PICK OF THE WEEK: Urban decay at center of Imperial Triumphant’s brain cell-smearing ‘Vile Luxury’

Photo by Alex Krause

The world feels filthy, not that it ever was truly clean before. The problems seem like they’ve been amplified to deafening levels, as the power structure is trying to be wrestled away from people and put on a pedestal that only certain dignitaries would be able to reach. It’s heartening that people are fighting back against that, but things just feel dirty and raw.

NYC-based avant-garde black metal experimenters Imperial Triumphant see that in their very city. They see a place crumbling under the weight of corruption and madness, and they translate those feelings in a way only this band is capable of doing. All of this is found on their impressive and sonically baffling new record “Vile Luxury,” a collection that tramples through urban decay and the people under the boot of high society trying to battle back against absolute power. Anyone who’s familiar with the band knows their music has grown increasingly more complex and frightening, and on this album, they delve further into jazz, almost as if they’re reporting on the crumbling of society from an old speakeasy. There’s a class and elegance woven into the manic outbursts and brain-mangling playing, as they convey beauty and utter disgust equally. The gold-masked trio—Zachary Ilya Ezrin (vocals, guitars), Steve Blanco (bass, backing vocals), and Kenny Grohowski (drums)—are joined by a number of special guests on the record including Will Smith (Artificial Brain), Yoshiko Ohara (Bloody Panda), and singers Andromeda Anarchia (Dark Matters) and Sarai Chrzanowski, as well as a cast of brass players, in order to bring this ambitious, troubling story to life. Every time I hear it, I notice crazy shit I didn’t hear the first time, which is part of the immersive experience.

“Swarming Opulence” opens with a skronk of horns (fun fact: First time I listened to this song, my dog was next to me, and she tilted her head all the way to the side at the sound) before the song rips to life. Ezrin growls nastily over the warped pace, as jazzy heat ensues. The track gets disorienting, as chants erupt, dramatic surges strike, the bass swells, and the strange outro leaves you in the dust. “Lower World” soaks in feedback before the drums rustle, the tempo smothers, and brain-numbing violence meets up with odd chants. The track sludges along, eventually fading into an eerie dream that takes over your senses. From there, we’re trampling into a muddy hell, as the relentless thrashing promises no chance at peace. “Gotham Luxe” is disorienting from the start, with hellish growls from Smith added to the mix, and a bizarre, flattening display. The lurching death growls mix with sweltering soloing, as the humidity gains thickness, bleeding into steamy playing and neck-jerking trauma. Deranged howls chew at sanity before calming piano drips like cold rain. Out of that rises “Chernobyl Blues” that has a weird hue about it, as cosmic noise spreads into the recesses of the inner city. Growled Russian warbles over the calm, which is so weird but effective, and later Yoshiko unleashes her banshee wail that could frighten the dead in their graves. That terror meets up with splattered chaos that explodes with volume before falling out into an acid bath.

“Cosmopolis” is elegant and slinking as it starts, as muted trumpets push in like morose sirens signaling the end, and rubbery guitars emerge like a clawed beast. Monstrous hell is unleashed, as piano dances through the fires, as the demolition gets purposely repetitive. The guitars both chug and jangle, as the song twists your brain stem one last time. “Mother Machine” is gentle and dreamy at the start, as horns spread pestilence, and the band gets free form and lets the horror flow. The track turns slurry and boozy, with horns blurting, and intoxication setting in. “The Filth” has an ominous start, with machine gun riffs chewing up bone, and the mud getting thicker and more suffocating. Anarchia’s singing floats into the scene, as operatic wails and grisly growls twist, heightening the sense of dread. That ugliness doesn’t dissipate, with the music drilling relentlessly and off the rails, the storm hanging overhead and never giving mercy, and the intensity finally letting up once everything is hopelessly flooded. The record ends with “Luxury in Death,” as guitars cry out, a dusty desert feel chokes throats, and Yoshiko’s wild shrieks slice your sanity apart. Noise continues to build up like a refuse pile, while the pained screams and bloody haze part, leaving only the blunt cries holding your hand at the end.

Who knows if society can ever right itself, or if this situation is terminal, but having the likes of Imperial Triumphant as observers underground ensures we’ll always have an honest portrayal of this horrifying struggle. “Vile Luxury” depicts a reality people don’t want to acknowledge but cannot honestly deny any longer. This is a portrait of panic and chaos that will wash over you and prevent you from ever forgetting this terrifying experience, even as real life plays out before your eyes.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/imperialtriumphant

To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.bandcamp.com/album/vile-luxury

Or here: https://throatruinerrecords.com/imperial-triumphant

For more on the label, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/

And here: https://throatruinerrecords.com/

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