Vader - Impressions in Blood - 2006 - Regain Records
1. Intro 2. Shadow Fear 3. As Heavens Collide... 4. Hellaluyah!!! (God Is Dead) 5. Field of Heads 6. Predator 7. Warlords 8. Red Code 9. Amongs The Ruins 10. They Live!!! 11. The Book
Vader are synonymous with Polish Death Metal. They are older than Decapitated and Behemoth, better known than Trauma and Hate, and maybe even more fearsome than their nefarious namesake. ‘The Art of War’, their 2005 EP, was one of the peaks of their discography and also of all last year’s metal releases, making ‘Impressions in Blood’ a far more anticipated arrival than the lukewarm success of their last full length, ‘The Beast’, would have alone.
‘Impressions in Blood’ furthers the futuristic, warlike themes of ‘The Art of War’ by mixing in a significant amount of ambience, string synthesizers, and sound effects. These rarely merge with their traditional style, though, and are almost exclusively in a supporting role that lends some additional gravity to the album.
Peter is the only remaining original member from Vader’s earliest line-up, and his throaty shouts are as surly as ever. After the passing of legendary drummer Doc, Daray (who appeared as a session drummer on ‘The Beast’) became the group’s full time drummer, and his remarkable speed and precision maintain Vader’s high standards of brutality. Guitarists Mauser and Peter spread their riffs and solos liberally across each of the album’s nine real tracks, blending well the trademark Polish brutality of the former and the unique modularity of the latter.
But, something is absent. ‘Impressions in Blood’ has all the key components of a standout metal album and is definitely nothing Vader should be ashamed of, but it still seems incomplete. It lacks the utterly devastating pulse of ‘Litany’, though the guitar production here is some of the best they have had. It also lacks the consistent, inspired subtlety of ‘The Art of War’ that so reinvigorated their career.
That inspired edge sometimes appears, but it rarely stays around for an entire track. Vader still can write exceptional solos (see: Amongst the Ruins, Shadow Fear) and the sort of riffs that both defined Polish Death and put them atop its ranks simultaneously (see: ‘They Live!!!’, ‘The Book’). But their attention wanders, sometimes. Some of the album’s middle tracks churn out lethargically: ‘Field of Heads’ ends with a fading drum loops more than a minute long, and ‘Predator’ is an overwrought downer that sound as if they were cut to half tempo for a lark in the studio and never sped up again.
It is also, in part, the production that disappoints. While most of the album has a wonderfully harsh texture to it, Daray’s toms (which he uses often) are too obviously triggered. Death metal drummers nowadays are almost all using triggers, yes, but either the entire kit reeks of technology or none of it. The half-heavy, half-canned sound is distracting.
Vader still have it, though, and there are enough moments of prowess and steely, metal grit o prove it. Their recent interest in classical underpinnings also has been well integrated into their sound, showing that despite their essentially unchanged formula, Vader are still a developing group. The album’s closer, includes some of these influences. Mix in a Decapitated riff or two, experiments briefly with a tribal drum pattern or two, and ‘The Book’ ends up being the surprising highlight of the album. Perhaps, once this new line-up has had a little more time to gel and work out the new sound, Vader shall return triumphant. Until then, this will do.
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