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Friday, May 18, 2012

Dødsengel - Imperator (2012)

Band: Dødsengel
Country: Ålesund, Norway
Style: Black Metal
Label: Terratur Possessions

It feels weird for a black metal group to release a double-album but I'm all for originality and unique ideas, so I was definitely interested to see what the duo known as Dødsengel would do with so much material. I think if you've looked into the band you'll know that they are a bit more prolific than your typical group, with four releases coming out in 2010 alone, their first full-length was put out back in 2009 and a sole EP was released last year. Given how much material is on here though, I guess I can forgive them for the one EP from last year though.
When it comes to modern black metal, while there are plenty of bands who preach the word of Satan and are all for the downfall of all things holy and whatnot, there has been a surprising lack of authentic darkness in black metal. Sure, there are hordes of bands playing with lo-fi and raw production, and even no production in some cases, and just as many who are totally fine to rip-off the first Mayhem, Burzum, Darkthrone, and Bathory recordings and not produce anything further than pure worship of those first couple of releases. Then there are those who are totally original and forging their own paths, but I can't really say that they're all that dark and ominous sounding. That's where Dødsengel come into the picture. Unlike dozens of other groups, this duo is one of the very few groups from the last decade, if not a bit longer, that I would say I genuinely believe that they are one-hundred percent into what they're playing, saying, and recording. Not to discount what other bands are doing, as I'm sure most, if not all, of them are passionate about their music, but Dødsengel feel more authentic to me. It doesn't sound like they're just b.s.-ing black metal, talking about Satanism and the occult because it's cool and it's trendy right now, but because they actually believe it.
It's an intense listen, two discs that equal up to around a hundred and fifty minutes is by no means an easy listen. I've easily sat with this record for over a month, listening to it off and on of course, but it's still hard to really digest it fully. When listening to this record, there are plenty of moments where it really isn't even trve, kvlt black metal actually. It's a black metal record(s), make no mistake about that, but it's certainly no super raw and kvlt type of album, the sort that projects like Drowning The Light or Satanic Warmaster have been churning out for the last decade or so. This is a pretty well recorded record, it's not super clean and polished, but if you like you're black metal records fuzzed out and full of non-stop blast-beats, tremolo picked riffs, and vocals that sound like they're being squeezed out of a dying cat, chances are you won't like a whole lot of what's on here. You'll like a handful of tracks, and there will be moments on other tracks you'll be able to get into, but not the entire release. There's way too much on here that's outside the realms of a stereotypical black metal record for fans like that to be able to get into it. Hell, if you're huge into experimental and progressive ideas, you may not even be able to get into this because, even when the duo churn out epic, ten-plus minute tracks, they're still playing black metal. There really weren't a whole lot of moments where I could say, "Oh, that's a doom part, that's a thrash part, that part is more industrial," or stuff like that. Sure, those moments are certainly there, but this is predominantly a black metal record that is just a bit all over the map in terms of ideas.
If anything, one of the most interesting, and probably one of the most polarizing, aspects about this record would have to be the vocals. Yes, you have your typical black metal screams and howls, but you also have clean vocals who appear to be channeling the spirits of Tom Waits and Nick Cave, and maybe even Rob Halford sometimes. The inclusion of female vocals is also a bit odd as well, not so much for their presence on the album as much as how they're used. You won't find a nice cleanly sung chorus on tracks like Apoph-Ra, the vocals are more like ritualistic moaning than anything else, and it certainly sets a mood. It's a really weird style that is a little disorienting to listen to, especially on tracks like Holy Metamorphosis or ΚΕΦΑΛΗΑ: Sabbath of The Goat where the music really isn't even all that metallic, but more atmospheric and industrial in quality and tone. To be perfectly honest, in terms of overall quality on here, I'd say that the entire thing is pretty high. There's nothing on here that I would deem as bad or even mediocre, a lot of it is very good in my opinion, but the problem is, and this is my biggest complaint about the album, that's it's too long. With as much material packed on here as there is, both discs have more than seventy minutes on them, it's hard to really digest it all and shift through the entire thing. I certainly respect the duo for putting out something as ambitious and challenging as this while still making each track unique enough to stand on its own and not have anything beyond length weigh it down, but it's honestly was still a bit too much even for me sometimes.
It's an exhausting listen and one that is none the easier to get through by tracks that usually end up topping seven minutes and feature as weird an array of sounds as this one. It's rough, especially on the first couple of run-throughs, and, not that it really ever gets any easier, it does start to reveal itself more and more. I seriously suggest checking this out, even if you only end up listening to the whole thing once, it's an experience that I don't think should be missed this year.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Momentum: On The Devil & Death, Hymn to Pan, The Serpent's Head, Upon THE BEAST She Rideth, The Surpreme Ritual

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