I shall start with a bit of history. If you want to read directly about “Simulacra”, please go to paragraph 4 as they say on forms.

My first encounter with Devilish Impressions was on 13th June 2004. I met the band’s leader Quazarre who was running the merch stand at a poorly attended Serpentia concert at a now defunct venue on the Kentish Town Road (2 spectators for the support band in fact, about 20 odd headbangers appearing later on, the England v France football match attracting greater interest on this Sunday evening). I met him again the following Saturday at the London Deathfest, where he handed me a copy of the band’s 2002 demo “Eritis Sicut Deus; Verbum Diaboli Manet in Aeternum (Vox Verspetilio Act I – Moon Var Dies Irae)”. It was a life-changing moment. I discovered a new brand of avant-garde dark atmospheric metal. Quazarre left his e-mail address on the cd, and I was so inspired by it that I wrote my first review, in which I described the sensation the album gave me of feeling discomforting harsh winds whistling past me as I stood alone in a graveyard at night next to a gothic church. It’s a shame “Eritis Sicut Deus” was never released for the public to enjoy its shifting symphony of melancholic blackness.

Quazarre and I got to know each other and he asked me to be the band’s manager for a while. During this period the first label deal was struck, and the first tour took place. Two albums were released: “Plurima Mortis Imago” (2005) and “Diabolicanos: Act III – Armageddon” (2008). I was thrilled to be present at the band’s first live concert at the Hamburg Markthalle on 28th November 2006. What I saw before, during and after this period was the struggle that all musicians go through. Devilish Impressions epitomised this struggle as they battled to do what they wanted with no money and little outside support. I totally respect Quazarre. He is the consummate musician but most importantly he wanted to be working with fellow serious musicians. Amongst others he recruited ace drummer Icanraz of Abused Majesty and Hermh, and a bright young guitarist Armers. In stature and association, Quazarre stands with his counterparts and fellow Polish band legends Behemoth, Vesania and Christ Agony. He plays in Asgaard, a more cerebral but highly imaginative avant-garde metal band, but his roots are in more old school blackened death metal. He branched out to create music that he wanted as well as to escape the touring limitations of Asgaard. Devilish Impressions’s work has been compared to that of Limbionic Art and Emperor and other Polish metal artists but this is too simplistic as the music is more of a self-enclosed war with blackened atmospheres. I remember translating the biography into English and unveiling the creation of Chaos and Rebellion. I’m not involved with them now as we’ve all moved apart but I cannot claim to be entirely neutral. I still took great pride when overhearing a conversation a couple of years ago in the gents’ toilets at the Underworld in which two guys were praising Devilish Impressions. At the time “Simulacra” was being put together. Like the two guys, I was very excited about the prospect of it. It’s here now.

“Simulacra” starts in a typical frenzy of activity. Quazarre and his colleagues are on fire. There’s an imperious, militaristic quality about Devilish Impressions work. This is the Chaos and Rebellion army. Irresistible, razor-sharp guitars rage with blackened death, their constancy interrupted occasionally to rise and fall along the scale. Quazarre leads the troops ferociously, growling and mixing them with his haunting vocals which may not be to everyone’s liking but which add that extra atmospheric dimension. The symphony of whistling keys propagate further mystery into the air. The artful battery man Icanraz spreads bullets and reinforces the firepower. “Icaros”, the opening track could take you through walls, so insistent is it, yet it is melodic and lodges itself in the brain. If the synthesiser represents the sound of nastiness floating in the air, so Quazarre has the ability to be the harbinger of doom arising scarily from the swamp. His deeply spoken utterances should come with a rating and the warning: “not to be exposed to children”. Such a passage features in “Legion of Chaos”, another anthemic and battering ram of a track with a riff of great authority. The constantly deep bass and drum work leaves us in no doubt that we’re in dangerous territory. Synthesised sound waves run subtly through the core. The control is tight. It’s fast and hard. “Hail, the Legions of Chaos!” growls Quazarre. There’s subtlety from the guitarists and a strong orchestral feel, rising into imperial majesty but those punishing bass and drum sounds are always there hanging over us.

And then there is a complete change. “Lilith” is slow and builds up powerfully like an impending storm. Quazarre appeals to us and the skies. Emotion and pathos are not elements you associate with Devilish Impressions. Orchestral sounds mix with Satariel-like vocals and dominant drums. An acoustic guitar section invites in Quazarre’s swampy spoken words. His sinister voice would wake up the dead. It ends. The violence then resumes. It is decreed. As “Fear No Gods” kicks in, festering chaos descends upon us. The guitars here are more understated, there are great breaks and it’s all cemented together by Icanraz’s magical drum beats. We experience several changes of mood. The Devilish Chaos Machine relentlessly takes us higher through turbulent territory. The mood shifts again for “The Scream of the Lambs”, a track which was composed jointly by Quazarre and Starash, another loyal former band member and friend. It has a melo-military quality like the opener “”Icaros”. Keyboard-free this time it’s classically trusty metal, just like an old painting. Driving and once again turbulent, I could visualise the winds whistling past Quazarre’s ears as he takes us on another journey through the darkest side. In spite of the military quality, there is melancholy. Quazarre utters dark words. The guitars build up a head of steam. Deep and dark, “Spiritual Blackout” patiently punishes us. It may have the driving force of a jackhammer but there’s no hurry. It’s just evil. We hear the first scream – so far we’ve got away with it – and Icanraz pours his drum fuel onto the fire. “Vi Veri Universum Vivus Vici” is as if relentless war is being waged against chaos. It is reflected in the words. Guitars ring out, there’s a solo and we return to the preachings of Quazarre. Darkness will prevail. It’s like black metal sermon. The twist at the end bears the marks of pain and strangulation.

Tam-tat-tat-tat-tat …tat-tat-tat. The magnificence of “Icaros” and “The Scream of the Lambs” are combined to make “The Last Farewell”. Melody and military majesty combine. Fists are clenched, there is swirling horror and sadness as we climb towards a climactic end and unimaginable heights. This marks the end, except for an extended outro “Solitude”. This for me was the only weakness of this album. I accept that the distant guitars mark despair and create their own atmosphere but we are fresh from battle and I’m not that changing the mood in this way really worked. An explosion would have done. But my appreciation of this monstrous and multi-faceted metal struggle is undiminished.

In giving my verdict, I recognise that I may be accused of partiality but the fact is that since “Simulacra” dropped through my letter box a couple of weeks ago, I have been listening to it at every opportunity and enjoying it. In fact I’ve lived and breathed every moment of it. Since I first heard “Eritis Sicut Deus” I’ve liked Devilish Impressions. You can of course listen to tracks on myspace so you can of course make your own mind up. “Simulacra” is on many levels, but it’s not mind-blowingly complex either. It’s certainly not simplistic. For me it is a work of creative, fiery, layered, passionate and atmospheric metal … an outstanding musical representation of Chaos and Rebellion, no less.

(9/10 Andrew Doherty)