A Devil's Dozen

Immolation

posted on 6/2015   By: Last Rites

 

To put it plainly, Immolation is one of the most unique, most consistent and flat-out best death metal bands in the world. Formed in Yonkers, New York in 1988, by guitarist/mastermind Robert Vigna, bassist/frontman, Ross Dolan, guitarist Tom Wilkinson and drummer Craig Smilowski, Immolation was not the most productive band early in its career, releasing only two albums, 1991’s Dawn of Possession and 1996’s Here in After, in its first decade of existence. Sparse though the group’s output was, the quality of the material and the singularity of the band’s sound were enough to mark Immolation as a band to watch. Around the turn of the century, with the addition of new drummer Alex Hernandez, Immolation kicked its career into high gear. 1999’s excellent Failures for Gods was followed a mere eighteen months later by the career-defining masterpiece Close to a World Below, which was followed in turn by the legacy-cementing Unholy Cult in 2002. (Unholy was the first album to feature guitarist Bill Taylor). With this three album run, Immolation took its place at death metal’s creative forefront, via Vigna’s labyrinthine orchestrations of dissonance and Dolan’s brutal delivery of first-rate Jesus-hating lyrics.

Immolation’s succeeding work has leaned more toward refinement of its established sound than breaking new ground, but the group maintains a quality standard few can even approach. And as a live act, veteran outfit though it might be, Immolation is still delivers like a band in its prime. And so, it is with great pleasure that Last Rites presents a Devil’s Dozen of Immolation.

[JEREMY MORSE]

 • • • • •

Into Everlasting Fire

[Dawn Of Possession, 1991]

Some consider Dawn of Possession to be part of Immolation’s developmental phase, and it is true that the album sounds more conventional than the work that would follow. However, the notion that Dawn of Possession is in any way half-baked is dispelled from the get-go by “Into Everlasting Fire.” The growling bends that lurch through the chorus, the screaming artificial harmonics that color the breakdown, the otherworldly solos that shoot needles in your ears, and rhythmic complexity at every turn are all hallmarks of the band’s sound to this day. Even when the boys in Immolation were green, they were death metal gods.

[JEREMY MORSE]

 • • • • •

Majesty And Decay

[Majesty And Decay, 2010]

The title track of what is, to these ears at least, Immolation’s magnum opus, “Majesty And Decay” begins with a cascading riff enhanced by a rolling percussion, probably becoming as close as Immolation can be to doom metal, a style that Immolation has flirted with throughout its existence. Ross Dolan’s clearly enunciated vocals, which shine throughout this album, are highlighted early in the song. The pace soon quickens to the quirky death metal with multiple time changes that Immolation has long since perfected, but never quite gets to blastbeat intensity. The approach is a welcome one, as I’ve always felt that Steve Shalaty’s drumming is showcased best at mid-paced tempos.

[DAVE SCHALEK]

 • • • • •

Indoctrinate

[Kingdom Of Conspiracy, 2013]

The best thing about “Indoctrinate” isn’t necessarily its classic Immolation drive or the irresistibly simple nature of its chorus. It also isn’t the swimming-in-lava slurry during the mid-section, smatterings of maniacal leads, or status as one of the best tunes on Kingdom of Conspiracy. No, the music might not be the best part about a song that sounds insanely cool. Rather, the best thing about “Indoctrinate” is how much it reaffirms and continues Ross Dolan’s absolute conviction. After all of these years, he is still finding new ways to despise Christianity and organized religion, and as has always been the case, he finds a way to make his hatred feel EARNED. In a landscape rife with cheap Satanism, Dolan stands alone at the top of his Kingdom.

[ZACH DUVALL]

 • • • • •

Here In After

[Here In After, 1996]

After laying waste to heaven on their crushing debut, where would Immolation aim their riff-ravaging Christ-cannons? Here in After is a bold statement, a manifesto of off-kilter, articulate, and convoluted death. We learned to squeal in harmonic glee and bend it like Vigna; I dream of imitating his dance moves to this day. "Here in After" is the album's centerpiece, comprised of grooves that grow sideways and dissipate in glorious staccato dissonance. Originality beyond compare was the name of the game, and Immolation fly that freak-riff flag to this day.

[ATANAMAR SUNYATA]

 • • • • •

Higher Coward

[Close To A World Below, 2000]

“Didn’t you say… Jesus was coming?”

Ross Dolan would never use the term, but Immolation sure had a come-to-Jesus moment about every aspect of their sound when assembling the masterpiece that is Close to a World Below, and “Higher Coward” is the album’s impeccable overture. With its formless guitar opening, that priceless quote, and the absolutely unrelenting early passages, it ensures zero breathing room within the whirling cacophony. But at about 2:45, the song drops into one of the band’s most muscular flexes, over which Ross Dolan spews his fierce determination. A controlled-chaos Vigna solo later and the song returns to the early madness, only to leave the listener hanging desperately for resolution before preparing the next onslaught.

