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Mütiilation was the best-known of the French Black Legions, which also included the likes of Vlad Tepes, Belketre and Torgeist. They had spent a few years recording various demos and even an album that sat on the shelf for six years. In 1995, they released their first full-length album, Vampires of Black Imperial Blood, through Drakkar Records. This would also stand as the only L.P. to be released by any of the LLN bands.
The atmosphere is mournful and dark, but not always to the same extent as the songs on Remains of a Ruined, Dead, Cursed Soul. While the sound quality is better, the actual material sometimes, falls a little short in attaining the level of misery that the band sought. One gets the impression that a lot of influence has come from Norwegian bands like Darkthrone and Burzum, yet with something else added. Beyond just emulating their neighbors to the north, Meyhna'ch and company inject the music with a poisonous quality that makes the listener feel somewhat afflicted with the same mental sickness that, clearly, plagues the band members involved.
The songwriting seems to have exceeded the members' capabilities, and one can often get a sense for what could have been. The album is filled with miserable riffs, but the feeling is often interrupted by other guitar passages that do little to uphold the consistency of the song. At least, that is the general impression when listening to the original. Thankfully, the 1999 reissue was remastered and the result is quite remarkable. This was one of the times when an album desperately needed to be fixed. When listening to the later version, it is much easier to get pulled into the grim and depressive soundscape here created. With the later version, one can better appreciate the contrast between the faster riffs and the more sombre mid-tempo sections. It is during the slower parts that the true misery of the record can be felt, as it takes the listener's mind deeper into an abyss of suffering. The music is best appreciated in solitude, with only the light of candles to illuminate the room, possibly with a fresh razor nearby.
The production is a step up from the demo tapes, of course, but that isn't saying much. It all kind of falls flat and the original does not do justice to the material presented here. The sound is still very lo-fi and lives up to the necro expectations of such a band. At times, the drumming sounds as if Krissagrazabeth is pounding on a cardboard box. Another session musician handles percussion duties on a couple songs, but it isn't all that noticeable. Meyhna'ch does a competent enough job with the guitars, bass and vocals, though all possess some level of mistakes. The somewhat sloppy guitar playing almost suits the overall sound, so this is not a big deal. Vocally, the performance is in line with the rest of the music, just that certain times one can hear that the mic was too close and caught things that it should not have. In the end, none of this really matters, if one can obtain a copy of the remastered version.
Vampires of Black Imperial Blood is a decent album of grim and mournful Black Metal and would mark the end of Mütiilation's first period. The band would fall silent for some time, finally releasing the 1993 material by the end of the decade and then returning to create music in somewhat of an altered manner. Despite any shortcomings, this album may possess, it is definitely worth getting (just recommended that the aforementioned reissue is the best manner in which to hear this material).
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
Mütiilation easily encapsulate all that it means to be grim, kvlt and tr00 in the realms of Black Metal. Not only were they the darlings of Les Légions Noires from their demo material alone, but they managed to create a morbid, harsh dissonance which matched the very best in the scene pound for pound in sheer icy atmosphere. While it's arguable that the demo versions of this selection of tracks were better than the ones that are on offer for this debut, there's no denying the quality of the chilling, trebly hiss that fills your soul upon listening to this album.
Meyhna'ch , the mastermind behind this aural bleakness, must have certainly had a screw lose when he put these songs together, they're just so wrong sounding that they couldn't have been the offspring of a healthy mind. The sub-zero guitar work clangs and shimmers its way through discordant riffs and arpeggios, backed up with dustbin drums that flicker like a black flame behind the madness, generally keeping the nocturnal pulse steady and rhythmic without being afraid of going completely ballistic like some skeletal out of control freight train. Together with the torturous vomited vocals, the atmosphere of the album transports you to a freezing, dark dungeon, filled with garbled moans emanating from the gloom that taunt and unsettle you from your sanity. Yes, it's THAT fucking morose. The guitars are at their most disturbing when they're twanging away slowly, sounding almost out of tune at times — there's no room for flashy musicianship here — it's all about the twisted perversity.
