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Class act that is completely sick and over the top - 97%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, January 16th, 2007

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 ...