I've got to be honest; the last Immolation album I bought was Here in After in 1996. I saw them live a handful of times in that era and then completely lost the script. Along the way, I lost track of traditional death metal itself, I suppose. One listen to Majesty and Decay, however, was enough to make me a (non)believer again. This is an incredible album.
Majesty and Decay is the first traditional death metal album I've felt a real connection to in a long time. Its success unfolds on several levels. First and foremost, the album displays stellar songwriting. Every track is filled with riffs and rhythms that are sophisticated, compelling and memorable. Every time I walk away from Majesty and Decay, I have songs stuck in my head. The production is heavy, dynamic and near-perfect. This thing will snap your neck. Lastly, the piercingly intelligent lyrics tell a great story. The album feels like a post-apocalyptic walk on “The Road” with Cormac McCarthy. It's a thematically complete and completely harrowing piece of death metal.
Robert Vigna wields his guitar like a snake charmer and writes astounding riffs to match. “The Purge” kicks off the album with an absurd rhythmic barrage and riffage that will not get the hell out of my head. This thing changes speeds constantly but fluidly. It swings and swaggers in time signatures I can't fathom. An acoustic break adds atmosphere while Ross Dolan advocates for cleansing the earth of the human cancer. Fucking tremendous.
“A Token of Malice” continues in the same infectious vein. Bill Taylor and Robert Vigna trade insane solos and play complimentary riffs that interweave despite moving at completely different speeds. The lyrics, while dark and apocalyptic, could be read as condemnation of our treatment of the environment. Ross Dolan's bellowed vocals are commanding and vicious throughout.
The title track is the killer – you'll have no hope of getting the slithering main riff out of your head. Tremolo picking accompanies a swinging drum line that moves like a belly dancer on fire. “Divine Code” maintains the high level of quality riffage and rhythm. Here for the first time we see a return to the anti-religious sentiment that is the backbone of Immolation's message.
The songs that follow are no step down in terms of memorability and continue to mesmerize while keeping the head banging. Just when we've reached the saturation point for bludgeoning death metal, we get an amazing interlude. Harmonized lead melodies accompany subtle acoustic guitar work as bombs explode on the horizon. This is certainly the sound of mankind's demise by our own hand.
Throughout the album, Steve Shalaty gives an extremely impressive drum performance. There is a great deal of space offered by the rhythmic diversity on Majesty and Decay. Steve Shalaty takes that opportunity and runs with it. The drums get a sweet spot in the mix and are wonderfully produced. Everything here sounds organic and thundering. Ross Dolan's audible bass is also fantastically mixed, and he somehow manages to enhance the rhythmic mayhem.
“The Rapture of Ghosts” starts with another ingenious riff and ends up being one of the strongest tracks on the album. Majesty and Decay doesn't diminish in quality as it rages to its devastating end. This is an album I'd love to see performed in its entirety live. Has my absence from Immolation made me prone to appreciate Majesty and Decay more than a dedicated Immolation listener? I don't think so. This is a godforsaken masterpiece in any metal universe.