Friday, December 16, 2016

Impenitent Thief - EP 2014

Back in May, Decibel magazine noted that "Impenitent Thief are not for the casual metal listener." This struck me as a strange description, and somewhat exclusionary, for an EP which has been so perfectly presented. Author Dutch Pearce admitted that "Impenitent Thief’s demo doesn’t just wail on you, it leaves a mark. A black bruise indicative of a deep subcutaneous hemorrhaging." Perhaps I've been guilty of similar phrasing on releases but I now find myself considering what is the casual metal listener? Is 'casual metal listener' a real thing? Fans of metal don't fall into a group of casual listeners and formal listeners. People that listen to Metal listen to Metal. There is no significant portion of the fan base that listens to metal for a few years and then decides they don't like it anymore and there are few fans of popular genres that occasionally 'dip into the well', deciding they're going to listen to Benediction for a few hours then go back to their John Mayer or whatever - obviously there are these people but they are few and far between. Rather the listening patterns of Metal fans could be more accurately described as the stationary and the exploratory. Stationary listeners sit on the shore and watch the ocean lapping at their toes; maybe they dip their foot in now and then. Maybe. Exploratory listeners get in a boat and brave the coming unpleasantness for moments of beauty and possible riches; for the adventure. They discover the next untouched forest, the next undisturbed shores, and mountains yet to be scaled.

Impenitent Thief's 2014 EP is very much a release that will appeal to the exploratory listener, especially one who is a fan of the grey area which dwells and surges between Black Metal and Death Metal. Perhaps the greatest strength of this short sixteen minute assault is the immediacy of each track; "Lashing of Christ" is Incantation with Black Metal vocals, "Wax Corpse" is a saucy Nunslaughter imbued blast, and "Gestas" grinds and churns like Napalm Death with Beherit's experimentation drizzled over to glaze the whole track like the grossest doughnut you've ever eaten. In essence, a combination of these three elements is the EP. A bit death metal, a bit black metal, and some definite grind influences. Counter intuitively, there is still a great mix of rhythms and variety on the release. Keys figure in heavily in some tracks to lend suffocating atmosphere and uncomfortable melody while others rely on speed and velocity. Quick. Violent. Morbid. 

Impenitent Thief are not the "gargoyle at the gate" as Pearce describes but more like the ruins of El Dorado, beckoning and taunting the apprehensive across the sea to come and find it. Why would something so good not appeal to one segment of the fanbase? It's not because they are 'casual listeners' but because they are stationary - preferring to ignore the adventure of discovering new and delicious cultures. Sure, some people don't like Black and Death Metal but that doesn't relegate that group of people to the dog house of 'casual listeners'. Here's a much more eloquently stated description from explorer Ben, from blackmetalandbrews: "As somebody with a passion for music that tends to make me uncomfortable or ill at ease, I often seek out things that are either initially unappealing or off-putting with the hopes that they’ll grow on me over time. Sometimes this yields unhappiness at having listened to the same garbage recording five times, but sometimes I find myself allowing morbid fascination to blossom into a familiar unease."

The production is ripe and starting to turn rotten but this is one fruit that is best served at that period in it's life. The moistness of the recording causes Impenitent Thief's malevolence to ooze out of the speakers and stain the carpet beneath instead of simply be propelled at force into the air in a blasted mist. The tape format is the ideal format and No Visible Scars had the right idea to press it such. If it didn't have the year listed, and the information wasn't available online I would fault no one that guessed at a date range of the early 90's for this release. As good as this is, it will be discovered by most explorers but this is one release which I hope those stationary listeners would take a chance on, especially if they do like more extreme metal.

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