Imperial Triumphant

(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Abyssal Gods (2015), 6/10
Vile Luxury (2018), 7/10
Alphaville (2020), 6.5/10
Spirit of Ecstasy (2022), 7/10

Imperial Triumphant, the project of New York's vocalist and guitarist Zachary Ezrin, perfected a dissonant form of death-metal of the kind practiced by Deathspell Omega and Gorguts on the EP Obeisance (2010), on debut album Abominamentvm (2012) and on the two-song EP Goliath (2013).

Abyssal Gods (2015), which began a collaboration with producer Colin Marston (Krallice 's guitarist) and benefited from the contribution of Pyrrhon's drummer Alex Cohen, consists of unstable structures that sometimes limp anemically and sometimes twitch frantically. The likes of From Palaces Of The Hive, Abyssal Gods and especially Dead Heaven owe a debt to the angular noise-rock of Jesus Lizard and to the shrieking hardcore of the Laughing Hyenas with a touch of Morbid Angel in the slow section. Twins fuses black metal and the convoluted funk-punk of the new wave; and the six-minute Black Psychedelia even incorporates magniloquent stoner-rock and a Deep Purple-esque guitar solo and a coda of ghostly noise. A second drummer, Kenny Grohowski, and two vocalists inject further alienation and angst into the eight minutes of Krokodil: introduced by sinister droning vocals, it feeds on the collision of wandering suffering voices and thundering atonal instruments. The arrangements display a good degree of insanity, from the interludes of classical music to the two seconds of ragtime-style ukulele in Opposing Holiness and to the jazz piano and demented strings of closer Metropolis. Heavy metal incorporated piano, cello, trumpet and choir.

The album was followed by the EP Inceste (2016), with the band stabilizing as the trio of Ezrin, bassist Steve Blanco and drummer Kenny Grohowski.

Vile Luxury (2018) made news because it also embraced jazz, but jazz is only a "citation" at the bottom of the page. Soulful horns open Swarming Opulence but the core of the song is a confused mayhem of atonal guitars and growls. The horn section returns for the final apotheosis. The eight-minute Gotham Luxe emanates the sense of a horror story, but at times it feels self-mocking, and ends with a piano solo. Another eight-minute piece, Cosmopolis, begins in a foggy atmosphere, then erupts evil guitar sounds and evil growls briefly interrupted by a jazzy bass and piano duet. The nine-minute The Filth features Ohara impersonating both an opera singer and a madwoman before the second half turns into a breathless instrumental jam. The birthpangs of Lower World are more interesting, disjointed sounds that lurch blindfolded in all directions towards their self-destructing coda. Another peak of noir atmosphere is reached in Luxury In Death, which is another challenging instrumental score pierced by manic screaming. The eight-minute Chernobyl Blues opens with suspenseful drones and a sinister distortion before being reduced to a slow raspy bluesy recitation. Suddenly the blastbeats explode and Yoshiko Ohara's shrieks join them for an incandescent finale. Overall, the album's aesthetics is ugliness for the sake of ugliness. Where it works, the music creates unbearable tension and even panic.

Alphaville (2020), produced by Mr Bungle's guitarist Trey Spruance and Marston, continues in that visceral and chaotic direction but limiting the insanity. Past the cosmic suspense of the beginning, Rotted Futures is the template for their fusion of magniloquence and hysteria. Perhaps the most interesting and interdisciplinary song is Transmission to Mercury, that opens with a piano solo and a trombone solo and includes horns in the mid-section while unleashing the usual torrent of noise and shrieks of Diamanda Galas intensity. City Swine is a noir recitation with a drumming solo and piano disrupting the limping syncopated routine. The wildest ride takes place during the nine-minute Atomic Age, that opens with a vintage recording of a barbershop quartet and then emanates bad vibrations, but stops for a Middle-eastern invocation, surges again, then implodes again static noise, then explodes again, and ends with military drumming. Inevitably, the music begins to echo the old prog-rock of the 1970s, and that's very much the case of Alphaville, which could be a lost Art Bears suite. The songs are led by a growl that makes Captain Beefheart sound like a baritone of classical music. There seems to be no limit to the amount of atonal guitars and unhinged drumming. The only problem is that the avalanche of bad vibrations is not always warranted, specifically because that voice is not the best to make the case for it.

Spirit of Ecstasy (Century Media, 2022) is an album of a labyrinthine and suffocating density. Chump Change opens with tom-tom, includes a lightning-speed guitar solo, and is so jagged that it doesn't even feel like a cohesive song. Metrovertigo is so chaotic and, still, surprisingly melodic, with a finale that sounds like a demonic prayer. Tower of Glory City of Shame opens with orchestral bombast, followed by a circular guitar riff, then a grandiose choral aria, an atmospheric guitar melody, a noise collage, and a growling death-metal finale. Merkurius Gilded opens with strings and choir over blastbeats and then at the peak of the swirling madness Kenny G's saxophone erupts, which is when the song seems to end but in fact it's about to restart for a few last spasms. The radio samples and the orchestral effects of Death on a Highway can be said to duet with the suspense created by drums and guitar, all the way to the dizzy ending. The instrumental In the Pleasure of Their Company lurches head-on into an orgy of free-jazz with horns and all the bells and whistles of a free-jazz jam. Bezumnaya begins with a sort of Arabic invocation and/or convent prayer and another radio sample, all wiped out by thundering collective mayhem, and ends in a miasma of industrial and orchestral sounds. The album closes with the metal charge of Maximalist Scream, whipped by the demonic screams of Voivod's Denis "Snake" Belanger. It is a breathtaking experience, the culmination of Zachary Ezrin's research program. It helps that Kenny Grohowski has become a force of nature.

(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )