Internal Bleeding - Imperium 01Internal Bleeding helped to pioneer the much maligned (but somewhat loved) ‘slam’ death metal genre over 20 years ago, and are by most accounts the first band to use the term. As the premiere slam band alongside Suffocation [Must be a Long Island thingSteel Druhm], they’ve been divisive since day one. Some hate the hardcore tinged attitude that oft accompanies the genre and the numerous slam breakdowns everyone just knows are going to launch a karate kicking pit. Others embraced the style and ran with it with all  the same fervor that hardcore attracts. A few demos, four solid, but one-dimensional full lengths, and two compilations down the line and they’ve done little to change the opinions of those on the other side of the barbed wire fence. I wasn’t shocked to see Imperium being touted as “a masterpiece of slam,” but was pleasantly surprised to discover that description sells it short. Imperium is much more.

To bastardize a quote by Unser on Sons of Anarchy, “These guys are not cretins. [Internal Bleeding are] formidable; as smart as they are dangerous.” The material on this album is much less, “NY tough guy about to kick your fuckin’ teeth in,” and more a savage maniac like Richard Kuklinski, who occasionally does kick someone’s fuckin’ teeth in, but knows when to quietly slice a throat or slip some cyanide into a drink. Internal Bleeding still know when to be barbarically Neanderthal and yes, loyal slam fans, breakdowns still abound. Rather than abandon their roots, they’ve let the branches grow. What was lacking in the past was atmosphere and sophistication, things the genre haven’t been known for.

“Fabricating Bliss” opens the album and delivers everything you’d expect from classic Internal Bleeding. Drummer Bill Tolley showcases insane chops and is a monster throughout the album, grooving like a truck, blasting at break-wrist speeds, and throwing in slick, syncopated beats. “The Pageantry of Savagery,” opens with a frantic blast beat and is sure to please the old fans, while the hungrier sound should catch the ear of folks new to the band and even those that wrote them off. The album closer, “Castigo Corpus Meum,” along with “Patterns of Force” is where the songwriting is most off the beat(ing) path. A breakdown about three quarters in launches what may be the most melodic passage the band has penned yet and includes one of only three guitar solos on the entire album, closing Imperium out with a foreboding mood one can only hope is a hint of where the band will go next.

Internal Bleeding - Imperium 02

Internal Bleeding also prove that their basic formula can be stretched into new territories without losing the foundation (which is something I wish Cannibal Corpse was capable of). Particularly on the musical trilogy, “Patterns of Force,” which is a new peak, not just for the band, but the whole sub-genre of slam, displaying a level of dynamics, savagery and sophistication never before heard. The manic and emotive vocal delivery of former Pyrexia vocalist Keith DeVito reminds me at times of former Kataklysm vocalist Sylvian Houde. DeVito’s voice is not as guttural as original vocalist Frank Rini (who makes a guest appearance along with Suffocation‘s Frank Mullen), but his style fits the material well. There are moments of Altars of Madness-era David Vincent and Obituary‘s John Tardy, though unlike Tardy you can actually decipher much of what DeVito is howling. The tracks tie together thematically and lyrically (with a story in the vein of War of the Worlds), but as a whole the trilogy feels like a single composition. Cleverly, the last riff of Part I is picked up by the bass and, perhaps another brutal death metal first, a drum beat using a rim-click! As sick as “Patterns” is, it makes the more by-the-numbers songs pale somewhat in comparison.

The guitar sound is monstrous. The bass, an ever present growl, never gets lost in the mix and the drums and vocals are crisp and clean. Nothing is buried yet this still feels like singular beast. By far the most well-balanced production on an Internal Bleeding album and very fitting for the more varied songwriting.

It’s inspiring to hear one of the bands that pioneered a genre almost a quarter of a century ago stretch it into new and refreshing territories. The slam thing has been so done to death, that another by-the-numbers album from some by-the-numbers band would have me sticking an ice pick in my ear, but Imperium may be the first Internal Bleeding album with the goods to win over the naysayers. In the future, I hope Internal Bleeding take it upon themselves to push the envelope even further, as the experimenting they did here was a definite success.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6  |  Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Unique Leader Records
Websites: InternalBleedingOfficial | Facebook.com/InternalBleeding
Release Dates: EU: 2014.09.29  |  NA: 09.30.2014

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  • Lasse Momme

    wow, i was expecting 4.0 or more after reading that review, with all the praise you threw after it. what were the downsides of the record?

