Review | IMMOLATION Scorches Through Darkness on Acts of God

            A brooding glare rises with the eleventh full creation from one of classic death metal’s most revered names, and its power attacks the corruption lurking behind humanity’s institutional facades. IMMOLATION is known for incorporating darker shades within their breed of brutality, and Acts of God maximizes this aspect in the crushing imposition of its riffs, along with detailed melodies and rhythmic structures weaved throughout their devastation. These elements build into multifaceted compositions dominated by loathing and despair, and their expressions reach despondency through some instrumental appearances while soaring to higher levels with dynamic leadwork. This collectively exhibits IMMOLATION’s unyielding resolve, and Acts of God seeks to cleanse our existence with its incinerating fury.

            Bleakness is introduced on “Abandoned,” which is the first of two instrumentals embodying this quality, and they build its aura by raising distant tremolos and distortions amid their clean-stringed features. Desolation also appears later through a deeper clean variation beginning on “Immoral Stain,” and while ambience is scarce, it does emanate subtly from places like the break on “The Age of No Light.” Gongs resound prior to the blasting onset of “An Act of God,” where turbulence is orchestrated in rapid fills between blasts that alternate with double bass intervals, and these abrupt percussive shifts produce a pummeling effect that recurs throughout. Intricacies in the drumming are notable across a variety of rhythmic formations, including different grooving or slower paces along with plenty of IMMOLATION’s distinct ebb and flow. These give contrast to demonstrations in bludgeoning force, and their methodical approach enables the darker developments to unfold.

            The riffing interacts favorably with these pulse rates for maximum impact, and Ross Dolan’s vocals match their oppressive quality as heavy-noted patterns and chords combine with thick tremolos to form ruinous structures. This is observed on tracks like “Noose of Thorns,” where a solo follows the sinister immensity reached in progressions from multiple riff textures, and doom is highlighted when low-end currents are punctuated by crushing strikes on “Derelict of Spirit.” These impressions are then compounded by a lead melody, an element which often manifests in the brooding atmosphere, and the closing section of “Shed the Light” shows how tremolo incorporations are able to drive that enhancement further. Heightened layers of this picking style converge for a dissonant effect on “The Age of No Light,” and that tone expands here when intervallic notes proceed along their menacing course. Its unsettling presence is also noted in a discordant riff attack on “Broken Prey,” and “Let the Darkness In” carries it through a dismal groove amplified by octave chords. Many of the arrangements are intensified by dissonance, and it operates effectively within the heavier overarching despair.

            Detailed melodic features are interspersed throughout the burdened mass, and it contorts with string bends while harmonics and accents strike concurrently with their respective beats. The heightened level on “Noose of Thorns” demonstrates an anguished capacity, and fleeting shapes are also discerned, including the rapid arpeggiated sweeps on “Broken Prey.” A lead elevates this passage before extending to a solo, which is another key element demonstrating an expressive array. Melody and searing frenzy are often combined, and they reach a harmonic peak on “An Act of God,” with its soaring effect augmented by a drumming shift from blast beats to double bass. Harmonics also pierce through a dreary solo on “Shed the Light,” and their essence continues with the noted emphasis on “Immoral Stain.” They produce an intoxicating effect during a slow groove on “Blooded,” and soloing soon evolves from the tremolos rushing alongside blast beats. A slower lead approach also unfolds on “Incineration Procession” before shredding ahead with the full rise in percussive wrath. Momentous points are frequently achieved from the conspiring of these elements, and they culminate on “Apostle” to engulf the work in a definitive exercise of annihilation.

            The brooding aural tone is accompanied by lyrical themes focused on the products of religious influence and corruption, beginning with the “Deceitful wolf adorned in cloths of faith” that is “Stalking those of purest spirit” on “An Act of God.” Along with this allusion to priestly pedophilia is the exposure of self-righteousness and hypocrisy in those “Feigning remorse, yet persistent in sin” on “Derelict of Spirit,” with contempt shown in “Superior, infallible, your arrogance disgusts us all.” The fear tactics and manipulation employed by these beings is demonstrated on “When Halos Burn,” with “Intimidate, terrorize for gain” while targeting “Crippled minds to warp and bend.” This is highlighted again on “Overtures of the Wicked” when “Shifting doubt and fear to rage” through the “Propaganda set ablaze,” and its intent to “Conquer and divide” so “The wicked shall overcome us” hints to influences that aren’t purely religious.

            The deceptive nature of faith is described with “Your tainted lies hold nothing but septic hopes, wrapped in the trust of a shining cross” on “Shed the Light,” and the resulting enslavement is analogized on “Noose of Thorns” with “This crowning vision… Chokes us all, as the thorns dig in.” These tracks both strive for the enlightenment and liberation that comes with seeing past the veil, and the latter asks “Will you find your way? Or be strangled by your faith forever” while the former calls to “Peel away the rotten layers, and tear yourselves away from their torturous light.” Persecution is viewed from the outsider’s perspective on “Immoral Stain” as “Pawns of Christ deny us life,” and despair sets in when viewing “The sky above us made of dirt” after being “Tortured, killed, to the ground we’re fed.” War and destruction are noted throughout, with this track ordering “Pawns of Christ dispatch your saints, one by one, until nothing remains.”

            These elements necessitate the arrival of cleansing flames, and these are especially noted on “Incineration Procession,” where “The crimes of man” are “Left in heaping piles of ash… And with us goes a world of useless suffering.” Implications beyond religion also appear with “Ignore the signs. Thick ash above, blot out the sun. Marching on until extinction comes.” A sense of hopelessness is also prevalent, and its essence is captured on “Broken Prey” when “As the tyranny of man is unleashed upon us all, we’re cast into its dismal aftermath.” This tone is carried further on “Let the Darkness In” through “A broken spirit, I stand alone… Departing life, My tormented soul, submit and die,” and “Malignant spirits have entered my soul. Let the darkness come inside again” combines it with a pervading attraction to the dark. The crusade on “Apostle” seems interpretable from multiple angles, but despite an ongoing struggle across the entire work, here it ultimately gives those liberated rebels and heretics a final refrain that is “Resounding, dark, triumphant.”

            IMMOLATION is a band that will always be welcomed upon return, and their relatively consistent efforts make Acts of God difficult to rank against the pre-existing catalog. As a lone entity, however, it possesses an invigorated fire that apparently stems from extra recording time and lack of deadlines during these last couple years. It also looks to have the longest run time of all their full-length releases, but without feeling excessive. The songwriting shows a steadfast and inspired zeal, with its multiple layers and nuances forming a density to keep the listener engaged, and this extends to a variety of leads and soloing that heightens notable points throughout. The production is also clear enough to capture all the instrumental elements while maintaining a fully classic sound. IMMOLATION prevails with their trademark style, which thrives on the dark and sinister side of the genre, and Acts of God is an output reaffirming the anticipated quality of this year.

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