IMPERIUM DEKADENZ – “The Darkness Is Inspiring”
February 28, 2023, a year ago
German black metal masters Pascal "Vespasian" Vannier and Christian "Horaz" Jakob, known collectively as Imperium Dekadenz, rose from the depths of the Black Forest in 2004 and have released music consistently since 2006. Until they signed with Napalm Records for their 2019 album, When We Are Forgotten, they enjoyed a small and loyal cult following, but with the release of Into Sorrow Evermore the spotlight has become brighter, attracting some well-deserved attention. There are those that are quick to dismiss Imperium Dekadenz as nothing more vacuum cleaner-inspired noise, of course, but as is often the case when digging into the whys and wherefores of any metal musician's journey, this admittedly wholesome conversation with Vespasian and Horaz reveals there is so much more to black metal than what the naysayers would like you to believe.
Horaz: "Imperium Dekadenz started with friendship; beer and partying, cheap equipment and a rehearsal room. It was something fun to do, and the dream was to record a black metal album together. I had a black metal project before Imperium Dekadenz, he had a solo project, and we were the only guys in our region listening to black metal at that time. It was clear from the beginning that we fit together and could make something special happen. And it did."
Vespasian: "It's worth discussing the lyrics we write because the main focus of the band is our friendship. If you build a house, you need a solid foundation; that's where everything starts. Both of us have very strong characters, we both have very strong opinions, but we've been doing this together since 2004. It has worked out well because when you're discussing song ideas, the first thing you need is respect. If I tell Horaz that one of his ideas doesn't fit with what I have in mind, it has to be done with respect. Otherwise, we would kill each other (laughs). We are different in many ways, but fortunately we have the same goal so things have worked out very, very well. We've been together for 18 years, we're passionate about what we do, and business comes last. The main goal is to express ourselves and have a good time doing it."
BraveWords: We all seem to have similar beginnings when it comes to discovering and exploring metal. Word has it that Darkthrone played a big part in pushing Imperium Dekadenz onto the path the two of you ultimately chose to follow...
Horaz: "I grew up as a metal fan listening to Metallica, Iron Maiden, Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, and a friend asked me to come with him to a club for a black metal evening. I heard 'Quintessence' from Darkthrone and it blew me away completely. That was the first time I listened to that kind of music; it was dark, raw, hypnotic... it was completely mindblowing. I became addicted to listening to black metal. Darkthrone is a very important band for me, especially Path and Transylvanian Hunger. Burzum and the old Shining stuff also played a big part in pushing me in this direction."
Vespasian: "I have almost the same story. At the beginning of the '90s I was very into thrash and goth metal, and there was a local record store that had the early Darkthrone CDs. And like Horaz, it blew me away. It was clear that music came from the heart, and that's what I wanted to create for myself. Even now, my influences are still in the past, like with the outro of 'Memories... A Raging River' on the new album. It was clear to me that one day I wanted to end an album like Death did with 'Perennial Quest', with some great acoustic and delayed guitars (laughs)."
BraveWords: When you were writing Into Sorrow Evermore, did you look back on When We Are Forgotten as a measure of what you did and did not want to do this time out? Are you influenced a great deal by your own past?
Horaz: "We're always looking back, and we're looking forward. It's important not to repeat yourself, that's for sure. The idea with the new album was to be more melancholic and to build up all the different moods we already had on the previous album. We wanted everything to be a bit more extreme, and the sound had to be heavier and rougher than the albums before. On When We Are Forgotten, the guitars were cool, but we wanted them to be more present, if you know what I mean. Now they sound like a mixture of the When We Are Forgotten and Dis Manibvs albums."
"An important point is that we wrote over 20 songs this time (laughs), which was incredible, but we had a lot of time because of the pandemic. I think at the end we had 22 songs, or at least solid ideas for songs, so it was something of a battle to decide which ones to use for the new album."
Vespasian: "The main goal for us on the new album was to surprise ourselves. We discussed what it was that we wanted to hear from us."
BraveWords: Was there a concept in mind that helped you narrow down which songs to use?
Vespasian: "We're fortunate to have our own home studios, so we were able to do the pre-production for the songs by ourselves. The normal routine is that if Horaz has a song in mind, he writes and produces it himself, and then sends me the whole song: drums, bass, guitars, vocals, sometimes there are lyrical fragments. He's usually drinking whiskey Coke while he waits for my reaction (laughs). I listen to it a few times, and then most of the time I transfer it to my Favourites folder. But we're always sending complete songs to each other, and that's how the discussions start. Horaz sent me a proposal for an eight song tracklist, and the songs he chose fit together perfectly. From there we worked on the details of those eight songs, changed a few things around, and in the exchange of those song ideas the concept for the album started to grow. That's where the magic comes from, so we were concentrated on making those eight songs as perfect as possible."
BraveWords: Into Sorrow Evermore feels like a movie soundtrack. The middle of the album isn't as heavy as the beginning and the end of the record. It sounds like you're telling a story even without the lyrics.
Horaz: "That was the absolute plan for us on this album, just like it has been for all of our albums. We wanted to create a journey for the listener. Every track on the album brings you to a new world, a new emotion, and we always try to have a very smooth handover from one mood to the next as you go from song to song."
Vespasian: "I saw a Japanese classic orchestra here in Munich a while ago, and when they were playing, I immediately recognized how similar a lot of it was to what we are doing. The chord progressions, that classical approach so to say, that creates a complete picture, as you said. This time we chose a very harsh and fast start, but then a track like 'Aurora' gives you a chance to take a breath, and then there's more aggression later on."
BraveWords: Are the lyrics on Into Sorrow Evermore focused on an actual story, or are they more of a loose concept overall?
Horaz: "We had a lot of songs, and some of them had a lyrical direction almost from the beginning, so the album does have a concept but I would say it's a general topic that we've had for the last couple albums. There's a focus on dark romantic nature, but there is also self-reflection and personal stuff in there as well. It's always hard to describe, but a good example is the second song, 'Truth Under Stars'. It's a metaphor for saying that only at night do we see the truth. When the sun is shining you only see blue sky, but at night we can look up into the universe and see what is really behind that blue wall. The idea is that people who prefer the night, they feel more free and experience the dark side of their soul. Some people like to have that experience, other people are afraid of it, and my idea was to say it's better if you don't take the path that has been travelled so often. It's better to take that risk and experience the dark side."
BraveWords: That goes back to the idea that there is so much more to black metal than what a lot of people think.
Horaz: "Absolutely. The majority of people aren't open-minded or open-hearted enough to get into what we do and black metal in general."
Vespasian: "It's because those people are blind to emotion and desperately trying to hide their emotions. Pop music, for example.... I have nothing against pop music, but it's always about how the sun is shining, love is great, all that stuff, but everyone knows there is another side to life. I think in black metal and heavy metal in particular, we write and sing about all the sides of life; the light and the darkness. We are in the position as black metal musicians to work with the dark side of life, and really, the darkness is inspiring."