German black metal band Imha Tarikat has gained some notoriety over the past few years thanks to its ability to offer material that never wavered in power and emotion no matter where it went stylistically. Initially skewing towards the punkier side of Norwegian black metal while also utilizing some of the soaring melodies of the Swedish take on the genre, in recent years founder Kerem Yilmaz has diverged from this path and incorporated in a wider range of influences while remaining unwavering when it comes to intensity. For the group’s third full length Hearts Unchained - At War with a Passionless World, Yilmaz has brought in Hexer drummer Melvin Cieslar and unleashed a whirlwind of dense riffing and controlled chaos that crosses over into post punk and other styles without losing its blackened core.
The words that come to mind the most while listening to Hearts Unchained are triumphant and unrelenting. Where other black metal bands have branched out and started to incorporate everything from murkier psychedelic melodies to the bass grooves of post punk that changed the tempos and overall atmosphere, Imha Tarikat does so in a way that retains the violent, churning songwriting of the genre. Songs twist and turn with riffs that move from the genre’s foundations over to looser dark rock and post punk, but they don’t fully make that transition over. A perfect example is “Streams of Power- Canavar”, which slows things down ever so slightly in favor of a more rock and heavy metal rhythm but layers chilling melodies over top that capture the more atmospheric variants of black metal. During the most triumphant sounding passages Imha Tarikat reaches that same infectious yet overwhelming sound as groups like Bölzer and Mgła yet remain firmly on their own path throughout Hearts Unchained. Each of the tracks retains a feeling of its own with specific riffs that stand out over repeat listens, and even though some of the songwriting bears some similarities in how the riffs are strung together those nuances help to give them a unique identity. Melvin Cieslar also deserves praise, as while there are plenty of straightforward blast beats if you pay closer attention there are a lot of interesting drum patterns that pull in other genre elements and that helps to transform this material further.
Imha Tarikat’s vocals are where many of the Bölzer comparisons are likely to come from, as Yilmaz has a scream/yell that comes very close in pitch and is drenched in raw emotion and power. It may prove to make the material an acquired taste for some, but the unwavering nature of the performance and way that that some of the vocals were layered over top of each other creates a truly immense sound. It really feels like Yilmaz is giving 1000% here, ensuring that each verse comes through just as intense as the last. There are natural variations to the pitch and pauses between verses which help to avoid repetition, as the harsher and unrelenting nature could easily get repetitive if they remained at the same general level the whole way through. Like the instrumentation, it’s the subtle changes in the performance that make the difference, and this gives listeners plenty to discover after those first few times through.
On their third full length Imha Tarikat has expanded outwards naturally, pulling in hints of post punk and darker rock/heavy metal without moving too far from black metal’s roots. It does so in a very different way than Balmog’s Eve or other similar albums did last year, instead going for the throat and chaining riffs together in a chaotic yet controlled manner. Where the group’s previous discography had me intrigued but not fully enthused, this one has clicked in ways that have made it hard to put down and it’ll be exciting to see how Yilmaz continues to branch out in the future. December is notoriously a hard time to get people to pay attention to new material, but don’t let this late 2022 highlight pass you by. Hearts Unchained - At War with a Passionless World is available from Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg