Imperial Savagery – S/T

It's been awhile since we reviewed straight death metal, primarily because, in spite of the number of submissions, most of it has been just awfully terribly horrible.  It forces us to pull out multiple adjectives and completely kill all journalistic credibility.  But we can't help it, death metal can really suck anymore.  CD after CD comes in (or choose your format), we give it a chance, we give it another chance, and then we start to feel like a spited lover who just can't take a hint.  The death metal is just not that into you.  No, no!!  Yes, let your emotions go, let it go...  Modern death metal often doesn't even deserve being called "modern" because it all sounds like it's stuck in a different era with tiresome chords, the same old singing, the no-longer provocative art, and references to killing people in so many ways you wonder if it's not plagiarism at this point.  So imagine our surprise when this one came in, Imperial Savagery.  Why surprise?  The cover makes it look like it's straight out of a gutter from the late 1980s, but the kicker is the band refers to their style as "regressive", meaning they're fully aware it's somewhere in the past and they really don't give a crap.  That's the thing, you can either be self-aware or not aware of anything, and these guys are self-aware, but self-aware takes some skill.  Imperial Savagery has a sound to it that can take you back as quick as The Science of Horror, but yet it's clearly something new.  They've captured the sound, but do they capture your attention at the same time?

  

Imperial Savagery come from Chicago, and we should add to the above direct quote that they're not only regressive, they're also "hateful" death metal.  And then on the back it  also says "Satanic death metal cruelty".  That pretty much summarizes the image, though it may confound you.  Let us help: there's some anti-Christianity thing going on here.  Pretty basic.  Now, the sound is another matter.  Imperial Savagery provide lo-fi quality of classic death metal set to a more hi-fi standard in terms of recording quality.  It's that decades-old muddiness that started it all, but yet it's not so filthly that you can't make out a lick of it and pretend you do to seem as though you grasp the aesthetic.  "Oh yeah, you need an ear for this man," you say in such cases.  Not required here, there is no need to imagine you're hearing something you're not.  The riffs, the grind, the partially resonant drums, the consistent vocals, there it is.  But how it is is the issue we must address.

 

The only thing saving this is the variety of worthy riffs.  When Imperial Savagery begins to shred, it's done with that degrading, falling-apart technique that made old death metal click.  But the main issue is twofold.  First, those vocals.  Brice has solid delivery, what he lacks is variety and that "brootal" density you expect and require.  He's stuck somewhere between early thrash and 90s hardcore, it's a strange position nowhere close to what one would call "Satanic".  For that just go back to Possessed or recently something like Horrid.  "Hateful", maybe, but that's where the hardcore elements comes in.  Not really what we expected, if anything some more variety and different levels of singing will fix that easily.  Second, calling this 'regressive' is an understatement.  Imperial Savagery can get rather tiresome after a few listens, it all melds together and becomes a death metal crap shoot without targets.  It just starts to fire all over the place but it never really hits anything.  They've got the sound, but being traditional is a huge risk.  You're always going to have rabid fans who'll like it just because you have "death metal" right there, but that in itself does not make the grade.  Imperial Savagery are going to need more substance to their sound overall if they're going the classic route, because from that angle it really doesn't offer much at all.  The only reason this managed to score just slightly above average were some of the riffs.  If it weren't for some solid writing, which isn't present throughout, this would have been no better than dead center.

 

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Written by Stanley Stepanic

Imperial Savagery – S/T
Proudly Defiant Recordings
3.5 / 5