WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2011 - There’s no denying Immolation is an ingenious band. Formed in 1988, they weathered heavy metal’s stagnation during the 1990s by approaching their sound with creativity and innovation. The resulting style is all their own, a slow-burning brand of death metal that smolders and suffocates.
2010’s “Majesty and Decay” is no exception. Its 12 songs twist and turn with serpentine dexterity, each boasting a complexity second to none. Warped and corrupted, they inspire palpable claustrophobia in even the bravest listeners. The album title says it all – this is stately, epic music cloaked in oppressive atmosphere and lingering tension.
The onslaught begins with a brief “Intro” that conjures dread with ominous, lonely guitar notes. This relative quiet makes “The Purge” all the more punishing, its thunderous grooves hitting like a sledgehammer. It eventually fades into a passage of eerie guitar chords, a prelude to the final pummeling delivered at song’s end.
“A Token of Malice” is exactly that, blindsiding listeners with relentless guitar riffs and ever-shifting percussion rhythms. Fiendishly catchy melodies weave in and out of the mix, insidiously injecting themselves into listeners’ memories. Up next is the title track, a steamroller of a song that crushes and plods like a wounded elephant.
“Divine Code” is heavenly, its gargantuan opening riffs providing a soundtrack for serious skull-rattling. If the epic, somber guitars won’t get heads banging, chances are the furious blastbeat drumming will. “In Human Form” carries such momentum forward, washing over listeners with a churning maelstrom of guitars. “A Glorious Epoch” drags listeners through the depths of determination, its main riff testing patience by echoing endlessly above a cascade of drums. It’s such a ferocious, exhausting listen that it necessitates a moody “Interlude” full of ringing notes and reverberating booms afterwards.
“A Thunderous Consequence” comes after this break with a downpour of labyrinthine drum rhythms and unnerving guitar notes. Its rumbling menace eventually explodes, morphing into drifting solos that waver and shimmer like dying rays of sunlight. “The Rapture of Ghosts,” for its part, brutalizes eardrums with pulverizing, palm-muted guitars accentuated by atonal, chaotic melodies. “Power and Shame” blazes past in a flurry of careening metal before collapsing into a behemoth-sized breakdown. It’s a seamless transition from blitzkrieg speed to slow-paced savagery, the work of a band that’s mastered their craft. Last but not least, “The Comfort of Cowards” closes out the album with a jarring anthem throwing jagged guitar sweeps and abrupt time signature changes at listeners. It’s a memorable finale, especially since the confusion it sows leaves listeners wondering what force has brutalized them for 45 harrowing minutes.
Immolation’s new album proves the reigning death metal kings haven’t lost their crown. It’s a grandiose take on the genre, all stoicism and sincere austerity of purpose. This is must-have material – despite its name, there isn’t a rotten song on “Majesty and Decay.”
“A Token of Malice”
“Majesty and Decay”
“In Human Form”
“A Glorious Epoch”
“A Thunderous Consequence”
“The Rapture of Ghosts”
“Power and Shame”
“The Comfort of Cowards”
Rating: 9 out of 10.
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