[23 March 2010]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Every year we get albums by one or two death metal bands that have been around forever that are not only good, but completely obliterate young, popular death metal bands half their age. Last year it was Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation showing the kids that nobody does it as well as the old guys, and this year it’s Immolation’s turn. The venerable band from Yonkers, New York has been doing the brutal death metal thing for 24 years now, but it’s been during the last five years that the foursome has truly started to hit its stride. 2005’s revelatory Harnessing Ruin was a masterful return to form, arguably their very best album, while 2007’s Shadows in the Light was a strong follow-up, and now Immolation’s eighth studio album Majesty and Decay continues their remarkable run.
Stylistically speaking, there’s absolutely nothing new to this album at all. The huge, tar-thick riffs by Robert Vigna and Bill Taylor brilliantly combine melody and atonality, drummer Steve Shalaty provides tastefully-executed beats, and founding member Ross Dolan is in great vocal form, proving that it’s indeed possible to deliver a monstrous death growl and enunciate at the same time. The production on this sucker is especially good, finding a tidy balance between clarity and brutality, Dolan’s bass tone massive. Like their longtime peers, Immolation stresses songwriting over simply showing off their technical skill, and for all their predictability, the ten songs (not counting the two interludes) are perfect examples of dynamic songwriting in death metal, the three finest examples being the towering “The Purge”, the majestically melodic title track, and the excellent closer “The Comfort of Cowards”. When it comes to good, workmanlike death metal, this album delivers exactly what it promises, as Immolation has always done.