Imprecation – Damnatio ad Bestias (2019)

Imprecation return six years after their great release Satanae Tenebris Infinita with Damnatio ad Bestias which refers to a Roman game that consisted of allowing beasts to kill various criminals. Here it possibly refers to the various Christian martyrs that were killed this way and possibly a reference to the Morbid Angel song “The Lion’s Den” which deals with the exact same topic. Here the band are aware of the success of their previous record and attempt to replicate but with a slightly modern touch that takes away from the immersion yet remains an enjoyable listen that pushes certain previous ideas to their limit.

The lineup remains unchanged save for Jeff Tandy joining in on bass and the band is immediately recognizable as the palette of techniques used is virtually identical. Weirdly enough the band opts for a much more digital recording with the guitars piercing through better and allowing each note to be easily heard but at the cost of ferocity. The drums and vocals retain a lot of their grit but overall this record feels a bit too compressed and the lack of dynamics in sound does make this record a bit more tiring than it needs to be.

The use of keyboards is much more sparse than usual as they mainly appear to just push the climax during the end of each song. The keyboards are always used to strong effect by playing the underlying chord progression to help make sense of what is going musically. Imprecation have always excelled with keyboards and it is a shame that they don’t use them as often. Riffs are very streamlined in the style of Morbid Angel’s Covenant playing short recursive phrases that are tremolo picked. When reusing the recursive riffs the guitarists will generally an other motif to the end of it to create progression and to allow continuity.

In order to gel certain riffs together, the band resort to more modern start and stop riffs that will form the base layer for a melody to come on top or to lead to another tremolo picked that doesn’t quite fit with the preceding riff. From these chugging riffs the band may abruptly accelerate into a solo as seen on “Ageless Ones of None” that completely kills the continuity of the song. “Baptized in Satan’s Blood” shows the best use of the chugging riffs as it uses them to build anticipation to the main melodies of the composition and especially the final climax where the long black metal melody is allowed to develop in all of its darkened glory. Though the syncopated riffs aren’t terrible as they do present melodic character and not the standard one note riff more commonly used, they cut the flow of the song and simplify the arrangements as the listener can easily guess where each song will go next.

Damnatio ad Bestias unlike its predecessors struggles with the management of all its tempo changes, wanting to break away from their sombre mid-paced death metal but not knowing how to. The breaks to the faster tremolo melodies where the notes are played twice instead of four or eight times end up sounding random as the band struggles to make sense of them in their labyrinthine arrangements. Often they cover them with Slayer-like bursts of noise from the lead guitar which help at first but eventually sounds boring and overdone.

The strength of the band is the way they use layers on top of a single melody like on the song “The Shepherd and the Flock” where a simple chromatic melody is supplemented with one guitar playing a more developed version of the melody on top of it and the keyboard holding the fort with the bass by breaking down the melody into single notes. The band do this multiple times throughout the album and use it create a very tense and oppressive atmosphere through these stacks of ideas. Though after they appear the band then transition to a grand climax or continue towards a chilling conclusion. There is a great sense of musicality during these moments as none of these layers are harmonized in the traditional sense and rely on the composer’s ears to find the right intervals necessary to make superposed melodies function as one.

Despite the almost childish anti-Christian lyrics that sound like leftovers from mid-period Deicide, Imprecation show that they are still ahead of the mass in Death metal and that they too want to march forwards towards new territories. On one hand they have the smooth textures of later death metal with more recent rhythmic tricks and on the other hand there is a push towards reconciling the layered approach of Black metal with the death metal riff maze. While the former shows a band running out of ideas, the latter shows a new perspective on old tricks putting this record in a tricky place. Its digestible nature makes this a suitable step for those familiar with recent death metal but who wish to take their first steps into the darkest corners of the genre. For everyone else a decent listen for those wanting more Imprecation before returning to their better works.

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8 thoughts on “Imprecation – Damnatio ad Bestias (2019)”

  1. Cynical says:

    A quick correction — even though Jeff Tandy is a full-time member of the band, he didn’t play on this album; bass was recorded by Milton Luna (see here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2288178087880232&set=a.163322383699157&type=3&theater ).

    Also, the stop-start riffs aren’t “more modern”; it’s more like the band’s demo era material, which was heavily influenced by Florida death metal and has a similar rhythmic stomp. “Baptized in Satan’s Blood”, in particular, is a re-recording of an older song.

    1. That is exactly what I said. Jeff tansy is the only new member since Satanae….

      Florida bands only added that stomp later in their careers when they were past their prime and rarely to the extent that Imprecation does them. Baptized is also the best song here by a mile.

  2. Metal Mystic says:

    This closely reflects my first thoughts on listening to this album. Imprecation was always been a band that really nailed what could be called a “Satanic Church Music” sound, with menacing chromatic riffs developing into with dark minor key melodies accompanied by the keyboards. The more modern elements definitely detract from that quality and make it sound closer to your average “OSDM” rehash band. Still one of the best releases in the last year but these days that doesn’t say much.

    1. Cynical says:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93YTrwcH7fU
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngXCd0hoZ0A
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONs8QELbzwI

      Seriously, have you guys ever heard Imprecation? They’ve always been on the chaotic and rhythmic side of the genre, aside from that brief sojourn into black metal in the late ’90s, and the keyboards have always been sparse. This move to a choppier style isn’t “more modern”; what’s modern is every band trying to sound like Depravity or Demigod with the sonorous minor-key riffs.

  3. Infester in Beherit do listen to Infesyer I’m beherit says:

    Jehova Denied, the song, is honestly their master stroke. It builds really well and doesn’t revisit sections only repeats them until the effect sets in before moving forward. I watched the promo music video for this and reading the lyrics along with Spooky imagery just felt ridiculous. These boys are boomers now. How does any of this shit have any real meaning to them? It’s bad and that’s not even addressing the boring photocopies called riffs here. Ooooh shit devil giving power and enlightenment for your gardening career. Hella sick guys and you’re not even gifted musicians to compensate. Beherit and Darkthrone aged better whereas Imprecation are pretending to be teens selling to teens but actually selling to other old men pretending they are teens. Engram is an introspective and hindsight take on shit like obviously from the view of an older man nearer to his death. I didn’t like Arctic Thunder but it has the same vibes. This is just clown music like Immolation post Unholy Cult but actually post here in after. Flogging a dead Christ. Look around guys your shit is on Spotify and has the same audience as Ski Mask tha Slump god who is more hessian in 2019 than aging metal heads could muster. Enough is enough tbh.

    1. Cynical says:

      Imprecation does not have a song titled “Jehovah Denied”. Could the trolls at least try to pretend they know what they’re talking about?

      1. Infester in Beherit do you listen to interested and behetot says:

        I confused hosanna ex inferis with Jehova Denied get over yourself cunt mistakes happen and all these song titles bleed together with enough time

    2. Cuntbasher68 says:

      >even Darkthrone aged better

      Nice bait retard, here’s your reply

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