IMPERATOR - The Time Before Time (NAMELESS - LP 1991)
This is by far one of the most classic and cult death metal albums from Poland. And I don’t really mean the fact that “The Time Before Time” was so close to be released by Deathlike Silence… Sure, it is also an important fact and something Imperator can be proud of, but at the same time it’s secondary, more so because it never happened. More significant is the fact that it is one of the first Polish death metal records, also one of the most characteristic and original works that have ever been created in this land. Being formed behind the so called Iron Curtain and struggling with all difficulties, which bands / metallers in Poland had to fight with in the 80’s, Imperator managed to create something individual and unique. Obviously “The Time Before Time” has this kind of specific early Polish death metal charisma, something what such bands as Dragon, very early Vader, Betrayer or Merciless Death shared. But at the same time it is way different to all these other bands.
“The Time Before Time” is a difficult album. Firstly, because there is this rough and obscure production, which I think is the weakest side of the whole album… I suppose that these songs would have a bigger influence and effect if they sounded more brutal and powerful. Not that the production is bad; it is fine, but it’s just lacking something, maybe if the guitars had sharper, more crushing sound…? All in all I can say that if someone says that the album didn’t age well, then it is its sound to be blamed for it. Production aside, but songs on “The Time Before Time” do not make the listening easier as well, as they’re chaotic, with more complex structures than your average simple and straight forward death metal band from the old days. The riffing is quite specific, so it may take several listens, before you’ll discover the essence of Imperator. And that also includes the characteristic vocals of Bariel and the arrangements of the vocal parts.
Yeah, definitely if you pick these sometimes weird riffs and all the stuff, which is going on here then you may realise that it is not an album, which will hit you in the face from the first listen and will let you get through it easily. It will spill you some blood first! It is not catchy or memorable, but it is chaotic, obscure as hell and furious. The whole music invokes a strong evil and morbid feeling, reminiscent of the very early works of such Morbid Angel, Order From Chaos and Necrovore, maybe even a little bit of the prehistoric era of Possessed and Slayer, but at the same time it is different, just because Imperator definitely had their own style. There are many technical, thrashing parts on the album with crazy, sick guitar solos, but just like the debut LPs of such Possessed and Slayer, it sounds way darker and more evil than the usual thrash metal album. And more so, “The Time Before Time” is often incredibly fast, has many tempo changes, variations or something else what makes it sound quite special… but also sloppy in too many moments. It never gets close to being memorable and catchy, it always is very obscure, harsh and chaotic, but that I suppose will be an advantage for many maniacs.
But “The Time Before Time” is not just the music. The lyrics – based on Necronomicon, Sumerian myths, etc. - also give it a special feeling… of something evil, indescribable, terrifying, mysterious… Taking all these ingredients together, I must say that I do like “The Time Before Time” and have a strong respect for Imperator for being there at the time and for recording such a morbid piece of death metal in so early days. But at the same time I do admit that “The Time Before Time” is not a perfect record and there are some moments, when it is just too messy or simply not quite as good. Sure, such songs as “Eternal Might” – with this brilliant opening theme, “Abhorrence” and “Necronomicon” are great; but on the other hand such “External Extinction” is kind of mediocre (at least some of its fragments). As I mentioned before, this is not an easy album, it is not as memorable and effective as say “Abominations of Desolation” or “The Ultimate Incantation”. You may feel thrown away by some of these sick riffs and solos or Bariel’s yells. Despite that, it is a classic LP and surely it must be in everyone’s collection!
Standout tracks: “Eternal Might”, “Abhorrence”, “Necronomicon”
Final rate: 75/100