"The Lord is my shepherd, i shall not want, he leadeth me into green pastures...
Such is the opening line whispered by David Tibet at the very beginning of the Current 93 release Imperium
. An enigmatic frontman if their ever was one, as the only consistent member and main creative force behind the act Tibet (real name David Michael Bunting) has always been in something of a thematically odd position. A practicing Christian, Tibet is interested in studying all manner of esoteric spiritual beliefs such as Germanic Paganism and the lore or the Church of Satan alongside controversial figures from the worlds of industrial and neo-folk music such as Douglas P. (Death In June), Genesis P-orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV) and Boyd Rice. Bringing these influences to his lyrical themes, Current 93 started off as an exercise in lengthy, self-indulgent ambient with just a hint of industrial and folk influences on cassette releases such as Mi-Mort
(both were packaged together on the LP comp Nature Unveiled
in 1984) with Dogs Blood Rising
released the same year.
This period was a string of hit or miss experimentation, which lasted from roughly 1983 to 1987. Dawn
was the last Current 93 pure ambient release (and potentially the worst) but if it made one thing clear it was that the band couldn't continue like this for long and was threatening to break into something new. The folk influence was becoming evidently stronger, whilst Tibets vocal bleatings about Jesus demonstrated an as of yet unheard of manic energy that showed a lot of potential to be developed into something much more haunting. 1987's Imperium
is a transitional point for Current 93, along with 1988's Christ and the Pale Queens Mighty in Sorrow
the album saw a much focused effort on songwriting, helping to define the work of the new circle of British post-industrial "Apocalyptic Folk" musicians at the time (so called because of a common shared belief in the end of the world more then a shared tonal characteristic) which later developed into the scene known today as neo-folk.
The original LP pressing of Imperium
was divided into two sides. Side A features the albums centerpiece, Imperium I-IV
. Side B has four separate tracks Be
. Two separate tracks were featured on the CD release, Time Stands Still
. Imperium I-IV
is completely haunting, inspired by themes of death in the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and Francis Parker Yockey's 1948 critique of materialism and rationalism Imperium: The Philosophy of History and Politics
from which it takes it's title. Tibet speaks frankly of mans earthly dissatisfaction, obsession with material objects and ultimately the fear of death within us all through language that is wonderfully poetic, painting vivid imagery. The music is a slow burning affair, Imperium I-III
building up from some simple, but lush sounding instrumentation that retains some of the ambient feel of C93's earlier work but with more of a focus on comfortably housing lyrical content. There is a flashy, golden feel to the timbral quality which gives it something of an ancient European mystique, giving a sense of majesty to the dark, low pitch gurgling sounds and melancholic piano sections that characterise the rest of it. Imperium IV
is the perfect conclusion to this, as a simple, but utterly beautiful rhythmic section based around guitar and piano plays whilst Tibet sings about the life of Jesus.
conclude the rest of the album, and are equally solid. Be
is a simple little folk piece unlike Imperium IV
(or anything else C93 had recorded up until that point), that stands out from anything they've released since by the inclusion of what seems to the pressing of a "push the button" childs toy at the end of each bar (making the noise "Ni-Ni-Ni-Na"). It's a really unusual sound, potentially annoying but makes for an otherwise interesting idea. Locust
are a lot more post-punk then anything, based around simple, repetitive basslines and jangly guitars speaking more of Tibet's spiritual concerns. Or
is similar but more of a return to the ambient, featuring some of Tibets most convincing lyrical snippets on the album ("When I was a child in the belly of my mother!
") and rounds off Imperium
nicely. Though it wasn't an official inclusion to begin with the gorgeous, repetitive folk instrumental Time Stands Still
adds a lot to affairs. Try to seek the edition that has it.
Even though its a transitional album for the group Imperium
is a wonderful release in its own right, and whilst Current 93 have been been pumping out consistently brilliant LP's ever since it still holds it head high as an impressive work. The songwriting aspect is much more focused then anything that came before, a trend that would be further developed on Christ and the Pale Queens Mighty in Sorrow
with Tibet's lyrical content starting to find its true strength and place as the heart of the music using a blend of several different religious and philosophical influences with touch of poetic mysticism that continues to this day.