Check out our thoughts on the latest album by NYC’s finest avant garde act – Imperial Triumphant…
Imperial Triumphant are no strangers to pushing the boundaries of conventional genre and listener expectation. Over their past few releases, the New York natives have refined a unique sound that draws on a diverse range of influences, from free jazz to black metal.
Their latest album Alphaville looks to continue this trend of exploring the avant garde and exploring the oftentimes abrasive beauty found in dissonance. But does the experimentation pay off? Read on to find out…
This is without a doubt the band’s most polished release to date, and arguably their most ambitious. From the opening track Rotted Futures through to the closer The Greater Good, you’re whisked away on an frenetic, unsettling experience that surprises at every turn and never bores. Directly inspired by their hometown of New York City, it evokes themes of a crumbling metropolis. An art deco utopia that is revealed to be nothing more than a facade for something altogether more sinister.
Despite everything being chaotic, it all fits together without any sense of novelty. The discordant jazz elements fit perfectly with the malevolent, extreme metal foundation, and pepperings of barbershop, tribal drums, among other styles all serve a purpose without ever feeling like baggage. To put it more flippantly, it all just makes sense, and it’s a wonder why similar fusions haven’t been more widely adopted.
Yet, as with all good art, it’s the responsibility of the audience to unpack it, just as it is the artist’s to create it. Alphaville is so dense, intricate and abrasive that it will require multiple listens to appreciate everything on offer. This is far from easy listening, but if you do you’ll be richly rewarded. Naturally it’s always preferable to listen to an album like this in its entirety, however if you must dip your toe in first, I’d recommend the adjacent tracks Atomic Age into Transmission to Mercury. These give a condensed taste of what to inspect from Imperial Triumphant, hurtling through a discordant soundscape of genres, in a way only they can.
The only thing I felt was lacking from the record was the use of clean vocals to accompany the calmer, more melancholic moments. The interplay between jazz and metal is already masterful, but I couldn’t help but think vocals complimenting the former might augment the sense of duality between beauty and aggression.
To wrap up, listening to Alphaville feels like reclining in a smoking lounge at the end of the world. No metal album released this year has left a more lingering effect on me, and even after half a dozen listens I’m still finding new things to enjoy. It balances catharsis, form and style with aplomb, and I can’t wait to see some of the tracks performed live.
Whenever that may be…
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