Majesty and Decay

Written by: AB on 10/05/2010 01:37:29

So, seeing as I only have the hardest, most time consuming part left of my hardest semester at Uni so far, I couldn’t possibly find a better time to return to I just miss you guys so much! I have been following on the sideline, of course, and it has been good to see EW holding the metal banner high – and it is also very nice to see that a few more metal scribes have joined the ranks. Sadly, however, I have been looking high and low for a much awaited review, and it is nowhere to be found. Thus, I have to roll up my own sleeves in order to do full justice to the mighty - Immolation!

If you take a quick look at the ‘About’ section, you’ll see that Immolation is amongst my favorite bands, ever, and with good reason. Since their absolutely rifftastic debut of ´91, “Dawn of Possession”, Immolation has been churning out some of the absolute best death metal has to offer. And we all know that death metal is the best music genre around. Since the debut, Immolation has evolved ever so slightly on each and every album. “Here in After” (´96) and “Failures for Gods” (´99) are some of the most creepy, twisted albums ever, while still being ass-stompingly technical, “Close To A World Below” (´00) and “Unholy Cult” (´02) are grandiosely heavy and darkly magnificent, while “Harnessing Ruin” (´05) and “Shadows in the Light” (´07) are less twisted and more straightforward crushing than the earlier works. The red thread has always been front beast Dolans abyss-deep growls, and especially masterminds Vignas atonal, worming riffs, that continuously have set Immolation apart from their peers.

Naturally, I have been eager to lay my filthy little hands on a copy since I first heard of the new album, “Majesty and Decay”. High expectations and all that. Upon my first listen, many moons ago (album was released back in early March) it was clear – another Immolation masterpiece.

After a rather superfluous ‘atmospheric’ album opener (a first in the Immolation context), real album opener “The Purge” starts off, which immediately kicks your head in and starts stomping on your carcass. It is absurdly heavy; crushing everything underfoot by drummer Shalatys devastatingly percussion onslaught and Dolans aforementioned growls. Shalaty is the ‘new’ man on the team (this being only his third Immolation album), and while he has been more than adequate before, he has – to some extent – always been left in the shadow of drum master extraordinaire Alex Hernandez, whose seat he inherited. That part is over now. Shalaty, with his weirdly groovy, and somewhat ‘off’ marching rhythms, for once and all proves himself as masterful behind the kit.

Still, it is, and will always be, the guitar that is the heart and soul in Immolation. Thus we turn the eyes and ears toward Bill Taylor (ex-Angelcorpse) and Bob Vigna. Once again, the jagged riffs drag everyone into the maelstrom that is Immolation. While Vigna probably never will write as worming songs as on “Here in After” or “Failures for Gods”, “Majesty and Decay” is a nod towards the older works, being more intricate than the more blunt later albums. However, while still paying tribute to the classic Immolation sound, “Majesty and Decay” yet again shows a band evolving. The riffs and solos have never sounded so tormented and desperate before, and the guitar work just exudes pain, claustrophobia and suffering. This goes hand in hand with the lyrical content – the lyrics of Immolation have always been thoroughly anti Christian, but now lyricist Dolan continues the path of songs like “World Agony”, “Passion Kill” and “Whispering Death” from “Shadows in the Light” which dealt with apocalyptic themes, destruction and the human cancer that slowly suffocates the earth. “Show me the meaning – OF PAIN” he rages in “The Rapture of Ghosts”, and that song, together with the title track, “A Thunderous Consequence” and the colossal album closer “The Comfort of Cowards”, amongst others, really showcase what “Majesty and Decay” is.

That is, an utterly overwhelming death metal album. Immolation has never sounded as dark or desolate before, and yet, the sound is immense, gigantic and, yeah, majestic. “Majesty and Decay” takes parts from all the earlier albums and mashes them together, Frankenstein style, to some behemothic (yep, I just made that word up) music-golem. Whew. The serrated sound of the earlier outputs twist the brutality of the newer works into something erratic, yet extremely head bangable music, while everything is cloaked in the darkly radiance from their middle period.

On top of that, you can add that the production has never been clearer. While grit and dirt more often than not are beneficial to quality death metal, Immolation stomp so much ass that all that is needed is to let the music speak for itself in the best possible way, and not obscure details in order to provide dark atmosphere, because the band does that in spades.

However, “Majesty and Decay” is not perfect. It has its flaws. The intro, as well as the interlude, is, as said, superfluous. And while they still are absolutely great songs, “In Human Form” and “Divine Code”, sadly lose a bit of momentum. They contain some of the best solos on the album, but just miss the top mark anyway. Ah well. Even though Decrepit Birth, Akercocke, Orgone and Cosmic Atrophy should be under way with new albums this year, the only possible contender to ‘best death metal album of the year’ could be if the newly reformed Gorguts gets their asses in gear and put out a new record.


Download: Majesty and Decay, The Comfort of Cowards, The Rapture of Ghosts
For the fans of: Incantation, slower Nile
Listen: MySpace

Release date 09.03.2010
Nuclear Blast Records

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