Released: 2010, Nuclear Blast
Now I have to say I have never been an Immolation fan. Sure, I’m aware of their existence and their significance in the NYDM scene – but I’ve never gotten into any of their stuff, even the commonly-agreed classics like DAWN OF POSSESSION and CLOSE TO A WORLD BELOW. I can’t put my finger on it either; it could be that so many people have told me “You HAVE to listen to Immolation, it’s the best death metal ever!” that the hype seems to have diminished what I was able to take from the music. It’s also probably down to the fact that I listened to DAWN OF POSSESSION once, twice, was disappointed, then chucked it aside. Ditto with CLOSE TO A WORLD BELOW. I doubt that any death metal fan has the same problem that I have with regard to Immolation, but if like me you’ve never been able to see the value of Immolation, MAJESTY AND DECAY may be the album to set you straight. Praise be, hallelujah!
I finally get what fans and reviewers mean when they talk about ‘atmosphere’. I never paid attention to what Bob Vigna was doing on the guitar on the early albums, but here on MAJESTY AND DECAY, there is no escaping his snarly jagged guitar tone. How can I describe it? It could be the soundtrack to a movie adaptation of a HP Lovecraft story about worms and filth in the long-buried catacombs of the world. There is a nasty, putrid quality to the riffs that literally crawl across your ears, leaving ooze and slime and gore in its wake, the reek of charnel juices heavy in your nostrils and the mustiness of aeons choking your throat. I revisited DAWN OF POSSESSION for the purposes of this review, and it’s all become clear to me now. The magic of Immolation has never been brutality, speed or slamming riffs. It’s always been about this incredibly nebulous thing – so hard to define adequately – called ‘atmosphere’, and every element of the band conspires to create a truly evil sound that sneers at the pitiful efforts of keyboards-wielding bands with a horror movie score fetish.
While Vigna and second guitarist Bill Taylor are the men behind the grim riffs and eerie leads, Ross Dolan is undoubtedly THE man. Even when I wasn’t into Immolation, I loved Dolan’s deep, powerful yet completely intelligible vocals. No pitch-shifting, no bree-bree, no inhale technique – just pure, monotonous, brutal death roars that still preserved enunciation and clarity. On MAJESTY AND DECAY, I am happy to report that he has never sounded better. He is still one of the more underrated death metal vocalists still plying their trade out there today. The drumming, courtesy of ex-Deeds of Flesh skinsman Steve Shalaty is top notch as per usual – it’s pretty much where he left off on SHADOWS IN THE LIGHT: restrained drumming that enhances the riffs, but not averse to dropping tons of crushing rolls and fills to accent Dolan’s filthy barks.
Needless to say, I have erred in dismissing and distancing myself from Immolation for so long. MAJESTY AND DECAY is my gateway to this legendary death metal band, but if you have been a long time fan, there is nothing in here to disappoint you.