A band with the ability to give fans what they want will find longevity, but those who can give fans what they need will build a legacy. Germany’s Imperium Dekadenz is beginning to do just that, not through evolution or ingenuity, but by flipping to the other side of their own coin. As I stated when covering the band’s previous album, Procella Vadens, they performed a strangely unique trick of executing their album art with the music itself. It was a feeling of being on the edge, ready for your ultimate doom, when suddenly salvation finds you and pulls you back from your own self destruction. Meadows of Nostalgia, on the other hand, does not reflect its own art, but rather an alternate outcome to this previous tale. (For the record, I’d like to hear what “mountain hermit black metal” would sound like.) If the music of Procella Vadens ensured the seemingly doomed individual that they would find rescue and deliverance, that on Meadows of Nostalgia offers a clear image that the ending will come, and there is nothing in the universe that can stop it.
Granted, immediate impressions show this to be very similar album to the previous, as Imperium Dekadenz has an established sound that they execute deftly. Their mid-paced and melodic black metal still maintains a sort of doomy, less technical, and quite atmospheric mix of Dissection and Virus West-era Nagelfar, minus any of the neoclassical or waltzian tendencies of the former or the cutthroat aggression of the latter. There also remains an undercurrent of folky melodies and even the slightest touch of the blackened Viking metal sounds of Eld-era Enslaved. However, despite the overall vibe still being pure Imperium Dekadenz, a few distinct traits of Meadows of Nostalgia ensure that the undertones of malevolence find ways to occasionally cut through and even dominate the melancholy and atmosphere.
The most obvious of these traits is the album’s density, and what that density means for the flow. Where Procella Vadens employed a large percentage of soft folky material (and with beautiful results, I might add), Meadows is almost entirely black metal. Instead of emphasizing a few huge moments and utilizing the rest of the music to support these passages, each song is a journey unto itself. The lengthy “Aue der Nostalgie” contains as many planet-sized melodic shifts as a third of the previous album combined, and really shows off the band’s impeccable skills in turning a chord progression. Much of the rest maintains flow not as much by massive dynamic shifts, but instead by slight variations. Be it the heightened doom metal and haunting choral vocals in “Ave Danuvi,” or the almost rocking tempos to “Aura Silvae,” Imperium Dekadenz typically has a trick or two up their sleeves to ensure that these 56 minutes of largely homogenous metal stay very interesting throughout.
Density and variation are all well and good, but where Meadows of Nostalgia wins its gold – and makes the decision to push the victim over the edge instead of pulling them back – is through the final two tracks, particularly the penultimate “Striga.” Another lengthy epic, “Striga” is overrun with unforgettable melodies (the verse is just spiritual), addictive moments (Horaz screaming out the song’s title feels almost invasive), and an undeniable fervor that all combine to form an instant classic. “Tränen des Bacchus” then ends the album with equal vehemence, again showing off Horaz’ great pipes in the way he proclaims the God of Wine’s name. Plus, there’s just something to be said about a great black metal album that ends with its two best tunes.
Does all of this mean that Meadows of Nostalgia is a superior album to its most immediate predecessor? Well, yes and no, but mostly no. It is certainly more likely to appeal to your more typical black metal fan, but it isn’t so much better than Procella Vadens as it is just different. It’s a great example of a band knowing what they’re great at, and turning the dial of space-time about 15 degrees in order to find an ever-so-slight variation of themselves. The coin has been flipped, and the results are beautiful and entrancing, while absolutely exuding conviction.