Review: “Alphaville” by Imperial Triumphant

“Welcome to the age of a bright future and unprecedented optimism. A time when man’s dreams are realized in the biggest way. The most dangerous time ever known with the most existential responsibility ever bestowed. A NEW age of the atomic dream and ten thousand years forward of computerized biology looking to the past for the same answers. That mid century Atomic Age; Long lasting to go that extra mile, now and forever…” “ALPHAVILLE – This new album is the pinnacle of our combined efforts as a band. It is the most refined version of our current state of creation. We are extremely grateful to Century Media for providing us with the resources needed to make such a luxurious piece. We are also thankful to Shannon Ward, Colin Marston, Trey Spruance, and all of our distinguished guests, without whom this record may not have been possible. Alphaville is our most proud achievement to date. Welcome to the dawn of the new Roaring 20s.

That’s a pair of quote from New York avant garde Black Metal trio Imperial Triumphant on their forth studio record “Alphaville“. Zachary Ilya Ezrin (vocals, guitars), Steve Blanco (bass, vocals, piano, mellotron, synths, taiko drums) and Kenny Grohowski (drums, taiko drums) recorded at Menegroth Studio in New York with engineer Colin Marston (Behold… The Arctopus, Dysrhythmia, Krallice and Gorguts) and Trey Spruance (Mr. Bungle) with an eyebrow raising guest list also joining them in the studio. Tomas Haake of Meshuggah added Taiko drums, Wormed vocalist Phlegeton makes an appearance, Yoshiko Ohara formerly of Bloody Panda added Choirs along with Sarai Chrzanowski and Andromeda Anarchia (Folterkammer, Dark Matters) while RK Halvorson adds of all things a Barbershop quartet, which just leaves the Trombone of J Walter Hawkes and some additional guitar parts from Colin Marston. So if the guests didn’t lift the hairs on the back of your neck, then what they’re actually credited with should certainly intrigue, as does the ingenious artist and illustrator Zbigniew M. Bielak…

…the follow up to 2018s “Vile Luxury” starts with the kind of off kilter and nauseating melody that The Dillinger Escape Plan were known for at their best in “Rotted Futures“. The odd time signatures and Black Metal roar of Zachary Ilya Ezrin are sinister soundtrack to a quirky horror film that makes you flinch thinking something is about to happen and then doesn’t. “Excelsior” brings with it some Jazz overtones, particularly in Grohowski’s drum fills, while the constantly shifting time signatures and tempos keep the listener on their toes throughout. This isn’t a record you can just throw on in the background while you do something else, if you drift in and out of it, it will sound like utter melodic bedlam. It’s only as you focus on it that you can begin to understand how it follows together in ill fitting symmetry. A track break for what sounds like a public service announcement at a train station then leads into a final blood curdling breakdown section that is really something else. If you can imagine an ambient Jazz track that sounds improvised with Death Metal vocals then you can imagine “City Swine” in a nutshell. It’s swirling dark moods are a burning black acid nausea that builds into some more chaotic hardcore punk toned riffage before a taiko drum almost tribal sonic break then brings in some skull crushing riffs and and eclectic piano moment that sounds like it could belong on something from Dog Fashion Disco. The underbelly of Black Metal here is the one thing that holds everything together, but there is so much more to Imperial Triumphant, as they are free from any recognizable structure on this album.

The radio sample that ends “I’ll love you until the end of the World…” brings in “Atomic Age” with a menacing note before creating another truly unique track of thunderous moments that play light and shade off against violence and harmony. Reversed audio samples bring blood curdling screams before bursting into the kind of melody that would make for a wet dream for Greg Puciato. A final slow crushing breakdown section with a group vocal chant that is the last couple of minutes could almost be the entire track if it was in isolation for an unsuspecting listener. Moving from the Military drums of the closing of “Atomic Age” to the soft Jazz piano of “Transmission To Mercury” we’re treated to the Trombone of J Walter Hawkes for a 110 second introduction of soaring beauty before the blast beats come down like artillery shells with Zachary Ilya Ezrin’s vocals that are so caustic that they burn the flesh from the bone at 20 paces – and yet – there is a Trombone solo over the top of the Arkham Asylum soundscape. You can just picture the villains breaking out of their prison cells to this soundtrack, with flashing lights and roaring sirens as they kill the guards and climb the fences. It combines that sort of eclectic sense of the strange with a violence lurking underneath, ready to leap out at an unsuspecting moment. That sense of unease continues into “Alphaville“, which lurches between riffs that are pinned together by Black Metal kit work that defies all the odds in it’s brilliance. A track that could almost be two halves, with a mid track warped vinyl sounding segment that sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack to a Science Fiction B-Movie that then takes us off into some off kilter riffs that push the listener all the way. The album isn’t a punishing listen, but it’s eclectic enough to that you will wonder what you’re listening to during the first few spins.

The perfect partner to the album title track, “The Greater Good” occupies some of the same territory as a continuation of some of the same narrative while also being arguably the heaviest track on the album. before it picks up that warped, almost hallucinogenic 1920’s instrumental to close the original material on a soaring high. The album closes with a pair of covers that take the originals and stamp the footprint of Imperial Triumphant on them. “Experiment” by Voivod sees Zachary Ilya Ezrin’s vocals almost reach Slam territory, they’re so inaudible in places, while the music sounds like a hybrid bastard of Revocation and Primus with some monstrous moments from the Black Metal heart of the band. Similarly “Happy Home” originally by The Residents goes left field with quirky hammer horror sense of fun, like The Simpson’s played The Adams Family theme music on a gramophone. Imperial Triumphant won’t care but some people will love this while others simply will not understand it’s brilliance [7/10]

Track listing

  1. Rotted Futures
  2. Excelsior
  3. City Swine
  4. Atomic Age
  5. Transmission To Mercury
  6. Alphaville
  7. The Greater Good
  8. Experiment (Voivod Cover)
  9. Happy Home (The Residents Cover)

Alphaville” by Imperial Triumphant is out 31st July via Century Media

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.