New York death metal legends Immolation return with their eleventh studio album, Acts Of God. It follows the highly acclaimed Atonement, released five years ago. Following such a lauded recording seems like a tough act to follow, especially considering how the album seemingly pushed them to the forefront of the death metal scene, but Immolation didn’t rush straight into the studio. The group spent five years writing, honing and refining Acts Of God to make sure the end product is worthy of bearing Immolation’s stamp.
Time certainly played a role in making Acts Of God a quality release. One thing about Immolation, if you’re a fan, you come to know what to expect, and the group always deliver. While there are subtle nuances that separate each album including this one, Immolation stick to their style. That style is one that embraces complexity. While they often go for the throat with spread forward speed, one can be certain tempo change will come.
In fact, their mid-pace grooves with attention to guitar tricks such as harmonics are the band’s bread and butter. Tracks such as “Shed The Light,” “Derelict of Spirit” and the slamming groove of “Overtures of the Wicked” are memorable bangers, to say the least. Guitar harmonics aren’t out of the ordinary in death metal; however, Robert Vigna’s use of them is unique. In fact, I can’t think of another band that sounds similar to Immolation. Also, Vigna’s solos are tremendous and the group’s layering of solos is also excellent.
One aspect of Immolation albums that the group pull off extremely well is playing dark harmonies and melodies. These melodies aren’t the kind that where you skip down the sidewalk under a clear blue sky. No, their harmonies and melodies are creepy and ominous. There is a scouring evilness to sounds like the clean guitar on the intro track “Abandoned” or the solemn intro to “Immortal Stain.” Isolated, clean guitar tones can create an uneasy quietness on the instrumental “And The Flames Wept.” Of course, these parts are just a building block for the chaos that will ensue. In the case of “And The Flames Wept,” this guitar section leads way to an incendiary atmosphere that perfectly conveys the title.
While Vigna’s playing has always stood out in Immolation, there is something to be said about the band’s overall tightness. Steve Shalaty’s timing is impeccable and the group’s execution is precise. Ross Dolan and Shalaty work together quite well as heard on “Noose of Thorns,” which wouldn’t matter if you couldn’t hear the bass. But the recording by Paul Orofino of Millbrook Studios (Blue Oyster Cult, Bad Company, Golden Earring), and mixing and mastering by Zack Ohren of Castle Ultimate Studios results in a product where all the instruments are easily made out.
Speaking of Ross Dolan, he has one of the most consistent voices in death metal. Even after four decades, Dolan’s voice hasn’t faltered. It is still harsh yet it’s easy to understand what he saying. Consistency is the name of the game with Acts Of God. Clocking in at nearly an hour’s length with 15 tracks seems ambitious for a death metal album, but each song moves smoothly and the album never gets tiresome. Expect nothing less from a bona fide top ten death metal group.
(released February 18, 2022 on Nuclear Blast)
Heavy Music HQ Rating:
Watch Immolation – “The Age of No Light” Video