Monday, September 5, 2011

Mütiilation - Vampires of Black Imperial Blood (1995)

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 by songs like "Black Imperial Blood" and "Transylvania". 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. This is exemplified by the bleak melodies of songs such as "Eternal Empire of Majesty Death", "Forests of an Evil Dream" and "Travels to Sadness, Hate and Depression" (the latter two only available on the reissue). As well, one cannot ignore the majestic morbidity of the album opener, "Magical Shadows of a Tragic Past". 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).