In due time, it's almost a guarantee that every sub-genre of metal will end up blended with every other. Bands like to break new ground, to establish legacies, and being able to claim an entire sub-genre as your progeny is an effective way of doing so. As the combinations are used up, it leaves some interesting amalgamations unexplored. What might at first thought sound like an undesirable experiment, could actually turn out to be a pleasant look into the future.
Devilish Impressions isn't breaking new ground on “Simulacra”, but they are tackling one of the less explored paths, a mix of blackened death metal and orchestral flourishes that never fails to be interesting, whether it works or not. The ground covered by “Simulacra” is not radically divorced from the sound pioneered by Hollenthon, whose film score meets death metal approach has yielded some of the most unique metal of recent years. “Simulacra” is forged from this ore, an intriguing blend of unexpected instruments giving color and texture to what otherwise would be pedestrian death metal. The strings on opener “Icaros” are ominous, intriguing, and distract just enough to make the clean vocals seem to come from nowhere. It's effective songwriting, and a promising start to the album.
“Legion Of Chaos” isn't quite as effective, keeping the orchestral bits further back in the composition, relying more on the death metal side of the equation. The song doesn't fall on its face, but it is quickly apparent what the real draw of the album is going to be. Quazzare's raspy vocals aren't engaging on their own to make the riffs into towering achievements, requiring the extra drama to reach the brass ring. “Lilith” proves the case, with the opening clean vocals over the bed of strings a plaintive sound that evokes true emotion that can't be matched when the more metallic moments take over, although they are placed strategically to keep the song cohesive.
“Fear No Gods!” comes closer to going over the top with the orchestration, a move that should drag the song down, but instead proves a maxim; going too far is usually better than not going far enough. A more fully metallic song, Quazzare sounds more confident of his vocal, and the song benefits from the more nuances blend of sounds. The song is where everything comes together, and is the best example of what treats can be formed in the melting pot.
The rest of the album follows suit, mixing and matching sounds to various degrees. Some work better than others, but all of them provide enough bits and pieces of interest to be worthwhile. While the album doesn't carry the heft of the symphonies it's been inspired by, it does come across as a weightier piece of music than a standard death metal album. The orchestrations give the music depth and personality, so instead of being a pounding wave of noise, it never loses its sense of musicality.
Black and death metal fans may be disappointed by the band's refusal to play by the rules, but the spirit of creative freedom makes “Simulacra” a more enjoyable experience. Instead of being just another death metal album lost in a pile of similar music, it is an honest effort that stands on its own. Does it always work? No, it doesn't, but unlike so many other bands, at least Devilish Impressions has something to say.