(Andy Synn passes judgement on the new album from Immolation, out Feb 18 on Nuclear Blast)
If there’s one thing we’re known for here at NCS it’s our focus on celebrating and supporting the underdogs.
So when the promo for Acts of God, by up-and-coming New York death-dealers Immolation dropped into our inbox I quickly snatched it up, as I’m all about giving struggling young bands a helping hand.
Eleven albums, you say?
Over thirty years as a band?
Well, that changes everything…
All joking aside, I should clarify that I am in fact very familiar with the work of these NYDM legends, from their seminal early albums to their recent career resurgence (in fact I still consider 2017’s Atonement to be the closest they’ve ever come to equalling career-defining classics like Dawn of Possession and Close to a World Below).
A discography as deep as Immolation‘s, however, means that reviewing their newest record always comes with added complications. After all, while younger, newer bands can often get by just by showing a bit of nascent potential, Immolation have an a full-on legacy to live up to, and that’s no easy task.
If there’s one thing that the band’s eleventh album proves, however, it’s that the quartet of Dolan, Vigna, Shalaty, and Bouks, are nowhere near ready to rest on their laurels and become a “legacy act” just yet.
And while – for reasons which I’ll expound upon in more detail shortly – it’s probably a slight step down from its predecessor (which, as I’ve already intimated, set a ridiculously high bar) it’s safe to say that Acts of God is still a more than worthy entry into the band’s enviably blistering and endlessly blasphemous back-catalogue.
The most obvious criticism, of course, is that, at fifteen tracks/fifty-two minutes long, it definitely feels a little bloated – despite the majority of the songs being less than four minutes in length -, and I’m honestly a little surprised they didn’t split the material up into separate album and EP*.
That’s not so much a comment on the quality of the material itself (although there are a couple of moments where, perhaps inevitably, it feels like the band are falling back on some old, familiar tricks, plus some of the solos – which seem particularly abundant this time around – feel a little roughly/abruptly injected into the songs, with no real build up or introduction) and more an issue of overall structure and flow.
Outside of these issues, however – none of which should seriously impede your enjoyment of the record – it’s obvious that every member of the band is still bringing their A-game (Shalaty in particular remains the group’s not-so-secret weapon behind the kit) with the result that tracks like “The Age of No Light”, “Noose of Thorns”, “Overtures of the Wicked”, and “Let the Darkness In” (which really should have been the album closer, imo) are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with many of the best moments from the band’s devastating discography.
One last thing, before I finish – I’ve always been impressed by how densely and intricately layered Immolation‘s music is, and Acts of God is no exception in this regard. There’s just something about the unique way they arrange things, weaving together heaviness and aggression, atmosphere and melody, which gives their sound a sense of richness and depth that few other bands, whether they be peers or pupils, are capable of equalling (and, if you don’t believe me, then just give the phenomenal pairing of “Immoral Stain” and “Incineration Procession” a listen for further evidence).
In the end, while it has its flaws – and I think even the most devoted of disciples will agree with me – it also has more than enough hellish highlights for me to be willing to recommend it, with a few minor caveats, to both new fans and old. Because no matter whether this is your first, fifth, or five-hundredth time listening to the band I doubt you’re going to be disappointed by what you find here.
* FYI, a fun game to play, not just with this album but with any record of similar magnitude, is working out how you’d split things up given the chance – and I don’t just mean putting the “best” tracks on one, and leaving the left-overs for the other, I mean actively thinking about how to make the best album/EP combination possible – so feel free to try that for yourselves once the album has been officially released and come back here with your suggested track-listing(s).