Author disclosure: I have never once listened to Impending Doom. I’ve been told of their wonder, but I have yet to experience them first hand. Therefore, this track-by-track review has the unique opportunity to reveal my honest sense of discovery. As you read through, you’ll be experiencing my first impressions on not only the new album, but on the band as well.
- Ravenous Disease
The first thing I notice is that Impending Doom has a thick sound, layered heavily. At :58, they waste no time bringing the pain. Vocalist Brook Reeves voice is punishing and gravely. There’s good musicality in the background. The track isn’t limited to only the crunch of the guitar. When you think there’s a break in the middle of the song, it’s not so much of a break but more of a wind up for a series of body blows. The breakdown at the end feels like the finishing move of a professional wrestler. Read: The Tombstone by The Undertaker.
- Death Will Reign
I didn’t know what the term “goreship” really referred to until I heard Reeves yell, “Save me / my life is a constant war!” He also shows off his range as a screamer with the piercing squeal. You can really get a sense of the emotional turmoil that went into writing this song; they do a great job capturing the struggle. The breakdown at 3:15 is so visceral. Add in the gain vocals when they scream “Death will reign!” and you have the makings of a perfect song to close a set. This song seems like it’ll be hard to top.
- Beyond the Grave
How do you come back after “Death Will Reign?” Why, by doing the complete opposite! “Beyond the Grave” starts with a melodious introduction before it gets into the machine gun rattling of the guitar and double bass. This song has a really nice swing and groove to it. I found myself rocking and swaying. This will be a dancer’s delight. At 2:15, there’s a really catchy wandering groove with a haunting melody layered in behind. Impending Doom is really showing their versatility. Three songs in, and I know they’re a band that will be in my musical rotation.
- My Own Maker
It almost feels like this is the beginning of Act Two of the record. It begins with a slightly different sound; blast beats feel a little more prevalent in the early going. This song feels personal. There’s a sense of vulnerability. Do not confuse “vulnerable” with “soft”; this is still as punishing as ever. It does not let the listener off the hook. At 2:14 there’s a really captivating moment. It’s a lesson in metal transition.
The first three songs are over four minutes, these next two have just been over three. “Doomsday” brings back that sliding dance groove at the top. Impending Doom’s ability to layer in more sounds is one of the reasons why they’re not like any other metal band. The song hauntingly fades out. I got the mental picture of child wandering into a dark tunnel where they know danger lies ahead and they kept looking back over their shoulder waiting for anyone to give them a reason to not go further into the darkness.
- Rip, Tear and Burn
Leading off the track with gain vocals exclaiming, “This is your chance to fight back!” is a string choice and should be applauded. They didn’t save that bullet for the middle of the song, they kicked off the song heavy, relieving us and giving us some small catharsis from how the last track left us. It feels like we’ve entered the third act of the album. As a mentally embattled sinner struggling my own demons, the refrain of “Never again, never again, never again!” Is a sentiment I’m all to familiar with. The battle against sin is a war, and it is not passive.
I don’t have a lot of thoughts on the song 1:25 in. It’s not that it’s not memorable; it’s just that it’s a continuation of the solid album. “You deserve the fire / You deserve to burn,” are phrases that remind the listener that just confronting your sins is not enough. We’re still sinners and we deserve death. We must beg for mercy. The song picks up near the end, crushing you with the word “burn.” One could liken this point of the album to someone quite literally begging for mercy at the hands of an executioner.
- My Blood
Impending Doom should really be commended for a finely crafted narrative on the album. Nothing seems by chance. Such a great flow. This song really feels like the central character of the album is finally submitting. It’s actually quite touching. Giving oneself over and admitting they are powerless is such a difficult thing to do and this song perfectly demonstrates that difficulty.
Musicians are storytellers as well, and Impending Doom seems to be very aware of that. “Endless” is a headbanger and stompers’ delight. There’s a clear sense of denouement at the end of the track, and it appears we’re heading to a close.
- Live or Die
“Not so fast!” says Impending Doom. There’s still time for more chaos and scramble. The story will not be wrapped up so neatly. I get goosebumps as I imagine a furious pit screaming, “Live or die!” The emotion is undeniable. “In the end the body will rot, but we are given the choice to decide: live or die.”
- The Great Divine
The final act unfolds in what appears to be an epic finale. (This track runs 8:11.) Finally, we get that sense of relief and abandon. This is Impending Doom clearly choosing “live.” There are several movements in the song reminding the listener that even when you make the choice to live, the path is not easy. I particularly like around the three minute mark when there’s a soothing guitar sound that plays, and even when the rest of the pain kicks in, it’s still prevalent and constant. It illustrates that we can still be light in a dark world. That polarization is so clever, but is consistent with this amazing arc that the band has laid throughout the album. Soothing piano and strings dominate at the six minute mark. It’s peaceful, but dread still looms. The work is never done.
This album wasn’t content to just throw together a series of songs with some breakdowns — there’s true artistry here. The narrative is powerful and thoughtful. Impending Doom really showed me they’re more than just music. Now it’s off to go listen to the rest of their discography! I’ve been remiss in not listening to them sooner …