For Fans Of
Imprisoned are back, baby, and they’ve never sounded better. With their crispiest, “fullest” production to date backing up the rear, in big thanks to the work of Elliot Gallart, and one of Australia’s most talented voices in heavy music leading the charge, Jamie Hope (ex-Red Shore and I Killed The Prom Queen), Imprisoned haven’t sounded as fierce as they do on ‘Nerve.’ ‘Nerve‘ channels aggression towards those who have wronged us, existential crises, addiction, mental illness, medication and the frustration of not being heard. Real subject matter propped up by the meanest and grooviest songs the Aussie band have ever concocted. Something that the temporal, misanthropic grooviness and riffage of ‘The Unstoppable Marching Of Time‘ made evidently clear upon release.
While still metallic-hardcore, the Melbourne group are less abrasive than past work, straying more into groove and death metal, as well metalcore, if we wish to get technical. All sub-genre platitudes aside, however, Imprisoned exercise some serious riff output here, playing at their most gripping. Opener ‘Devil On My Shoulder,’ a metaphor for someone taking everything and giving nothing back, and the most “metal” sounding song of the LP – death metal-leanings and evil tritones – announces this stronger emphasis on groove immediately, maintaining that until the last hulking, slow-moving breakdown. Should be a crime how hard this shit goes.
Not to diss their previous vocalist, as he did a fine job for the kind of hardcore Imprisoned were vying for in the past, but Jamie is in a whole other league. Outside of the sole interlude where there are no vocals, the other nine tracks embody why his voice was so well-loved when he first stepped up in The Red Shore all those years ago; why he was such an obvious choice to front IKTPQ following Ed Butcher and Michael Crafter. From the heavy double-tracked deathcore parts, the fucking nasty “eeeeeuuuugh’s” he rips out, to the intimidating tone and overwhelming presence he commands, he is the ace up Imprisoned’s sleeve. Time hasn’t withered his talents. A huge range and wickedly clean enunciation have him bringing so much to these songs and the band’s sound that there’s really only two ways you can look at this group moving forward: before Jamie and after Jamie.
‘Bite My Tongue‘ stomps and broods, dishing out some sharp harmonics and pointed lyricism about saying your piece and not staying silent. The murky intro riff to ‘Blood Charka‘ marks a rare respite on ‘Nerve‘, offering a break from the onslaught with repeating tom fills and wailing amp feedback. Yet the song remains one of the bleakest tracks due to what it’s trying to say. A sample (from which I don’t know where) plays throughout, of an older man discussing the grim slices of life he’s witnessed in society and in people; a commentary on the quiet-killer that is depression, the human condition, and how there’s not even any equality in our death. It’s a rather shocking sound bite, but that’s the point: to tackle the real human cost of these issues, acting as a mid-album interlude piece to connect both sides of the LP.
Some say we shouldn’t speak ill of the dead or wish people ill in what might come after death. Imprisoned do not subscribe to that. “I hope there’s nothing but pain in your hereafter” Jamie snarls on the most vicious cut, ‘Scorned,’ doubling as one of the sickest moments off ‘Nerve‘ from a sheer songwriting standpoint. That neck-snapping ride section halfway through, the imposing wall of riffs, the thrashy choked intro, the tempo changes and the shaking breakdowns; ‘Scorned‘ is in close competition with ‘The Unstoppable Marching Of Time‘ and the closer for the MVP track.
‘Dead From The Neck Up‘ – about lazy, callous, spineless individuals that sicken Imprisoned – is business as usual for the band’s newfound aggression on this album. Outside of those dope bending riffs in the outro, there’s honestly not too much going on there that grabbed me. ‘Smoke Signals‘ starts out with a hardcore punk double-time section before transitioning into a dope little bounce passage before getting its moshing two-step on. And then it abruptly ends, resulting in some of the biggest musical blue balls I’ve felt in 2021. I can’t help but feel that it needed something else to end on in order to be great. Having short numbers like this on a hardcore album is commonplace, and sometimes it works well, but ‘Smoke Signals‘ really could’ve benefited from being further developed.
The mental tremolo guitars in ‘Pharmaceutical Blues‘ reaffirm my interest and enjoyment of ‘Nerve,’ and the surprising singing lines that cut through the chest-beating rhythms, vocals that lend a ’90s rock mentality, were an excellent touch. The sung vocals add a new dynamic to their beefy sound, lifting this penultimate track up. Hopefully ‘Pharmaceutical Blues‘ isn’t the last time we’ll see Imprisoned implement such a tactic. Then to end ‘Nerve,’ Imprisoned saved one of the best for last. ‘My Name Is Not Dr. Death‘ – a reference to an old Bart Simpson blackboard gag – finishes the album strongly with violence, speed, oppressive sounds, skin-crawling feedback, and disdain for the elites that control the direction of our world. Lifted up by the inclusion of the infinitely popular final speech in Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, a sound bite used by everyone from The Chariot, Kingdom Of Giants, and Stick To Your Guns, the closing moment of ‘Nerve‘ barrels into some slow, steady head-banging action.
‘Nerve’ marks a mighty shift for Imprisoned, a new era coming into play. This LP is not even remotely unique or game-changing for this kind of beatdown-heavy, punishing, and old-school crossover of hardcore and metal. Yet it’s a big new deal for Imprisoned as an individual band. That’s what makes all the difference. You don’t need to reinvent a genre’s wheel, you just need to grow and develop for your own self. In that sense, Imprisoned have just made a huge level up through the ten songs of ‘Nerve.’ (Well, the eight songs that I liked front to back, but you get my meaning.) The crystal-clear mix, deeply menacing riffs, pavement-cracking breakdowns and Jamie Hope’s incredible fire-breathing vocals mesh together to create one of the better Australian heavy releases of 2021. The future of Imprisoned has never looked, or sounded, brighter.
Devil On My Shoulder
The Unstoppable Marching Of Time
Bite My Tongue
Dead From The Neck Up
My Name Is Not Dr. Death