Immolation have traditionally excelled at creating melody out of dissonance. Individual parts which in isolation have little melodic quotient come together in gestalt formation to realize dark and grand musical themes. In so much, truly this band has strived for the ideal of a symphonic death metal minus the actual symphonic implements that lesser bands feel inclined to use. From the Providence EP onwards, the attempt has been to make those musical themes stand on their own with far greater deliberation where previously they used to be subsumed in a flurry of death metal activity. Experiments with harmonics have achieved centerstage, and what used to be album-ending moody outros have come to frequently usurp the meat of the song proper.
This tendency to streamline the music around the shiniest parts finds its culmination on Atonement. By death metal activity, I mean the willingness to pursue an incessant unfolding of musically vital information and an aversion to filler. Both aspects are frequently compromised on Atonement in favor of finding the melodic sweet spot and drawing it of all its succor. It is not that the band has forgotten how to play death metal, but the desire is obviously leavened with an appeal to wow a newer audience more easily compelled with the band’s unique approach to riff constitution. Bob Vigna’s genius shines through as always with legitimate guitar voodoo, but he is more distraction than inhering outgrowth, still a wizard unrivaled, yes, but one who now is papering over the cracks showing in the illusion rather than effecting actual, substantial change. The Immolation of yesteryear, before it shifted its ire towards trending subjects like social injustices and global elites, had a very real spiritually galvanizing effect on the listener, where he felt he was taking up cudgels for a greater, more eternal cause than petty terrestrial wranglings. That sense of high-stakes theater is nowhere to be found on Atonement.