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Imperial Vengeance - "Black Heart Of Empire" (CD)

Imperial Vengeance - "Black Heart Of Empire" CD cover image

"Black Heart Of Empire" track listing:

1. Scenes Of Inked Treachery (2:32)
2. Black Heart Of Empire (5:22)
3. The Voice Of Thelema (7:29)
4. The Ghost Light (7:01)
5. Veiled Threats Over Cocktails (5:53)
6. The Devil In The Detail (7:55)
7. Out Went The Candle (2:51)
8. Upon The Stair (7:21)
9. Of Insect And Allegory (5:29)
10. The Black Idol (10:33)

Reviewed by on December 14, 2011

"'Black Heart of Empire' does little to separate from its predecessor, but is not a rehash due to the band’s willingness to embrace their personas and historical time frames into deadly symphonic black metal."

Imperial Vengeance went heavy on the symphonic noise for their black metal debut, “At The Going Down Of The Sun,” and the band keeps up this approach on the follow-up, “Black Heart Of Empire.” While the first record was sucked into WWI-era Britain, “Black Heart Of Empire” goes back a few decades to 19th century London. The cobblestone streets and shady underground dealings are handled with the same type of care bassist Mr. David Bryan put into his lyrics on “At The Going Down Of The Sun.”

The music, on the other hand, is largely unchanged from the first album. That means fluid black metal with lots of piano and orchestration, mostly from the hand of the other half of Imperial Vengeance, Mr. Charles Edward-Alexander. The symphonic element of the band has always been just as important as the other instruments, and “Black Heart Of Empire” sticks with this. “The Ghost Light” has the piano as a melodic enforcer, rapid-fire keys being played along with blasting drums from newcomer James Last.

The atmospheric parts still find a way to grab the listener into the time period. They really show not only in the orchestration, but in the samples of various facets of city life. The instrumentals “Scenes of Inked Treachery” and “Out Went The Candle, And We Were Left Darkling” are weighed upon by these touches, but they are also situated on other tunes. The aforementioned “The Ghost Light” starts off like hearing a live orchestra providing the overture to the coming scene.

Like the previous album, these songs average around seven minutes, and there’s not a lot of dead space with unnecessary intros or loony interludes. Any time the band breaks away from the tremolo riffs is to help get an appropriate mood across. Cleansing female vocals harmonize with Edward-Alexander’s raspy bark on “Veiled Threats Over Cocktails,” and several guest vocalists flesh out particular characters like “The Voice of Old London” and “The Voice of the Angel.”

While the orchestration is synth-y in nature, stringed instruments performed by Elle Torry give off a realism to the symphonic material. “The Black Idol,” a ten-minute opus in a style similar to last album’s “Trinovantes,” is a notable highlight of Torry’s work. A punishing beginning goes through stages, including a wonderful acoustic-led passage complete with a classy solo, and finishes off with a light smattering of snare drums.

The two years between albums has not done much to change Imperial Vengeance’s sound. That may be good or bad news, depending on how much enjoyment a person got from “At The Going Down Of The Sun.” Mr. Charles Edward-Alexander’s time with Cradle of Filth wore off on this band, though his vocals are way less annoying than Dani Filth’s croaking. “Black Heart of Empire” does little to separate from its predecessor, but is not a rehash due to the band’s willingness to embrace their personas and historical time frames into deadly symphonic black metal.

Highs: Symphonic elements fit the black metal sound, piano gets heavy billing, songs are rich in atmosphere

Lows: Not much evolved from the last album, a few songs push their lengths into excess

Bottom line: A sophomore effort that is in line with the band's first album, meaning a hefty dose of symphonic black metal with an emphasis on the symphonic side.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)