Released: 2016, Ultimate Massacre Productions
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Despite a lineup best described as “fluid,” but perhaps more appropriately considered “incomplete,” the English one-time trio/now duo Imperium certainly aren't lacking when it comes to ambition.
With only guitarist/composer Mike Alexander leftover from the the threesome that recorded the 2012 debut Sacramentum, and Unfathomable Ruination drummer Doug Anderson taking over on vocals, Imperium nevertheless deliver a rather monumental second album roiling with technical twists and turns, dazzling instrumentation and thematic narrative steeped in Greek mythology. Despite the turmoil, no one can accuse them – or Alexander in particular - of taking the easy way out here.
Indeed Titanomachy is a demanding album in almost every regard - even the dramatic cover art takes awhile to fully absorb. Recalling Nile, Behemoth and Morbid Angel in its complexity, speed, scale and depth, the album is built on layer upon layer of crafty, intricate guitar work and fanciful soloing from Alexander, hyper-speed tempos and Anderson's breathless growl and scream vocals. His emphatic grunt at the end of the furious opening track, “Castrate The Father of the Sky,” sounds almost as if it comes as the result of sheer exhaustion. And Titanomachy's just getting started.
“Beast From Beneath” offers a nonstop battering of double-bass and sleek, but viciously efficient riffing that only steps up the intensity. And there's little let up from there, save for a couple short instrumental segues and the Middle Eastern-tinged lead in and outro on the title track that circles back to the album's brief intro – fittingly title “Intro.” Everything else is pretty much full-on for the full time.
Yet like the aforementioned Nile, Behemoth and Morbid Angel, Imperium demonstrate a songcraft to match their obvious technical prowess. There's some definite teeth to much of the material here, with only a few tracks like “Phlegethon Rising” overdoing either the velocity or complexity. It grabs you by the throat right away, and doesn't let go.
Perhaps it's just the digital promo, but the overall mix on Titanomachy seems a little faint or distant, which isn't actually the worst thing in that it helps accentuate some of the nuance, but at the cost of some of the music's inherent brutality. So call it an even trade – and a minor complaint about what is otherwise a satisfying, sometimes sensational outing.
[Addendum: Turns out there were sound quality issues with the original promo. After this was posted, I received updated download with a true representation of the mix, and it was much fuller and forward. The intended brutality is there in abundance, yet the nuance remains intact. So it's all the better.]