Imperial Triumphant have been blurring the lines of contemporary black metal graced with the decadent and depraved glory of the golden years of Hollywood since 2005. With current members Zachary Ilya Ezrin on vocals and guitars; Kenny Grohowski on drums; and Steve Blanco on bass, vocals and keyboards. Spirit of Ecstasy is their fifth album and directly proceeding my personal favorite Alphaville, a sprawling black metal love letter to everyone’s favorite German epic Metropolis. Much like watching the film, there are different layers and feelings with each listen.
It’s easier to simply copy from the press statement as the long list of special guests on Spirit Of Ecstasy include Max Gorelick on lead guitar, Snake on vocals, Alex Skolnick on lead guitar, Trey Spruance on lead guitar, Andromeda Anarchia with choirs, Sarai Woods with choirs, Yoshiko Ohara on vocals, J. Walter Hawkes on the trombone, Ben Hankle on the trumpet, Percy Jones on bass, SEVEN)SUNS on strings, Colin Marston on Simmons drums and YouTube, Jonas Rolef on vocals, and one I will get to later. Okay. It’s Kenny G. Later is now.
Don’t immerse yourself too deep with the dances of yesteryear, you may end up trapped.
Rolling drums and chords dragged on forever drenched in shrieked, yet controlled, vocals line the opening seconds of Chump Change. The drums turn thunderous over what could pass for an elegant movie score that appears and melts into the background as everything stretches further to unknown shapes. Twinges of psychedelia peak through the lush bass, flinging my mind to something ever-changing and impossible to define.
Mercilessly forgoing any idea of breathing room, Metrovertigo morphs the drums and guitars to the feel of a spiral staircase. Each step adds to the disorientation wrapping around your psyche. The vocals have the hair on the back of my neck standing from fear as an icy piano drips in weaving moments, making my brain wonder if I’ve walked into another song.
The smoke laced with opiates and tobacco gel to your cells giving you a high that feels everlasting and suffocating.
Tower Of Glory, City Of Shame starts with ominous vocal clips atop strings that manage to sound neither synthetic or organic. The staircase transforms into a funhouse extending forever into pure disorientation, because this album really needed to feel more disorienting. At this point, I’m getting desensitized to the black metal aspects and the grandiose qualities feel like a light misting and I close my eyes to lose myself in a dull waltz. A scream cracks my malaise, opening my eyes further than before as my attention is fully given until being buried deep within the soundscape.
A moment of calm comes and I can breathe. Pure, clean oxygen hits every cell in my body as Merkurius Gilded welcomes my mind to The World’s Fair as presented by the black metal pioneers (minus the racism and church burnings) as a violin and horn section accompanies the blast beats and guttural vocals. This unrelenting bizarre affair sweeps me off my feet until an eerie synth grounds me again from droning on and on and… my mouth is dry.
Twinges of psychedelia peak through the lush bass, flinging my mind to something ever-changing and impossible to define…
Classic films get an intermission. I need a mineral water break. And maybe some sushi. And you can take this time to collect yourself and I’ll be back in a moment. Also, I’m going to play with my cats bellies because they’re adorable.
And we’re back…
Opening in dazzling fashion Death On A Highway features a classic news broadcast about the construction of a New York Skyline over a sinister guitar. Everything is so bent and broken here I wonder if it’s a metaphor for the lifestyle of the movers and shakers of the era, or if this is how it felt to smoke drugs with no idea of how it’s distorting your brain, making the world outside the skyscraper unrecognizable.
In The Pleasure Of Their Company meshes metal with jazz with a saxophone as performed by… Kenny G. His saxophone bleeds into guitars which then return the favor making a skittering mess. If this were a movie, now would be the part with spinning newspapers about the rise and fall of a company spliced with the main characters chain smoking and flapper girls laughing at nothing. Everyone dripping with so much sweat the pomade on their heads melts to their collars showing the dream has collapsed to a vapor and then nothing at all.
Your brain’s neurological responses haven’t been working properly and you’re willing to tear apart anyone who crosses you. The question of how long you’ve felt this way lingers.
Ambient highlight Bezumnaya features a harmonic vocalization over wind instruments setting a chilling mood. Imperial Triumphant throws everything at a wall in which every note sticks. The feeling of desperation that’s been present from the beginning pleads irrationally here. The most haunting moment on the album is the ending of this track, a gasping breath over a plucked derelict guitar and a cassette deck opens.
Closer Maximalist Scream, a car is heard revving its engine, and as the wheels squeal it transitions to a guitar, turning the pleading to anger. After the previous seven tracks, this one sounds spaced out and nuanced by comparison. Grooving chords come in clashing into a bass. The car then wails and fades out.
I feel empty and lost by this way of life.
Like walking into the middle of a party, in a room lined with breathtaking elegance, each song forces you to take another look around for another hour after most people have vacated. You notice the smoke-stained curtains, gold paint that’s chipping away, and the carpet lined with stains. Your brain can’t fathom everything at first, but upon closer inspection, the grandeur qualities are bonded by nothing. Imperial Triumphant have made something that opens your eyes to see ideas held together by a thread that’s been pulled so thin, that you wonder how it hasn’t broken, yet you can’t look away.
Scribed by: Richard Murray