Immolation’s “Acts Of God” is a New York Death Metal epic

Author John Hagen - 18.2.2022

Bells ring, warning of impending doom: “Abandoned” serves as the dreadful overture to Immolation’s latest release: “Acts Of God.” A 15-track death metal behemoth, but not quite a laundry list of acts of God—at least not in the modern, legal sense. 

The New Yorker’s eleventh studio album is the perfect soundtrack to an Evil-led invasion; the eponymous track, “Acts Of God,” is a recitative that describes not the sound of any skirmish, but the most coordinated and brutal assault on Light.

Tremolo riffs twirl in the sky as double bass kicks blow dust into the air. The bass grinds its way forward, a siege machine raking the field of battle. To the sound of pinch harmonics and operatic riffs, the vanguard advances to bring about an “Age Of No Light.”

Throughout “Acts of God,” Immolation’s approach is almost baroque: the music is technically impressive and ornamental, yet still guarded. On drums, Steve Shalaty exercises complete control over his kit. His playing is somber, yet engaging. The same can be said about Ross Dolan, who has been on the bass and vocals frontlines since the late 80s.

When it comes to string manipulations, Robert Vigna and Alex Bouks bring some interesting interplay with Shalaty’s drums, wringing one’s attention with memorable riffs, and dare I say, solos. I seldom praise lead work, though here, the virtuoso playing enriches the musical experience.

Another way to aggrandize an already compelling music release is to pair it with the right artwork. In contrast to Immolation’s 2017 release, “Atonement,” the band chose a much darker, neoclassical-looking artwork by artist Eliran Kantor.

Kantor’s painting shows a trifecta of angels springing—or getting caught into—a dark trap. The winged-beings despair as their flesh and ossein dissolve into a viscous black matter, melting away under an evil spell.

Here, art mirrors music perfectly. Although still open to interpretation, the overarching theme of Immolation’s “Acts Of God” is the struggle, and ultimate triumph, of Darkness over Light. In this regard, “Acts Of God” is truly a New York Death Metal epic; a modern musical tragedy that commands utmost reverence from the auditor.

Each track could stand on its own, but “Acts Of God” is best appreciated as an ensemble. Thankfully, there is hardly a dull moment, even over its 15-track course. Dynamic sections and tempo changes keep the tension ebbing and flowing, eventually drowning you once fully immersed.

From its inception to this day, Immolation has spellbound generations of death metal fans with its body of technical and dissonant work. “Acts Of God” is certainly destined to bring in new blood into the band’s cohort of fans. And for what is arguably one of 2022’s best releases so far, I chose to give “Acts Of God” an almost perfect grade.