Imperial Vengeance
At the Going Down of the Sun

On its face, Imperial Vengeance seems like a fascinating proposition. Symphonic black metal courtesy of two dapper British gents, with inspiration from British military history, mythology and literature? And mixed and mastered by Brett Caldas-Lima, creator of the stunning progressive death masterpiece Kalisia: Cybion? I was really eager to hear this.

The symphonic intro instantly conjures another set of British gents, and no surprise, since guitarist/ vocalist/orchestrator C. Edward Alexander has also played with Cradle of Filth. Rather than grand and bombastic, though, this is shrill and keening, like an old horror movie soundtrack which soon fades into air raid sirens and explosions. At first all I could think of was the Morlocks’ call to prayer in the 1960 version of The Time Machine, but then explosions and crumbling masonry bring us back around to Imperial Vengeance’s unique military bent.

And then onto the real battle, as “6th Airborne Division” strafes over the city with scrambling, pummeling melodic black metal shot through with triumphant lines. That heroic flavors recalls another group of Brits – Bal-Sagoth – but as expected, there’s plenty of old Dusk and Cruelty-era Cradle in here as well. Vocals are a coarse rasp, nothing spectacular, but they get the job done. However, a second vocal comes in at times, a strained and hoarse bellow which reminds me of Alexi Laiho’s godawful clean vocals on the first Children of Bodom album. These aren’t as bad as that, but they are distracting.

Luckily, the songwriting on “6th Airborne Division” and further tracks is tight and entertaining. It’s not all slash and burn, either – “Aristocratic Sex Magick” slows down for a stately waltz in its closing minutes, and the muscular “Cwn Anwwn” breaks into a surprisingly Opeth-like groove about halfway through. Still, it’s really hard to get any real menace out of the album as a whole, given all the calliope keyboards and playful spookiness. It’s certainly well done, but I can’t help but be reminded of what yet another group of UK countrymen have done with the ‘sinister gentleman’ shtick, and this is nowhere near as terrifying as Akercocke.

It’s interesting that Candlelight has signed these guys on the heels of their success with Abigail Williams’ In the Shadow of a Thousand Suns, and I expect this is aimed at that same audience – younger guys who are just discovering the genre and may not have delved into the forebears just yet. I actually enjoy that Abigail album quite a bit, and in stacking that up against At the Going Down of the Sun, I’d have to say that this suffers from the comparison. Despite the tinkly keys on Thousands Suns, the riffs, vocals and overall stance come off as much more vicious and unrestrained, whereas Imperial Vengeance have a more playful, almost carnivalesque approach with all of the orchestration and synth flourishes, not to mention the slightly friendlier melodies.

So ultimately, I’m left respectful of the album’s vision, but not ready to join the ranks. Still, if you’re a fan of the more baroque side of symphonic black metal, or just waiting for Bal-Sagoth to write another good album, then this is worth your time.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
August 10th, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: Dimaension X

    I like this way better than Bal-Sagoth. You don’t have to sit through those annoying “James Earl Jones” narrations that take up half the song, and just sound cheesy and pompous.

    I really don’t think they’re trying to sound “terrifying” either. Is there a little bit of Velveta flavor? Sure, but certainly not as much as Bal-Sagoth, Rhapsody or Stratovarious.


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