    • I was teetering between 3.5 and 4, and gave it a lot of thought. When in doubt, we say, grade down, but what made me drop the half point was I felt like the trilogy was an experiment to see how far they could push. I wish they had gone in that direction with the whole album instead of kind of putting their foot in the waters to check the temperature. It’s not that they went Gorguts on those tunes but there is a marked difference and I think the album could have been REALLY great if they had gone all the way. That said though, it is what 3.5 says: Very Good

      • Lasse Momme

        Oh definitely and I love this site for being so clear on what their scores entail. too often you go to a review site and you just can’t seem to get a proper reading on the album score because of inconsistencies in the reviews, but you guys are so incredibly consistent with the general scoring and evaluation of the albums that I’ve come to pretty much take whatever score you guys give an album as gospel (provided it isn’t the new Opeth album).

        • Much appreciated!! The audience of this site is incredible. The feedback, exchange, and so forth. I’ve written for a few rags/sites and AMG is by far the most fun!

        • All rating on this site is 110% objective. Ask Angry.

  • Daniel Figueiredo

    I laughed at the SOA reference

    • That popped right in my head. I had watched the episode and sat to write this review and it clicked.

  • Chris Pervelis

    I’m going to join in on this conversation.

    First of all thank you for this thoroughly fair review of the album. I appreciate that you truly took the time to listen to it. Most reviewers don’t, but you did. You really got to the heart of the album.

    To your point about wishing we had gone further in the experimentation: I do agree with you to a point, we may have been able to push the experimentation further, but we wanted to make sure that we didn’t lose our identity. Does that make sense? Perhaps we were slightly conservative in some ways, but I think if you look at this album within the slam genre as a whole, it is groundbreaking because it once again sets the bar for what slam can be. Dare I say it redefines it and now makes it “acceptable” to add different elements, providing they still work within the slam format.

    If we accomplished that, we’ll be happy. Newer songs being written as of now, carry on with the experimentation (while not losing our core sound), so I think next album you will be more pleased.

    Once again, I cannot thank you enough for such an insightful — and useful — review.

    Cheers!
    Chris/IB

    • Kronos

      Thank you so, so much for writing an interesting slam album.

      • Chris Pervelis

        Not a problem Kronos! I am glad you enjoy it. We always knew slam could be so much more than…slam. We hope this album proves it and pushes the genre forward. Thanks again!

    • I very much appreciate the comment and insight. I am a fan of the band. Of the past releases, and especially this one. I put Imperium in and was impressed from the start. You guys managed to write songs that stayed true to the formula but showcased the chops you developed since, and a clean and modern sound. BUT, when I heard “Patterns,” my jaw dropped. As you said, you set the bar for what slam can be and suddenly I was completely blown away by what I heard. Conservative? No. You guys were brave for pushing it like you did, but in a way, it backfired because that trilogy is so damn good that the other songs lost some oomph. Still, every song on the album is one to be proud of. You’ve broken some new ground, which in this day and age (and genre) is hard to do. I can’t wait for the next album.

      • Chris Pervelis

        Thanks. And you are not the first person to say something similar about the trilogy. A few of my friends think it’s the crowning jewel of the album and diminishes the other songs a bit because of it’s power and sophistication. I can see that because there is a lot of cool shit going on in that trilogy (acoustic, meter shifts, etc.).

        You know, on the album we tried to introduce at least one ‘new idea’ to the IB sound in each of the songs — something we never did or tried before. We kind of set that as a goal for ourselves.

        For example:

        The closing of “Fabricating bliss”: every instrument is playing something completely different.

        “The Visitant”: the clean and melodic, single note picked arpeggio part that precedes Keith screaming “One cannot survive..”

        “The Pageantry of Savagery”: The 3d riff, that climbing, chromatic mid-paced part.

        “Placate the Ancients”: the part @ 2:42 we call that the “Classic Slayer” part, that type of riff is straight from the late 80s/early 90s thrash movement

        “(In the) Absence of Soul: the harmonized melodic end to the song.

        “Castigo Corpus Meum”: the end of course.

        • Very cool breakdown of the songs! I appreciate the insight and it’s refreshing that a musician is so open and receptive to other people’s views and perceptions. I’m looking forward to going back and listening again with what you pointed out in mind.

          • Chris Pervelis

            When you do listen again, let me know your thoughts. I am very open to reviewers and other whom I think truly listened to the album. I love seeing what people take away from it after listening.

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    Way late to the party, but I just got my copy of this in the post today. These guys seem to be big Obituary fans, and they show it. Makes their slamming more dynamic, more pummeling, and definitely an album that sets the bar for future slam releases. I doubt I’ll hear anything this good in slam for years. Last album I felt so strongly about in the genre was Abominable Putridity’s “Anomalies of Artificial Origin”, and that came out in 2012. Awesome job Chris and the rest of the band!

    • Chris Pervelis

      Thanks man! Appreciate the kind words.