For those who've yet to check Mütiilation out, you can't get a better starting point than this (although the original Drakkar version has been out of print for an age, there are constantly re-issued versions flying around if you check the right places). It's best listened to alone at night, so you can really meditate on every stripped down, dilapidated nuance. If you're a fan of Xasthur, Manes and the like, you NEED this in your collection.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
So here it is, Mütiilation's legendary album Vampires of Black Imperial Blood. I finally decided to give it a listen after seeing so much praise about it. At a first look, it smells cheesyness all over. The album's name, the track titles, it couldn't be more cheesy. There is either a grim or dark adjective in front of each qualitative noun or the title is consisted of extremely cliché words. In fact, in the album's name there is two adjectives in front of blood, namely black and imperial. You can't be more sure this album will be grim and misanthropic as hell - sorry, as Transylvania - and it keeps getting better, there's other great track titles like "Ravens of my Funeral" or "Tears of a Melancholic Vampire". And the crop of the cream: "Magical Shadows of a Tragic Past" and "Eternal Empire of Majesty Death". Do they even mean something? It's no wonder why there's only lyrics available for two songs. I guess they tried to write the most grim and dark lyrics possible and top other LLN bands. So as a first look, I think it wouldn't be wrong to say this album is cheesy - sorry, you'll be seeing words like cheesy and cliché pretty often. Well it doesn't mean it's a bad thing, take Immortal for instance; you can't be more grim or frostbitten and it works, though it was new at the time and they don't take themselves seriously - at least I hope so! Enough of making fun of Mütiilation's imagery, now for the substance.
The first thing you'll notice is that it's raw, well too raw and badly produced. I guess everybody has heard the thing about an album being recorded in an east-european basement? Or was it? Anyways, it sounds bad. The most appearent thing in all this rawness is the drums, it's annoying as it can be, but it's competent. The guitars doesn't sound as bad as the drums but it's Willy's performance, it's far from good - and in a black metal perspective that is - it's real sloppy and you can clearly hear his fingers interferring with the strings. The vocals are bad too and let's not even talk about the bass as I don't even know if there is any. So from a purely musical standpoint, they're not good, seems like they have started playing their instruments not too long before. From a raw black metal standpoint, it's not that bad, what would have been good is if their playing was less sloppy and if Willy could at least play his riffs with little flaws.
And now for the real core, the songs themselves. With "Magical Shadows of a Tragic Past", the album starts off rather promisingly, the riffs are good and melancholic and create an interesting atmosphere. Unfortunately, the song is a little too long for it's own good; there's something like two more or less interesting breakdowns that at one place drags a little too much as the riffs are good but not enough for being repeated like that. The song get back from these breakdowns with the same riff, and you'll end up wondering when the song will end; it's ten minutes and could have easily been less. Unfortunately that's the best you'll get from the album. It's uninspired and uninteresting for the most part save some riffs here and there. "Born Under the Master's Spell" is a good example of an atmosphere being killed by bad production, it sounds as if it could have been put in an old video-game - meaning it sounds really grim and misanthropic (at least for a Castlevania game). Except for some rather excellent slow parts, there is nothing interesting to be found here.
The first three minutes or so of "Ravens of my Funeral" are not bad at all but again, it drags to nowhere. I won't even go in details for the next two songs as they are the pinnacle of uninspiration, like we say in french, "c'est lourd!" (it's tedious). If "Black Imperial Blood" and "Eternal Empire of Majesty Death" are the pinnacle of uninspiration, "Transylvania" is of cheesy and sloppyness. Et ça c'est encore plus lourd (and that's even more tedious). This song is what I call, trying too hard. They tried too hard to make make that memorable, melancholic song and ultimately failed.
