Considering how long Immolation have been chipping away at their unique, subtly but massively influential brand of US death metal, it's good to see that the band seems to get a lot of credit these days, whether it's through the talk of the internet or those able to witness one of their live shows. I've seen this band a great number of times, generally in the late 90s and turn of the decade, and though I would never count them among my personal favorites of the genre, they are easily one of the best bands of their type from the East Coast. In fact, I'd rate their overall body of work as far more consistent than a peer like Suffocation. Majesty and Decay is the band's 8th full-length offering, and while the overall quality doesn't really touch what I'd consider the band's 'unholy trinity' of works: Close to a World Below, Unholy Cult and Harnessing Ruin (2000-5), it's a further exercise in the band's distinctly deep, bludgeoning that conjures a landscape far more adventurous than a great many of their contemporaries.
As with any Immolation release, Majesty and Decay hits hard, like an open skull surgery in which the neurosurgeons have all gone batshine insane and started to tap on your various soft bits with whatever steel implements are available to them. The riffs swerve and cascade from blunt intensity to moments of slicing, graceful leadwork and scintillating, vorpal chords that bristle at the edge of perception. It's both murky and glorious, with Stave Shalaty serving as a human tornado which lifts up the hard hitting guitar rhythms to toss them about like loose furniture or cattle. Dolan's vocals are as central as ever, and his bass playing is simply extraordinary as it bounces along like a bottom feeder to the aquarium of chaos that is Robert Vigna and Bill Taylor.
After a sampled, brooding classical intro, "The Purge" does exactly what it sets out to do, lose your lunch through its consistently confusing edifice of tightly wound riffing and jarring percussive low end. From there, the psychotic grooves and grind of "A Token of Malice", and the subterranean old school evil of the title track, which seems like the bastard groove-spawn of Morbid Angel and Suffocation. I love the way the drums hit on this track, straight for your kidneys like foulplay in a playground brawl. And the album does not let up, with even more curvaceous, thickly plotted hammers like "In Human Form", "A Thunderous Consequence" and the more psychedelically spasming "Rapture of Ghosts". "Power and Shame" begins with more of a blistering frenzy that descends into a shitty chugdown that eventually picks up interest when the guitar harmonies call upon the madness of the void to broil and pop like the surface of a cesspool. "A Glorious Epoch" is perhaps my favorite on the album, due to Dolan's massive, cavernous vocals and the crushing grace of its barbarian tempos.
As brutal and effective as the album is overall, I can't say that there are many tracks which individually come to mind for their riffing, and I feel like this is just something we've heard before from the band...only more mucky, complex, and aggressive due to the polished, sound. It's a good effort, and should not depose or disappoint the long-standing Immolation fan, but the moments where it transforms into something fully sinister are not common enough.
Highlights: A Glorious Epoch, In Human Form, Rapture of Ghosts
Verdict: Win [7/10] (the rousing of giants)