Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Imperator - Gods Among Men

Imperator - Gods Among Men
1999, Self Release

An interesting, if somewhat derivative (in the sense of being traditional or true to their genre), release here from this newly formed British death metal group. Combining the downtuned heaviness, frenzied pace, and guitar gymnastics of Morbid Angel with a more obscure form of melodicism evoking the feeling or atmosphere of Ancient Civilizations, ala Nile, this band strives throughout these four songs to reach up from their influences into a new realm of originality by giving the guitars free reign in the creation of pounding rhythms, epic washes of overriding melodic soundscapes, and the occasional odd break or addition of clean lines. The guitar work is never less than sufficient, and often sterling when it comes to the soloing (there are many solos sprinkled almost randomly throughout these songs), but I can't help but wish for a little more variation in the rhythm guitars given the length of the songs, or an attempt on the part of the songwriters in this band to mix up their style a little more, making it more dynamic, introducing more breaks, bridges, and contrasting segments. The drumming is also a low point, seeming to always lag behind the rest of the instruments, but I have been assured by reading the band's bio and the information on their website that they are fully aware of their own problems in the drum department.

This band's main advantage, I think, is their idiosyncratic and somewhat strange melodic style when it comes time for them to inject their own personality into these songs - what I mean by this is that they are often content to reference their influences, never straying too far from what has come before them, but when they do strike out on an original path it is in a style that is often so peculiar and personal that it can't help but be charming. This is also something that I feel is very legitimate when it comes to what they are trying to accomplish in 'establishing the atmospheres of ancient civilizations'. How? Does anyone really know what the music or atmosphere of dead civilizations was like? We can only have approximations, and the stranger, I feel, the better...because the music and general aura of Sumeria, for example, or Ancient Rome, is bound, in reality, to be so alien to our tastes and understanding of culture as to be almost completely unrecognizeable (that is, if we could ever truly reproduce it). The vocals on this release are also different from most other bands playing in this style, but whether they are purposely done this way I can not tell: they are mostly low throaty roars and yells, reminding me of certain other bands from England like Extreme Noise Terror (the earlier recordings) or Sore Throat (remember them?), with the occasional deep death grunting.

My favorite song on this demo CD would have to be the title track 'Gods Among Men', because it combines the personal elements that I mentioned above with a very catchy hardcore/crustpunk chorus riff and a liberal dose of psychotic soloing - in short, all the characteristics of the band that make them stand out in any way. The last song, 'Plagued Lands', however, is probably their most original, and I hope indicative of the approach they will take in the future.

This is a band that is still searching for its own style, but I think they have all the skills necessary for a powerful release when they finally find that perfect mode of expression. My advice to them would be to continue trying to expand what is original in their sound, and gradually move farther and farther away from what is familiar or accepted - the death metal scene desperately needs originators right now.