Season of Mist/Rocket Distribution
Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
Over the couple of months I’ve spent with Imperium Dekadenz’s fifth full-length album, Dis Manibvs, - which also happens to be my first exposure to the band - I’ve had this nagging feeling of familiarity in the back of my mind, in amongst the overall enjoyment I’ve experienced.
I think the Germans’ style can best be described as being melodic, atmospheric black metal but - and this is where the nagging feeling comes in - there’s also a strong channelling of mid-’90s second wave black metal as well. There isn’t one particular influence I can point to that adequately explains the feeling I’ve had, but I’ve noticed echoes of Dawn, Naglfar, and Bathory, amongst others, while the use of reverb on the drums and vocals further amplifies the sensation. Interestingly though, despite the second wave influence, Dis Manibvs can also be quite contemporary and “post” at times, with Imperium Dekadenz having several dalliances with major key melodies in amongst the otherwise pretty standard and recognisable major/minor interplay of second wave black metal.
This somewhat split musical personality might sound as though it’d be a complete shambles in practice, but the blending of the old and nostalgic with the new and modern is about as close to seamless as you can get. And it’s not just the technical nature of the arrangements that make Dis Manibvs so cohesive, either; it’s also the underlying atmosphere that the compositions explore throughout the album’s 62-minute running time. You could perhaps be unkind and describe the album as “easy listening” in a pejorative sense but, personally, I’d submit that the inherent accessibility of Dis Manibvs is one of its greatest strengths, along with its frequent juxtaposition of light and shade.
The balance between light and shade plays out most evidently in the album’s frequent swings between feelings of moroseness and feelings of exaltation; the steady build from the valley to the peak, as it were. It’s here that mentions of a “post” influence in the material are most relevant, whether they might happen to refer to post-black or post-rock - ultimately the idea is the same. And while the prevalence of this kind of compositional trope makes it the rule rather than the exception these days, the skill with which Imperium Dekadenz wields it demonstrates why it continues to be such a powerful tool. While never particularly ugly from an emotional perspective, the way in which the band is able to wring moments of real beauty out of what is otherwise a pretty simple riff template and make them soar is really impressive and even quite captivating at times.
With all of that being said, I’m a pretty strong advocate of the concept that less is more, so Dis Manibvs’ 10 songs and 62-minute running time falls foul of that, which is really the only criticism I can level at the album. To their credit, Imperium Dekadenz does throw in a couple of short instrumentals (in addition to the introduction) to add some variety, but I’d still submit that it would’ve been possible to be a little more ruthless in the editing phase to trim 10 or 15-minutes off the album’s running time without losing any of the emotional impact. That the album is so long is far from a deal-breaker, but a slimmer 45-minutes would’ve been much more to my taste. This is obviously a personal preference, though, so I acknowledge that this won’t be an issue for everybody.
Considering I went into Dis Manibvs with exactly zero expectations, I’ve walked away feeling extremely satisfied by the experience. Yes, I could quibble and wish that it were a little trimmer and tighter from the perspective of length, but that would really just be complaining for the sake of complaining. The truth is that I’ve enjoyed Dis Manibvs more than the vast bulk of the black metal I’ve heard recently, and that’s what’s really important.