Horaz and Vespasian, aka the masters of Black Forest atmospheric black metal, Imperium Dekadenz, have crafted yet another stellar example of the genre on their latest album for Napalm Records, When We Are Forgotten. And, while they stick to their tried and tested approach and sound honed over the past five albums, for the most part, this one-trick-ponyism that naysayers may find disagreeable is in fact quite welcome.
Rachmaninoff’s complexity, Wagner’s bombast or Brahms’ dynamism are never considered negative traits, yet these hallmarks of their compositional styles are evident throughout their respective bodies of work. Imperium Dekadenz should, therefore, be praised for their unique, instantly recognisable sonic signature, rather than be lambasted for playing it safe. Because “safe” is hardly a word I would use to describe this album (which may be streamed and purchased here).
Yes, the atmosphere mirrors the duo’s environment in its natural serenity – but let us not forget nature is an indiscriminately cruel and dangerous place. Behind the Black Forest’s trees beats an arboreal heart that, if When we are Forgotten is to be believed, is brimming with simmering anger and the deep ache of loneliness – never a good combination. If memories are haunted places, the memories of trees, with their far longer lifespans, must be inhabited by a plethora of spirits. Imperium Dekadenz’ interpretive black metal is, therefore, the perfect vehicle to carry this message across. Their longer-form compositions avoid the meandering self-absorption of some artists, instead shifting organically through multiple moods and tones, all dark, all chilling – and all beautiful.
The official video for “Äbszenz Elysium” illustrates the typical Imperium Dekadenz sound aptly.
Some of these moods include the spoken-word melancholia of “My Solace I,” its contrasting full-scale assault on “My Solace II (Paths of Perception),” the old-school (and short-lived!) fury of “Trauma” or the remarkably upbeat, almost melodeath riffing on “Transcendence,” but all carry the sense of sorrow, loss and despair that has always characterised Imperium Dekadenz’ music.
In general terms, When We Are Forgotten achieves one thing that many black metal albums fail to do: create balance. Perhaps it’s the compositional setup, with Horaz more focused on melodic and Vespasian more on rhythmic, but this record is both easy to listen to and easy to engage with on intellectual and emotional levels: all too often, extreme metal relies on the emotional aspect to sell a record, while progressive outfits tend towards the intellectual. Imperium Dekadenz find themselves among a very few bands in the genre – the likes of Ulver and Enslaved immediately spring to mind – that can marry the two effectively.
The lyric video accompanying “Frozen In Time:”
When We Are Forgotten Track Listing:
01. When We are Forgotten
02. Bis Ich Bin
03. My Solace I
05. A cave called wisdom
08. Abszenz Elysium
09. My Solace II (Paths of Perception)
11. Frozen in Time
12. Behold the Flame of Time (Bonus track 1)
13. Owl of the Black Forest (Bonus track 2)
Run Time: 72:21
Release Date: August 30, 2019
Record Label: Napalm Records