[ZACH DUVALL]

 • • • • •

Of Martyrs And Men

[Unholy Cult, 2002]

“Of Martyrs and Men” eases the listener into Unholy Cult, fading in with a plaintive and unsettling, but relatively mellow guitar melody. Then all Hell breaks loose: The remainder of the track’s five and a half minutes is a maelstrom of abrupt shifts in tempo and groove, from furious bludgeoning and frantic stabbing to sullen trudging and funeral marching. All the while Vigna and Taylor’s guitars growl, moan, scream and wail. By the time Ross Dolan bellows “Now you’re deaaaaaad!”, you almost believe him. This is not music, this is a massacre.

[JEREMY MORSE]

 • • • • •

Those Left Behind

[Dawn Of Possession, 1991]

The rough and tumble of Dawn Of Possession only hinted at what was soon to come from Immolation, but “Those Left Behind” is an early, doom laden, mid-paced track from a time when most early, New York- style death metal had a tendency to simply blast away. Probably the most intricate song on Dawn Of Possession, “Those Left Behind” begins with a slow, moody intro, only to pick up the pace briefly and then, once again, downshift. Multiple tempo changes are sprinkled throughout, an approach that would soon become Immolation’s calling card.

[DAVE SCHALEK]

 • • • • •

Christ's Cage

[Here In After, 1996]

"Christ's Cage" is a fitting end to my favorite Immolation album and an early pinnacle of Immolation's Christ-crapping career. That riff, that riff, that riff. Majestic beyond all majesty and evidence beyond all doubt of Ross Dolan's vocal mastery, this song makes me want to toss a church more than all the black metal ditties ever penned. Snaking through shoots and ladders of harrowing oddity and gratuitous grooves, "Christ's Cage" is true blasphemy made flesh.

[ATANAMAR SUNYATA]

 • • • • •

Our Savior Sleeps

[Harnessing Ruin, 2005]

After the colossal Unholy Cult, some listeners pegged 2005's Harnessing Ruin as too muddy and too melodic to bear Immolation's regal standard. In fact, Harnessing Ruin features some of the band's most direct, hardest-hitting material since Dawn of Possession, with "Our Savior Sleeps" ranking as the most darkly potent of the lot. It slinks in on the back of Steve Shalaty's tumbling fill-beats and marries some of Ross Dolan's most sing-alongable lyrics to that uneasy two-note oscillation. Then, finally, if none of that has yet convinced you, the breakdown introduced by the climactic "We trusted you / And you did not come through" is one for the ages. Simply put: Immolation does not make bad albums.

[DANHAMMER OBSTKRIEG]

 • • • • •

Unholy Cult

[Unholy Cult, 2002]

That solo at the four-minute mark—what is that? It sure as shit doesn’t sound like a guitar. And that tiny upswing in tempo? This is what devastating bases the definition of devastating on. At a meaty eight minutes, Unholy Cult showcases Immo’s ability to build on a lead without blowing their wad on a riff salad. If instant gratification is your thing or you’re short of attention, this is probably your least favorite track. We also probably aren’t friends, so eat shit.

[CHRIS REDAR]

 • • • • •

A Glorious Epoch

[Majesty And Decay, 2010]

One hundred words is not a tenth of what I’d need to detail every nuance of excellence that “A Glorious Epoch” has to offer, but let’s start with the intro. Vigna’s almost-clean opening figure is almost soothing until he slips in a perfectly bent note to sour the whole deal. When the figure morphs into the song’s main theme the sick bend is complemented by an equally unhealthy sounding harmonic that haunts the whole track like the howls of a dying beast. I haven’t even gotten to the riff I can only call a jangling horror or the whiplash inducing mid-section, but I guess what I’m trying to say is with Immolation, the Devil is in the details. Well, he’s in everything else too, but the details especially.

[JEREMY MORSE]

 • • • • •

No Jesus, No Beast

[Failures For Gods, 1999]

As something of a death metal neophyte in 1999, Failures For Gods served as my introduction to the heart of the genre. The guttural vocals, pounding double bass, and riffs cut a swath through everything in their path. These elements were in full effect on the album’s standout track, which embodies all that Immolation stands for both musically and philosophically; the title remains one of my favorite puns to this day. Though I originally pegged them as the “Acme” of death metal, over time they quickly became one of the apogees, a standard by which all others should be measured. More than 15 years later, the bar remains at Immolation’s level.

[DAVE PIRTLE]

 • • • • •

Father, You're not a Father

[Close To A World Below, 2000]

Objectively the best song on the best Immolation album. Seriously, this song encompasses everything that makes Immolation such a unique act-- mid-paced DM beats that don’t sound even a bit dated, incredibly blasphemous lyrics that don’t sound hackneyed or forced (in fact, this one could be construed as heart-breakingly personal), standard headbang riffs combined with otherworldly squeals—It’s tough to come up with hyperbole for this track, because there isn’t a way to overstate how phenomenal it is. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to this a hundred times in a row.

[CHRIS REDAR]

 • • • • •


TAGGED Death,Immolation