Friday, September 23, 2011

Mütiilation - Black Imperial Blood (Travel) (1994)

Black Imperial Blood (Travel) is the fourth Mütiilation demo, and the final one before their first full-length album. Released in the autumn of 1994, this represented the final stage of development for much of this material. All but two of the songs on this cassette ended up on the L.P. and even those that did not make the cut (for whatever reason) were on later reissues.

The production is very similar to Vampires of Black Imperial Blood, being rather grim and lo-fi. It certainly suits the music, and the low quality does not have an overly negative impact on the ability of the songs to conjure up particular moods. In fact, the under-produced sound compliments the raw and primitive style of music. The vocals are a little high in the mix, a problem that would remain even for the album that followed, but it does not really detract from the atmosphere. As for the guitars and drums, they seem to be just right, so there are no complaints there. The guitars have kind of a thin sound, not exactly in a good way, but it is only a minor issue.

Regarding the music, it is not very dissimilar from the versions that appear on the full-length. While the crude Burzum and Darkthrone influences remain, Mütiilation had firmly established their own identity by this point and the songwriting lacked the awkwardness that often plagued things before. The pace is a little slower, in most cases, and the songs are slightly longer as a result. This does not drastically alter the atmosphere, but adds to the dreary nature of the material. In the case of "Under Ardailles Night" and the title track, it is enough to make the songs much more sombre when compared to the later versions. Odd how a subtle touch can affect the music. The guitar melodies are bleak and melancholic and evoke feelings of pure misery and hopelessness. These sounds are capable of inspiring the loss of blood by candlelight or a solitary journey into the depths of the autumn forest, in search of the perfect tree to hang from.

Black Imperial Blood (Travel) seems to be superior to the Vampires of Black Imperial Blood album. While the material is essentially the same, the slower pace enables the tracks to take on an added sense of morbidity and despair, which makes all the difference in the world for the listener's state of mind. For anyone that is a fan of the first Mütiilation album, seek this out and experience these songs in their proper form.

Edit (Jan. 2013): It has come to my attention that my copy of this tape is defective and plays slower than it is supposed to. This is the reason for the more depressive pace and the muddier sound quality noted here. In fact, the recordings on this demo are the very same that were used for the full-length, yet it was my worn-out cassette that deceived me into thinking these were two separate recordings for all of these years.