Imperial Circus Dead Decadence – 殯――死へ耽る想いは戮辱すら喰らい、彼方の生を愛する為に命を讃える――。 Review

Yeah, I know. It’s got titties on it. Anime titties, to be exact, immediately giving Imperial Circus Dead Decadence‘s Japanese home base away, as if the title of 殯――死へ耽る想いは戮辱すら喰らい、彼方の生を愛する為に命を讃える――。1 had not already done so. Yet beyond the hideously assembled album art (do not look at those toes), this band exudes love for their craft. Just the fact that they even created their own language, stemming from the fictional universe that ties their concept albums together, is telling of their meticulous nature. It’s this fastidious attention to detail, coupled with Imperial Circus Dead Decadence’s penchant for unbridled bombast, that makes a uniquely compelling work of manic, maximalist excellence.

I have irregularly listened to Imperial Circus Dead Decadence for a decade, and while I can instantly identify their sound, it’s not one I can concisely describe. Think of the blackened melodeath hybrid of Chthonic spliced with Fleshgod Apocalypse‘s brutal symphonics and Cradle of Filth’s gothic drama, and you have a ballpark estimate. That is, at least, before tossing in a heaping helping of neoclassical power metal in the vein of Versailles. While this sound has not been reformulated with , it has never been this wildly adventurous or thoughtfully cohesive. The songwriting turns on this release are often unpredictable, but the movements always flow together seamlessly, even when a bottom-heavy bout of brutal death metal erupts into a gorgeously operatic power metal chorus. Moments like these are abundant, and aside from the refreshing pseudo-ballad “悲痛なる跫音は哀しき邂逅 Mode:α,” the chaos is relentlessly breathtaking.

The consistency of ‘s immense quality is more impressive when you consider that its runtime clocks in at a titanically generous seventy-two minutes. This wouldn’t be sustainable if Imperial Circus Dead Decadence didn’t dedicate the record to finding endless ways to reframe their toolset. From intense, thrashing death metal in the vein of Gotsu-Totsu-Kotsu (“神罰を辿り狂骨に至る”) to Kalmah-inspired leads (百鬼夜行 -Pandemonic Night Parade-“) and other tracks which try a thousand things in tandem (“禊祓の神産は宣い、禍祓の贖罪は誓う。”), acts as a bottomless well of extreme metal novelty. Tucked away inside the broad songwriting strokes are brilliant little cornerstone moments that give many songs a burst of personality. Passages like the utterly unhinged vocal take in the middle of “獄” grant their respective tracks with inspired artistic stamps, further texturing a sound that was staggeringly dense to begin with.

‘s production is miles better than I had anticipated, which is to say that it sounds decent when compared to Imperial Circus Dead Decadence‘s global contemporaries. When compared to other Japanese extreme metal bands (hello, Serenity in Murder), the record sounds particularly polished and balanced, with its biggest moments hitting home with their intended impact. Thanks to the care placed in production, the handful of reworks of songs from the band’s last two EPs feel like vital components of the album. The whole experience sounds downright theatrical thanks to its array of vocal approaches. A diverse cast provides both singing performances and spoken word narrations, making sound alive and dramatic despite my unfamiliarity with its language. It’s impressive that lead vocalist Rib:y(uhki) still manages to be the driving vocal force of the album, his delightfully off-the-rails approach to harsh singing making for gripping and at times unbelievable performances.

The part of that I look forward to the most with every spin is the arrival of the literally showstopping closing track “天聲.” Its impossibly triumphant, achingly legato guitar lines never fail to throw me into a fist-pumping frenzy. Despite the absolute gauntlet of a record I just endured, that song always makes my heart soar, leaving me hyped up for another go-round. And with each return visit, I always find more layers: a smart symphonic flourish I’d never considered, a background riff that cleverly punctuates the foreground, a melody that foreshadows a major passage of a later song. So few albums operate so bombastically or with such attention to detail, and far fewer manage both simultaneously. You don’t even need to care about any of that to enjoy what Imperial Circus Dead Decadence has accomplished here. Just lose yourself in the excess, and you may quickly find your favorite record of the year. I know I did.


Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: ? | Format Reviewed: Stream
Label: Self-Release
Websites: icddecadence.com | imperialcircusdeaddecadence.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/ImperialCircusDeadDecadence
Releases Worldwide: June 1st, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Henceforth referred to simply as , as the rest of the title appears to be a subtitle. For those curious, the full title is something like Funeral – The Feeling of Indulging in Death Eats Even Humiliation, and Praises Life to Love the Life Beyond, according to Google Translate.
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