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In the vein of old Gehenna and Dimmu Borgir’s “For All Tid” is this Polish band’s excellent debut. Symphonic black metal with very raw and fuzzy guitars that create a hazy and somewhat distant atmosphere. Despite the Nordic black metal influence, Arkona also manage to add a their own dose of sadness and despair to the music, which makes sure that you will feel the music with every pore of your body. Actually, all tracks on this album except for “Pogarda Dla Wrogów Imperium Wszechmocy” are re-recordings of songs from the “An Eternal Curse of the Pagan Godz” demo. These new versions have been rearranged a bit and the band has also written new lyrics in Polish for all the songs. Well, I’m glad they re-recorded those old demo tracks because I like these versions better.
The synths are prominent in the mix and have quite monumental sound to them, so the music sounds pretty huge despite the “true black metal” type production. Also the bass is prominent in the mix. I like the synth playing a lot, herr Lewiński creates fitting synth carpets that add depth to the songs and shows some classical influences too in the beginning of the first track. A big plus on “Imperium” is that there are real drums instead of the drum machine the band used on some latter albums. Sylvian’s drumming isn’t 100 % tight (some of the fills are a bit sloppy) but this fact doesn’t lessen the magnificence of these songs in the least.
Opener “Skrajna Nienawiść Egoistycznej Egzystenecji” flows masterfully and is the best song on this album. On this track the keyboards play very sad yet epic passages while the guitars buzz and fuzz in the background and vocalist Messiah howls in agony – pure excellence! Both “Epidemia Rozczarowania I Nędza Duchowa” and “Każdy Los To Cień” feature some very Gehenna like guitar melodies and synth arrangements. These two tracks wouldn’t have been out of place on “Seen Through the Veils of Darkness”, that’s how good they are! “Pluję Na Twą Marność Psie!” is another highlight. It features very catchy melodic riffs and a truly great chorus that really sticks to your head. The album ends with a majestic and sombre synth instrumental, one couldn’t ask for more really.
“Imperium” is one more example of how strong the Polish black metal scene was in the mid 90s. The ability to combine frosty harshness (the guitars) with monumental majesty (the synths) is awesome, the atmosphere of this album is something I haven’t encountered anywhere else. Originally “Imperium” was released on the small and cult Polish label Astral Wings which made it quite hard to obtain but thankfully Long Ago Records re-released it in 2005.