Imprecation made a huge impact with their 2013 full length Satanae Tenebris Infinita, which saw the reformed band take the haunting keyboard melodies and crushing instrumentation from their 90s demos and EP’s and pushing everything to the next level. The death metal group has been quiet since then, as aside from a split with Blaspherian a year after the debut there haven’t been any further recordings available until now. This year’s Damnatio ad Bestias brings some lineup changes with it but the core sound that the band is known for remains and the strength of the songwriting continues to make Imprecation stand out.
One of the elements that makes Damnatio ad Bestias so appealing is the balance between crushing, dense instrumentation and haunting atmosphere. This has been true since the band’s early days but here the writing is even more dynamic and the tempos shift a bit more frequently making each moment have more impact. At times the type of thick, tense atmosphere that the melodies from both the guitars and keyboards create a tone that’s reminiscent of Archgoat’s more recent albums, but Imprecation does so with a greater focus on death metal rather than fusing the two genres together. Songs like “Baptized in Satan’s Blood” showcase the band at their best, with the keyboards materializing from seemingly out of nowhere to complement the slower, dense riffing that lulls you into a sense of security before the blasting kicks in. It’s also worth mentioning that the recording quality of Damnation ad Bestias works in its favor, as there’s just the right amount of murkiness and weight to the instrumentation without it drowning out the details. While Imprecation may not have changed their fundamental approach to songwriting from their earlier days, they’re still doing this type of death metal at a higher level than many of the newcomers trying to channel an “old-school” feel.
Dave Herrera has been with Imprecation since the very beginning, and his lower pitched growls are a perfect fit for the band’s sound. They’re the type of guttural pitches that stand above the instrumentals and add a significant amount of intensity and weight to the material and compared to some of the earlier recordings Herrera has a bit more range these days and hits upon some slightly higher ranges as well. Damnatio ad Bestias has been mixed so that the vocals aren’t completely buried and there’s a good amount of separation between the growls and the instrumental work, which allows listeners to give equal focus to each element.
It may have taken Imprecation six years to follow up Satanae Tenebris Infinita but the wait has been worth it, as this album delivers plenty of crushing riffs and haunting atmosphere to go with it. There are plenty of groups trying to channel this same type of death metal but few are able to strike the balance of atmosphere and brutality that these guys have reached. Damnatio ad Bestias is out now on Dark Descent Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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