“While still spiritually Annihilationist at the core, Atonement will not be lauded in the manner previous Immolation releases have enjoyed.”
The Distorting Light
When the Jackals Come
Fostering the Divide
Rise the Heretics
Thrown to the Fire
The Power of Gods
Atonement, Immolation’s tenth full-length, serves as a shift from tradition for the band. Atonement is a noticeable departure in the typical Immolation formula, from as far back as Dawn of Possession’s dense and aggressive approach and even as current as 2013’s Kingdom of Conspiracy, there are a lot of elements dampened down and other elements given great elevation on the veteran band’s newest album.
Bill Taylor, who had served in Immolation since 2002’s Unholy Cult, has had his vacancy filled by Alex Bouks. Alex Bouks is most easily recognized from his work with Goreaphobia and Incantation. Whether this change takes a great deal of credit for the shift in songwriting on Atonement is debatable, but it does deserve to be brought to attention as Bill Taylor and Alex Bouks both possess unique playing and writing styles.
Atonement, examining the production and arrangement properties, is surprisingly atmospheric. There is enough negative space that instruments don’t fight for air, Dolan’s vocals are clear and grounded, Bouks and Vigna attack with a clean, sharp distortion, and Steve Shalaty gives a textural performance from the percussion angle. There is a prominent dread that hangs over the length of the album, surges of foreboding atmospherics, repetitious trance-like riff passages, tribal-like drumming and other tactics that, at times, gives Atonement a doom death aesthetic.
The album opens with ‘The Distorting Light’, which begins with a siren-like riff before erupting into a barrage of dense, suffocating death metal. At high speeds, feelings of early Deeds of Flesh come to mind. However, these barrages are simply that; temporary bursts of punishingly strong songwriting interspersed between lengthy sections of ambient melodicism. The riff arrangement on ‘The Distorting Light’, throughout Atonement in general, is still characteristic to Immolation, with trade-offs between atonal and dissonant highly-phrasal, almost to a point of sounding mechanized, death metal and concentrated, tightly-packed, boxy chord and single note passages.
What is lost in intensity is gained in atmosphere.
‘Fostering the Divide’ is another track that makes use of heavy atmospheric elements. The song is broken into mechanical phrases consisting of layered guitars weaving in and out of stark harmonization and atonal melodies before streamlining into a series of blastbeat-backed leads and a driving tremelo-picked melody before eventually resolving right back into the starting phrase.
‘Destructive Currents’ initially progresses into a driving lead melody that is used as an anchor or a point of return throughout the song. A crawling single-note atonal passage guides the listener into the middle of the song, where more single-note rhythm passages churn behind acute and fledging leads. Arrangement and resolution of this sort was also present in ‘Fostering the Divide’ and ‘The Distorting Light’, enforcing the core thematic approach to arrangement on Atonement.
Essentially, Atonement is a single machination with 11 gears in it. Each gear represents a song, a song which moves a basic, circular movement to help progress the album’s narrative along a modern atmospheric and tonally progressive death metal route. While still spiritually Annihilationist at the core, Atonement will not be lauded in the manner previous Immolation releases have enjoyed. Die-hard fans and more mainstream listeners will appreciate this and would be the most logical listening base. Fans looking for something more compact, to-the-point, or crushingly intense will most likely give a sincere listen before moving on to something else.