This is an eleventh studio album for New York death metal legends Immolation, arriving five years after its predecessor, Atonement. It's a decent release, because it does exactly what Immolation's known for and does it in the fashion to which fans have become accustomed. However, I'm not one of those, even though I should be, because of the lack of imagination in the vocal delivery of Ross Dolan. I end up realising on any Immolation album that I appreciate them more than I enjoy them.
They play a form of death metal that's notably technical but isn't notably progressive, a section in the middle of An Act of God notwithstanding. This approach means that they do all sorts of clever things instrumentally, especially in interplay between Robert Vigna's guitars and Steve Shalaty's drums, but within songs built from frameworks that feel inherently limited by self-imposed genre constraints. There isn't much of anything here that isn't death metal so, if your favourite albums in that genre from the past couple of years are from bands like Rivers of Nihil or First Fragment, then this will seem wildly unimaginative in comparison.
However, Immolation aren't one of those death metal bands who cares more about the impact of their music than they do the songs themselves, like say Cannibal Corpse. The technicality of these songs may not flex the genre's boundaries in the slightest but it's admirable and ought to appeal to fans of bands like Archspire, merely with vocals that feel unambitious. While Dolan's certainly singing these songs, he's almost singing them in a different subgenre, because there's nothing in them to match the technicality of Vigna and Shalaty. His basswork, on the other hand, because he has two roles in this band, absolutely does. Is the man schizophrenic?
What I know is that my appreciation of this album shifted as it went on. I enjoyed the early tracks because of this sort of technical aspect. I loved the intro, Abandoned, for a start, and the complex rhythms on An Act of God too. There's a section late in Noose of Thorns that's breathtaking in its technical ambition. I listened to that a dozen times to try to figure out exactly what they're doing in it. There's a section in When Halos Burn that does likewise and a few in Incineration Procession that come close too.
Over time though, the general vibe of the album took over from those sections of songs and I just ran with it all in a similar way to how I enjoyed the last Cannibal Corpse record, letting the songs bleed together into a single palatable assault on the senses. Dolan's vocals work better with this sort of mindset, in which we give up listening to the detail of the songs and let them simply wash over us. The more I replayed the album, the longer the technicality won out, eventually getting to the point where it was just the last couple of songs in that torrent of death.
I was going to go with a 7/10 because of this, with a note that any particular fans of the band ought to automatically add a point to that. Then I thought I should just bite the bullet and call it an 8/10. But I still don't get Dolan's non-technical vocals on such technical music, so I'll stick with a 7/10 and you can add a point to that if you want, based on what I've said here.