The album ends in beauty - or shall I say, in ugliness - with "Tears of a Melancholic Vampire". There's nothing new for me to say here except it's the worst track and makes me think after hearing it: Glad it's finished! But just take a look at some of its lyrics: "Dwelling in this forgotten grave, In these endless torments, Beyond the mysteries of mankind, Frightening and grimly real". It means nothing really, pretty nouns and adjectives just for the look and make the song grimly more interesting.
Most riffs are ugly and by ugly, I don't mean the ugliness of Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger, but ugly creatively and stylistically speaking. You may argue that Transilvanian Hunger too is raw and repetitive and it is what gives its charm, its atmosphere, but here while there is some great riffs, most are not good enough to be repeated at lenghts. Well it's only certain parts that are really repetitive but if you look to some TH songs which are six minutes and contain only two riffs, these songs end up being a lot less interesting. And again, there is a difference between raw, and raw. It's more a soundtrack to a '30s horror movie than to your nightime lone walks in the forest like Transilvanian Hunger. As a '30s horror movie, it is cheesy and cliché - well when we look back at them that is - and badly produced. Too much for it's own good.
The album is not that boring and lifeless, there's some pretty interesting moments - in small doses - but the lack of musicianship and creativity doesn't help. If it was to be rerecorded by a band that we can all agree on their talent, say Immortal, change and modify a few riffs, it could actually be good. And I don't mean doing it with the best equipment, production and performance, it could still be raw and all. But black metal is a sub-genre of metal which is a music genre, and is a form or art which needs talent and a good support to convey ideas or a certain vision. If you don't have that talent, you'll end up doing a watered down version of your ideas, as unimaginative as they may be. And it won't be better if you only have two different colors for your painting. They were clearly amateurs trying to do what their favorite black metal bands were doing, trying to be a part of the scene. They created the LLN and tried to make a cult out of it and somehow succeeded. They all bought guitars, wrote evil riffs (as if it was hard) and the most grim lyrics possible, in other words; trying too hard. Anyone can write evil riffs, put some distorsion, use bad equipment and find the notes that'll give you the sound you search, tremoloing helps make things more evil too. It's surprisingly easy. Actually, you can see Willy's progression as a musician from album to album more than any artist. I have not heard other albums in their entirety except for Rattenkönig - which is a lot better by the way - but it's pretty evident. But it's legendary, so I must not get it, it's beyond my reach. No, I think I get it, imortally mighty Lord Meyhna'ch is not even human, he's a vampire so that's why everything is so ugly and inhuman and it's how black metal should be (amateurish).
Remember: you don't need talent to play black metal, you need talent to play good black metal.
This album is depressive black metal at its finest! Mutiilation is the notorious brainchild of Mey'nach from the well known Black Legions circle of France's black metal scene. Unlike many other Black Legions recordings the production of this album is significantly clearer, especially when compared to the earlier demos by this band, but the remaining rawness of it adds a perfect balance to the depressive atmosphere it gives off when you listen to it. What Xasthur would later become, and what early Burzum lacked Mutiilation draws out in full force with this album!
There's a lot of very dark inverted riffs played through out. From the first notes played across the intro of "Magical Shadows of a Tragic Past" to the dark tremolo riffing of songs like "Black Imperial Blood" Mutiilation has outdone itself from previous recordings and brought together something that is truly brilliant. During this time even the likes of Norway weren't coming out with something so depressive, so dark, so evil, and so melancholic. This album defines all what it meant to be black metal at this time and done so respectively without trying to add grimness or rawness for the sake of being either or. The poor production is there to compliment the recording, and even then is far from as poor as you'd expect with black metals standards, possibly one of the better produced early mid 90s albums you'll find.
This is definitely a classic album and must have for anyone who's remotely into black metal at all. It's one of the best recordings if not the best one from this band. Everything you'd want from a black metal record is on here, so if you somehow come across this rare classic don't even think, just grab you, you won't regret it at all. Definitely one of the best black metal recordings ever put together, and during its time the epitome of all black metal. Worth any possible listen you can give to it. It's sure not to disappoint!
