Imperator - The Time Before Time [Nuclear War Now! Productions - 0000]
The Polish black metal scene is quite extensive and has some really cult and famous acts within it, such as Behemoth, Crist Agony, Graveland, the now very fashionable Batushka and so on. A number of these groups have been playing since the early nineties and are veterans of the Polish black metal scene. However, they are not the ones with whom it all began.
In 1983, a metal band called Imperator, positioning its style as Speed Black Metal appeared in Soviet Poland. In 1986, the first self-released demo-tape called Endless Sacrifice was released. Then, in 1987, a second demo-tape appeared Deathlive. The third demo-tape (which for some reason is indicated on Discogs as a full-length album) was released in 1988 and had the name Eternal Might. The band drew the attention of the famous and scandalous label Deathlike Silence, which was led by Euronymous from legendary Mayhem. There were plans to release the first full-length album on Deathlike Silence. But, for several reasons, these plans did not come to fruition. Imperator's debut album, The Time Before Time, was released by Polish label Nameless Productions in the form of LP, in 1991. Which, according to Discogs, was the only album released on the label. Subsequently, this album was re-released by various labels three times, in 1993, 1994 and in 1997. The Time Before Time is the only full-length album Imperator, after which the band released another demo in 1999 Existential Prophecy, a track on a polish death metal compilation, and a 2016 live album featuring a recording from 1991.
In 2019, American label Nuclear War Now! Productions reissued The Time Before Time as a CD, tape, and LP with a bonus 7” with two bonus tracks. At the moment the album is at the pre-release stage, but you can listen to the tracks on the label's Bandcamp page. It should be noted that this edition is a re-release of the album version from 1997, which was released by the Polish label Pagan Records.
The album cover is a monochrome image in which only black and light gray colors are used. On a black background, just below the middle, there is a round symbol resembling a demonic seal from the Necronomicon, around which the title of the album title is written in a stylized Celtic font. Above this sign is a rather large Imperator logo. It occupies almost the entire width of the cover. The logo is made in a rather rough, angular manner resembling the logos of Thrash-metal bands. On the inner edges of the cover is an ornamental frame, as well as the logo, made in an angular style. The cover seemed too simple. Covers of this type are usually on demo-albums of bands. Nevertheless, given the release date of the original album, this cover reflects the spirit of that time very well.
The total duration of the album is slightly less than forty-six and a half minutes. The album consists of seven original tracks and two bonus tracks.
Up to this point, I was not familiar with the music of Imperator, but the mention of the Speed Black Metal style has already given me some insight into the music content of the album. However, I was completely mistaken. Polish bands like Behemoth, Crist Agony, and so on, took their inspiration from Scandinavian black metal. But Imperator appeared before the invention of this style. Therefore, a great source of inspiration here is classic death metal. Frankly, there is no black metal at all. But we can hear an intense, speedy and rather complicated death/thrash metal, almost devoid of melodies, but based on original riffs, classic death-metal solos, and frequent rhythm changes. In the high-speed parts of the compositions, we hear the traditional old school death metal, in medium-speed moments - the typical Thrash metal.
I would like to mention the general sound of the album. It seemed to me quite lightweight. Despite the fact that the bass part is clearly distinguishable, the bass lacks depth and saturation. However, the sound of the guitars seemed to be very good. These are quite highly tuned guitars with pleasant distortion and fuzz, having sandy abrasiveness in their timbre. But, the sound of drums seemed to be slightly blurred. With the snare drum set into a hissing blurred shape. Vocalist work is very good. However, it seemed to me that sometimes it was difficult for him to maintain such a timbre of his voice, which I could compare with the vocals of Johan Edlund from Tiamat, around albums like Clouds and Wildhoney.
Two bonus tracks, which were released on a separate 7", were recorded in 1993, during a short reunion of the band. These compositions are the same usual death/thrash metal, however, the recording quality is rawer and too saturated with low frequencies. In principle, such a sound could be in any demo tape. In fact, these compositions are simply of historical value really
I can't say that The Time Before Time surprised or inspired me much. Albums in a similar style were released both before The Time Before Time and after it. It is a well-written and well-played material, unfortunately, devoid of originality. However, I was pleased to hear quality old school Death / Thrash metal. .Sergey Pakhomov