Before reading this here review, do me a huge and grab your nearest dictionary. Go on, I’m a patient man-cat. Scroll to the letter “E” and look up the word “experimental” for me. “Experimental,” by definition, relates to ideas never used before, or lands never traversed prior. It means that whatever this amalgamation is, it’s something that truly hasn’t been done before. It’s tough to pull off in metal music, but it does happen. So when the word “experimental” (and next-of-kin descriptive noun “individualistic”) gets thrown about in a one-sheet promo PDF, the hairs on my neck stand on end. So, with this, we have The I, the fourth album by Polish blackened death metal trio Devilish Impressions.
And if “experimental” also had a definition of “sounding like a certain fellow Polish band whose name begins with B and whose pronunciation rhymes with ‘tee-HEE-moth,'” then The I is, indeed, experimental. Mind you, there are worse bands to appropriate, and the title track kicks the album off on the right foot at least. Icanraz blasts convincingly, and his pummeling at the track’s end draws your ear like it should. The riffing of Quazarre and BP is tight, if a bit derivative. That said, you will be headbanging, I guarantee you. Immediate follow-up “The Dove and the Serpent” deploys heavy atmosphere and build-up, with a chorus riff that’s tight and catchy, like a lot of Behemoth‘s slower numbers. From the sounds of things, The I appeared to be building up to a decent, if derivative, take on blackened death metal.
Sadly, the rest of the album doesn’t hold up to the promise of the first two songs. Most blackened death metal works best when it’s kept short and sweet. The rest of the album is long, drawn-out, and woefully boring, sounding like a cross between the more tepid cuts from both Dimmu Borgir and modern-day Rotting Christ. “Blood Imprinted Stigmata” would make a decent five-minute song with all the fat taken out, but at ten minutes, things become torturous. Closer “The Fatal Messiah” is a decent four-minute song stretched to more than double the length for no reason. “Eosphorous,” which thankfully dips below five minutes, feels longer thanks to the lack of creative riffs and some rather questionable clean singing to “compliment” Quazarre’s preccccciousssss rasping. And besides the sweet Mike Wead (King Diamond, Mercyful Fate) lead that kicks off “Ipse Philosophvs, Daemon, Devs et Omnia,” that song drags as well.
At least it sounds good, if a bit compressed. The drums sound powerful without being too overbearing, the guitars cut and slice convincingly, though the bass… is there. Out of all the blackened death metal I’ve heard lately, The I stands tall as one of the better sounding albums in recent months. It’s just a shame that it’s wasted on such a complacently average album. Devilish Impressions took absolutely no risks here, other than repeatedly beating a dead horse to the point of it resurrecting into a zombified version of itself, just to beat it some more. Also, where the hell is the energy? I don’t know which is worse: hoping the band would partake in some caffeine to inject some much-needed ooomph in the music, or me needing it just to power through to the album’s end.
And that is a bad thing when your record company talks a big game about your music being “experimental.” It’s a dangerous word to throw about when you’re gambling on a record’s success. Even worse still is when the album fails at being experimental, captivating, or enjoyable. The I may not be a bad record, but it does classify as being remarkably unmemorable, and that’s a worse affliction.