Review: Immolation – Acts of God
In August 2001, inside the most stale and Milwaukee of convention centers, a young Snoots stood clutching a ripe stack of CDs, just off stage right near the drum riser. Though indeed, there was no riser, nor stage. It was just another fluorescent office side room, where any number of 2,843 black/death/grind/punk/goth metal bands were all paid-to-playing simultaneously on the limitless beige of corporate carpets. That Saturday afternoon was the much-anticipated spectacle of Immolation; to see both the legendary band as a whole and Alex Hernandez’ incomprehensible hi-hat work in particular, the chaotic and sublime Close to a World Below still making fresh waves across the scene and my small, impressionable mind.
Fast forward 20 years, across a fistful of wars and the lingering aroma of fascism rising like an artisanal loaf of sourdough left on the counter to ferment on the yeast of Alex Jones’ fermunda, the time is again ripe for a new slab of Immolation to engulf us.
They continue the restoration of their early ’90s motifs through their original logo along with a sly visual nod to their debut, Dawn of Possession; a familiar flock of tormented divine beings struggling and writhing in the sky adorn the cover.
The tonal immersion continues across the videos, heavily leveraging abstract liminal scenes juxtaposed with the band and spliced, sepia-flavored images of imminent global decimation.
And while they do lean heavily backward into their own frankincense-lined past in berating the blind dogma of religion, the words and emphasis are careful enough to invite additional, more worldly interpretations of greed, corruption and decay.
But the real beans and potatoes are in the richly-layered tapestry of sound, where Vigna’s riffs are strong and enigmatic as ever, deftly weaving oppressive harmonics in between oddly catchy pinch melodies and tremolo desolation, all bound to the meat of Ross’ ominous growl and the frantic bones of Steve’s myriad polished blasts and grooves.
They switch tempos with nearly gleeful abandon, with many songs showcasing an entire fistful of different speeds and blast styles, deftly punctuated with moments of reprieve in the form of melodic refreshment like the glistening twang in the reprieve of “Age of No Light” around 2:55, or a chance to flex your neck muscles in downtempo chunks of breathing room in the groove of 1:26 in “Apostle” or the unctuous churn at 1:22 in “Act of God.”
Even acoustic flavors can be found sprinkled throughout as palette cleansers, to rinse the grimy buildup of reverb, distortion and cymbal chokes from the nooks and crannies of your auditory canal, only to lull your inflamed senses in for a fresh throbbing, showcasing a band in full command of both their own instruments and their own unique musical voice.
Long-since established as one of the reliable greats of death metal’s evolution, their latest does have some of the same relative shortcoming as other genre stalwarts in that it can be difficult to excel and stand out in comparison to their own towering back catalog, though it does shine easily amongst other contemporary genre releases of the year. Both the heft and the dynamics are as momentous as they have ever been for Bob, Ross and company and while they may never truly supplant Close to a World Below from my perspective, that is ultimately immaterial because Acts of God is a fantastic and stalwart buoy of rebellion to beckon and beguile a whole world of ears not my own.
Releases tomorrow on Nuclear Blast.