I've been reading some negative reviews of some LLN bands and their respective releases. Including this one. Now I don't know for sure if these are just your typical "trolls" that give everything critically acclaimed a bad review just to ruffle some feathers, be noticed or to bring down the average review rating. I've noticed this for a while and I've come to the conclusion that they either don't "get it" or they're just fucking stupid, maybe both. Some reviews just come out as anti-LLN or black metal rants that could've and should've been posted on a forum.
Anyway onto Mutiilation and Vampires Of Black Imperial Blood. This was by record to be the "only" full length release by the LLN. And boy what a release it is. Very few bands sound this depressive, angry, demented and truly evil all at once. Only the legendary ones can pull it off. Early Darkthrone, Bathory, Mayhem (Dead era) and Burzum instantly pop to my head. This album is widely sought after and with good reason. The production is raw and grim, like black metal should sound. Not the new stuff that's over the top like Cradle or glorified like Dimmu. Those have taken the name black metal and packaged the genre into some more accesible or "fan friendly" to the regular person. Black metal was never meant to be like that and Mutiilation (LLN as a whole) reminded us of it.
The whole album sends shivers down your spine and creates an atmosphere that makes you feel as if you're at a black mass or in a dark castle filled with blood thirsty vampires. This is music that needs to be taken seriously and not with an indifferent or mocking attitude as many do with the LLN or black metal. Some of you just don't get it, despite what you think (which is probably how they'd want it anyway). Once again, Meyhna'ch had an ear for a demented but catchy riff and this album is full of them. From the catchy riffs on Black Imperial Blood, Transylvania and the almost rocky one on Under Ardailles Night. This album never lets up and never disappoints. The argument can be made that this album can be one of the top 5 releases in black metal history.
It's that good and 12 years later is still one of the most desired albums. That alone is proof enough of it's excellence. The only discussion that many make is which one is the better? Vampires.. or Remains...? A strong argument can be made for both as to which is better. And in my opinion they're both equally legendary. If you don't see that, well then we're better off without you.
Gonna be a slightly different review in a sense than the ones below because I have the Tragic Empire Rex label's CD release which has 10 tracks including a cover of Bathory's "The Rite of Darkness" and all the tracks organised in a different order from the original CD release, plus one original track has been dropped and three new ones including the Bathory cover added. I did check with the guy I bought my copy form and he advised me it is a legit release and referred me to the label's website. I believe the problem with the legitimacy of the Tragic Empire Rex releases has been cleared up and everyone accepts them as proper recordings so without more ado I shall blather on.
All the songs are great but my impression is that the first five tracks are the best and tracks 6 - 8 are slightly less aggressive and a bit muted. The opener "Magical Shadows of a Tragic Past" is a magnificent piece, very melodramatic and forceful. Willy Roussel pours his world-weary black heart and soul out into every groan and screen and the odd belch or two. Melodies are catchy, even groovy, in spite of the basic production and the god-awful sound of the drums with those floppy skins and the tinny cymbals. The title track "Black Imperial Blood" maintains the pace, Roussel again screaming for all he's worth (and his singing can actually be very moving). The instruments for all their hornet noise and floppiness are very black, raw and grim. The band forges ahead into "Eternal Empire of Majesty Death" and "Tears of a Melancholic Vampire" (ah, just love those titles!): the atmosphere is melancholy and there is the feeling that the tragedy and sadness associated with being a vampire, which in many cultures has come to signify a defiant outsider exiled from society (and it's not just because of their dietary habits, the pallor of their appearance or the body odour), are always close by and come too frequently. Memorable tunes, Roussel's "seen-it-all" lugubrious style of singing and raw garagey production make this part of the record the big highlight of a wayward little ghoul's life.
