up ready to bruise and illuminate in equal measure.

Unsurprisingly, Immolation rarely releases the foot even an inch of the accelerator. The intensity on “The Age of No Light” matches that opening salvo, the power and brute force pummelling in a maelstrom of blistering, well-balanced death metal. And yet they throw in subtle, well-positioned pauses which provide fleeting but deserved breaks. It’s thought out, distinctive and stunningly positioned.

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Until Immolation finally arrives on our shores once more, you may have to content yourself with home headbanging to this majestic piece of work.  There is the slower driving power of “Shed the Light”, with some tumultuous double bass drum action, which is followed by the tsunami of brutality in “Blooded”. Both tracks are explosively aggressive, rolling like a formation of panzer tanks, towards their target, and guaranteed to get you to move, regardless of whether you want to or not.

It may be wall to wall brutality, but Immolation’s technical expertise on Acts of God is incredible. Layered guitar work is all but hidden, the ears working overtime to compute the multiple intricate patterns and levels that this band exhort. The haunting darkness of “Immoral Stain” ploughs frantically, the combination of creepy, haunting elements that lurk amongst the shadows provide a chilling backdrop.

Second Opinion (Sean): Time flies, even more so during this seemingly hopeless era of pestilence and discord. It feels like only yesterday since death metal legends Immolation released the crushing Atonement, so when their new album Acts of God appeared in my inbox, it’s black light has given me something to look forward to at the end of my current dark tunnel.

Overall Acts of God is another deadly sonic storm from Immolation. Despite its 15 tracks, the album is not an overbearing strain on the ears with each track averaging about 3 minutes long. The album is pure Immolation from the first note to the last, weaving it’s audible web of darkness through the band’s signature sounds of crushing low-end riffing, stark blackened moments and deathly dissonance. The dreadful atmosphere ever-present in Immolation dirges is emphasised by the layered guitar textures both distorted and clean, as well as the melancholic melodies.

Immolation have a killer skill for making their music sound deceptively complex, blending seamlessly through several paces and time signatures within each aural assault. Their brand of death metal might be a challenging listen for some, yet the riffing on Acts of God is surprisingly catchy, backed up by thundering drumming making for another awesome album.
It might not be a gift of a divine deity from above, but it’s certainly a blasphemous blessing bestowed upon us from these four gods of this earthly domain.

The pace as one would imagine never lessens. Tracks such as “Derelict of Spirit” and “When Halos Burn” are exceptional, vicious, and intimidating.  The subject matter could be regarded as the usual, with lyrics around corruption, genuine evil and the deceptive influence of religion.

With only one track breaching the five-minute marker, this is an album that is full of sharp, punishing tracks. Although the album stretches over 52 minutes, it doesn’t feel overly long. If anything, it’s an album that is over too quickly, requiring further plays. And with the fitting “Apostle” bringing the album to a conclusion, there is opportunity to do just that.

As with previous releases, part of the overall package sits with the artwork. This time, Immolation have engaged artist Eliran Kantor whose cover piece sees a trifecta of angelic beings attempting, without success, to prevent their flesh from melting into the blackened light above. It’s stunning, almost renaissance in feel and a perfect piece of art to capture another masterpiece from the masters of death metal.

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Acts of Gods is out on 18th February

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