There’s some saying we Westerners adopted about having too many cooks in a kitchen spoiling the meal. For the most part, it’s accurate. As we’ve seen with duos such as Godflesh and Anaal Nathrakh, it does take two to make a thing go right. German black metallers Imperium Dekadenz are another duo who’ve been at it since 2004, with multi-instrumentalists Horaz and Vespasian holding firm the entire time. With their fifth full-length, Dis Manibvs, they added a controversial influence to their mix. Have they found the secret formula to aim for the stars, or is this best left bathing in the sun?
In case you’re wondering, that influence would be none other than San Francisco’s favorite blackened punching bag, Deafheaven. Now, before you go screaming and running into the next room, hear me out. Imperium Dekadenz kept their Sunbather-isms to a bare minimum [Nudist shoegaze?? – Steel Druhm]. “Still I Rise” utilizes an evil-yet-uplifting chord riff at the 2:27 mark that, combined with Horaz’s scream, throttles the band into high gear. That element, combined with the beautiful chorus of angels at the end, ensures “Still I Rise” would gain further replays. Imperium Dekadenz crafted an incredible epic, and mixed their Drudkh-like blackened fury with Deafheaven-ly sprinkles of optimism.
And make no mistake, this is black metal through and through. Closer “Seikilos” could easily pass as a modern day Rotting Christ song, a mid-tempo affair with plinking keyboards, an athemic guitar melody, and a strong rhythmic backbone supplied by Vespasian’s drumming, bass playing, and rhythm guitar riffs. “Vae Victis” rages with Stilla-esque ambiance. Instrumental “Somnia” adds to the spacey atmosphere, with dreamy keyboard atmospherics blanketing over an acoustic guitar. Moments like these elevate Dis Manibvs above their blackened contemporaries, giving the band an edge others would burn churches for.
But like Drudkh, there’s a self-editing problem. Plainly put, the majority of the songs stretch past their expiration date. “Volcano” and “Only Fragments of Light” would especially benefit from a shorter length. You don’t need eight or nine minute exercises in fast chord strumming to drive your point home when five or six minutes would do just as well, if not better. “Pantheon Spells,” a short song which is all keyboards and whispers about…pantheon spells, feels wholly unnecessary. Cutting that song entirely would strengthen the album further. Sound-wise, it’s standard black metal fare. Loud guitars full of high-end take center stage, pushing the drums back. The bass is non-existent, while Horaz’s “I’m screaming from a dark cave” vocals cut through the tremolo fog just fine.
In conclusion, Dis Manibvs contains some great moments. While long in the tooth, I enjoyed Imperium Dekadenz‘s willingness to explore outside of their comfort zone. If they could just condense their songs a bit and cut some of the fat, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with. As is, I’m keeping a watchful eye out for them. Not bad.