"Transylvania" continues where "Tears ..." leaves off with everyone hell-bent on smashing all the drums into the ground and shredding the already decrepit guitars into kitty litter. Roussel's accented singing (he sings in English) makes him sound like he's got a tremendous hangover after one too many pints at his local Red Cross pub but his relaxed singing aside (a rarity in black metal), this song is a splendid rendition of a vampire's nostalgic longing for his homeland.
The next three tracks, "Ravens of My Funeral", "Under Ardailles Night" and "Forests of an Evil Dream" seem tame compared to the bloc of superb songs before them but the production is still very raw and even sounds more primitive than previously. "Ravens ..." is quite tinny and mosquito-whiny and Roussel slips into a mood close to self-pity. "Under Ardailles Night" has a more punk-oriented feel and a steady rhythm which lessens the aggression. "Forests ..." picks up fresh anger with constant changes in pace and Roussel's gravelly screaming and groaning. Overall, not a bad trio, they just suffer from being bunched up together instead of being spread out through the album.
We don't have "Born Under the Master's Spell" which is a real bugger. We do get "Travels to Sadness, Hate and Depression" which is a melancholy and rage-fuelled song by turns. Bringing up the rear is the Bathory cover "The Rite ..." where Roussel and Company ascend to a higher level of instrument annihilation: they quickly dispense with the necessary verse/chorus/verse/chorus and guitar solo business and then get down to The Serious Business of wrecking and killing everything in sight. The drums especially get hammered into the earth faster than you can say "pancaked" and Roussel lurches from being totally stoned to rejoicing in the sheer carnage of all those instruments. He lives in a castle or at the very least a large mansion so he obviously can afford to replace them all.
Whichever CD version you get (and you may well get both!), you will find this album is a class act, totally sick and over the top: grim, harsh and chaotic, yes, yet grand and ambitious and possessing much flamboyance and flair. There are many tunes here which would make fine mobile phone ring-tones but that's probably an unkvlt virginal-snow white thing to say. Music such as this ought to expire in a glorious pyrotechnic chaotic mess with a huge casualty toll in guitars, tom toms, snares and amps which it does on my CD copy. With an album like this, you can forgive Roussel many things apart from that resurrection publicity stunt ...
OK.. i'll admit it. When I first heard a few tracks from this album about 5 years ago, I thought it was a load of bollocks. A combination of listening to it on shitty speakers and my unfamiliarity with anything rawer than Darkthrone and early Bathory had my ears absorbing and dismissing what sounded like a bunch of instruments falling down a staircase while some guy coughed up dust in the background.
Skip forward to the present day and I can finally appreciate this album as it was intended: a harsh, minimalistic ode to the power of metal stripped down to it's bare elements, and infused with an atmosphere so grim and melancholic you'll feel like you're being enveloped by pure liquid darkness as you listen to it. The nonexistant production allows the nihilistic fervour of the music to exist in an unfettered, primal state - this is completely devoid of any trace of musicians attempting to show you how virtuosic they are. Instead, Mütiilation's entire raison d'etre is to convey their uniquely twisted worldview through sound. So, you get a mixture of filthy, high speed black metal tunes full of ear catching, twisted riffs such as "Born Under The Master's Spell", "Eternal Empire Of Majesty Death" and the unparalled majesty of "Transylvania", juxtaposed with more downbeat, creepy epics like the amazing 10 minute masterpiece "Magical Shadows Of A Tragic Past" and the monumental "Black Imperial Blood". Forget Xasthur's instrumental cover version, this is the ultimate sonic expression of M'yanech's twisted soul.
In the end, this album is about one thing, and one thing only: pure blackened atmosphere. It's not something you put on when you want your ass kicked, or when you want to mouth along to something catchy and brutal. No, you listen to Vampires Of Black Imperial Blood when you wish to be transported to a nihilistic world where the sky is eternally pitch black, the air smells like blood and burning corpses, and the shadows churn with the stalking movements of unspeakably vile creatures.