Current 93 - IMPERIUM
Imperium is the seminal work of David Tibet.
some history behind the album before we go on. allegedly, Tibet wrote this album upon what he believed would be his deathbed. according to various sources (that, at one point, were fairly easy to come by), Tibet was suffering both physically and mentally before this album was recorded. he had convulsions, high fevers, and i've even heard that he suffered from hallucinations during this time of illness. it is no surprise that this is the album he would write when death was so close by (in the same way that Rozz Williams' PIG was a perfect suicide note).
Imperium is a lament on the constant looming shadow of death that follows us all from birth to the grave. Current 93 have always been known for making miserable music, but after C93 began to make neofolk the misery was at least tinged with a drop of hope here and there. here is where Imperium differs greatly. there is not a shred of hope to be found on this album.
the album begins with the Imperium tracks (I, II, III, and IV). "Imperium I" begins with Tibet whispering the beginning of Psalm 23. the backing music is made up of contorted moaning, accompanied by a beautiful flute and guitar combo, giving the track an ancient feel, as if it had been plucked from ancient Jerusalem.
there is a seamless transition from "Imperium I" to "Imperium II" (the distorted moaning becomes more feminine [mind you, these aren't sexual moans, but religious]), and Tibet whispers: "how can there be pleasure, how can there be joy" in a flat voice, before singing, "as the whole world is burning". the sudden change from dry, barren, religious whispering to beautiful mourning is quite spectacular. however, the lamentations of death's grip upon life continues. it is bleak, but it is honest. this time around, Tibet is accompanied by a beautifully strumming harp, as well as what i believe is some sort of wind instrument.
the next two Imperium tracks are less beautiful, but equally as important for the album. "Imperium III" is accompanied by more of the satanic mumbling and grumbling from the previous two tracks, as well as a muffled, strangled orchestral sample. tibet hisses, "ten millions years, ten millions tears, i curse all gold and silver" and then references a previous masterpiece "Fields of Rape". we are cut down in fields of rape.
the final Imperium track is a sarcastic, mocking summary of Christ's martyrdom in Golgotha. it has a childlike sound to it, and he simplifies the crucifixion as if one was telling it to a child. "Judas, he betrayed the Christ, and sold him to the Jews . . . and the Jews, they crucified the Christ, and nailed him to a tree."
the second half (as the original vinyl was split into the title tracks, and then the last four), or "Be Locust Or Alone" does not indeed begin with "Be" on the edition that i share with you here (this edition, i believe, is from 2001), but instead begins with "Time Stands Still". "Time Stands Still" is a spectacular song. perhaps one of the best on the album. an uncredited man is sampled quoting from Peter Weiss' play The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (or simply "Marat/Sade"). over this, Tibet changes courses lyrically. now he discusses the inescapable condition of crippling old age (which he could relate to in his sickly state). however, he is not mournful about vitality lost so soon. instead, he mocks: "the tender grass is easily broke, yet who shall shake the sturdy oak? you are more fresh and fair than i, yet stubs do live when flowers die!"
finally, the traditional "Be Locust Or Alone" begins.
"Be" is often viewed as being comical or sarcastic by other reviewers due to the inclusion of the sampling of a child's (what i assume is a doll with a string) that obnoxiously repeats "na na na na!" this sample supplies the rhythm for the track. and while this may be humorous, the lyrics are as dark as ever ("this is where my life has lead me, this is where i choose to stay, this is where i fall apart").
up next is "Locust", the (in my opinion) highlight of this album. "Locust" is a rarity among C93 songs in that it has a strong beat. there is a very tribal feel to it. tibet sings almost joyfully at first, singing "la la la". the track slowly builds sonically (and the theme changes from an a passionate nostalgia for the pleasures of youth [so i assume] to a delirious and literal suicide plot).
the next track, "Or", does much the same thing; a slow build up an explosive finale. at first Tibet rants prophetically above a sample of a german man singing (about the might of the German race, judging from the sound of it). finally, when the song is halfway done and as the prophetic rant has turned for the worst, a post-punk guitar breaks in, and Tibet finally begins to shout: "TAKE ME TO MY DEAD CHRIST, CARY ME FROM SHORE TO SHORE!" the ending is lead by a militaristic drum beat, and it is chaotic, violent, and beautiful.
the final track, "Alone" is another favorite of mine from this album. another post-punk track, Tibet is most gloomy on this track. this most beautiful lyric on this entire album is spoken on this track: "it would have been better not to be the mother. it is sorrowful when a son goes away, let alone when he dies. i watched quietly as the grave was being dug, knowing that he won't come back, and i shall not be here for much longer." the bass of the guitar really picks up at this point, and Tibet finally seems to give all to death. at the end of the track, as Tibet is speaking of images of hell, his voice begins to echo, as if he is finally fading away.
a strange thing about this album is that no credits were included on any edition (i have a physical copy of the 1992 edition, and it only gives credit to Tibet). this leads me to believe that Tibet himself played the instruments (which is not a common practice for him).
1. Imperium I (6:07)
2. Imperium II (5:46)
3. Imperium III (7:01)
4. Imperium IV (3:15)
5. Time Stands Still (2:57)
6. Be (0:53)
7. Locust (9:47)
8. Or (9:21)
9. Alone (7:35)