PICK OF THE WEEK: Dark city spirit at core of Imperial Triumphant’s monstrous creation ‘Alphaville’

If you could be granted a look into the future, would you want it? Knowing where we are now, the conditions in which we’re living, the uncertainty surrounding us, and the offensive black hole of leadership failing to guide anyone, do you really want to see how things turn out? If you do, is it better to know, or do you have hope things can turn around?

You’re not going to get any answers listening to Imperial Triumphant’s astonishing new record “Alphaville,” but you might get the inspiration to wonder on your own without actually being exposed to the truth. This, their first for indie giant Century Media, is their fourth full-length overall, but this version of the band truly begins with 2018’s “Vile Luxury” and continues itself here. That’s where their examination into their hometown of New York City, its history, its architecture, its spirit, and its future really started, and it gets an even sharper focus here. Over seven tracks and about 50 minutes (there are two bonus cover songs as well), the band—Zachary Ilya Ezrin (guitars/vocals), Steven Blanco (bass, vocals, piano, mellotron, synth, etc.), and Kenny Grohowski (drums)—again don their brass masks and cloaks on a mesmerizing journey built with black metal, jazz, noise, and so many other elements that make it feel like you’re shifting back in time to industrial greatness before jettisoning back to the present to take a look at the mess we’re all in. And this all was written before COVID-19, if you can imagine. The band also has some special guests on the record including Tomas Haake (Meshuggah), Phlegeton (Wormed), and Yoshiko Ohara (formerly of Bloody Panda), who also appeared on “Vile Luxury.”

“Rotted Futures” starts with noises swirling in eeriness and the sounds of decay rising from the streets before the long introduction gives way to a sludging pace that jerks and Ezrin’s vile howls. The guitar work lets its screws get jarred loose while the growls corrode, and a choral section sweeps through amid the commotion. The bass bends, growls scrape, and organs rise to carry it all home. “Excelsior” has bass smudges and a Voivod-ian edge, which makes even more sense later. The playing jolts your brain as crazed howls chew into jerky guitars and a cacophony of chaos that suddenly halts. What sounds like store overhead announcements work their way into the murk before everything re-erupts and melts closed. “City Swine” has guitars slurring as Ezrin growls, “We don’t need you,” amid mystifying terrain. The track then calms, letting quiet drumming set the course before the track enters into gargantuan playing that’s some of the heaviest stuff in the band’s history. “There is no place for you here,” Ezrin wails as the playing recoils and the track ends in a static bath.

“Atomic Age” begins with, you guessed it, a barbershop quartet, but one that feels like a crackling transmission from “Bioshock” designed to make our skin crawl. The track unravels out of that as guitars shake the contents in your stomach, and weird voices circle in the air. A brief respite unloads lava out of the other end as the horns wrench guts, ushering in a quiet section where an airplane flies overhead, electro pulses shock, and the track ends in utter strangeness. “Transmission to Mercury” opens with elegant piano spreading and horns swimming before the riffs wreck shop. The pace churns and brings nausea while the brass pumps again, and it feels like your head is merging through traffic. Fierce shrieks rain down, and they continue to wreak havoc over the final minutes before everything burns off. The title track arrives with guitars tearing into the earth, the bass liquifying, and the growls going after prone flesh. The tempo comes unglued, buzzing, destroying, and speeding through the metropolis while weird synth pockets hypnotize, and then the playing goes back to loosening the foundation. Mechanical croaks pelt away before manic hell is unleashed, leaving heads spinning and defaced. “The Greater Good” is the closing cut of IT material, and it stomps guts right out of the gates, with ghostly synth surrounding, and an avalanche of punishment dealt. Guitars feel like they’re ripping at your throat while shrieks and growls unite into a single beast, and the drums agitate. The keys form like a warped old film score unearthed from Armageddon, while the atmosphere simmers in sepia, and that storm spreads to the end. There are two bonus cuts as well—a version of Voivod’s “Experiment” from “Dimension Hatröss” to which they give an added death metal vibe, and a deranged take on The Residents’ “Happy Home.”

Imperial Triumphant’s decaying world they first introduced on “Vile Luxury” continues to slip away and erode, with filth and vermin in the streets at your feet. “Alphaville” is the logical next step, but it also stands apart from their last record as it feels like an animal that’s switched up some of its DNA in the process while remaining maniacally recognizable. Hyperbole aside, there isn’t bound to be another metal record this year that’s anything at all like this one, and repeated listens lure you into other portals to consider a societal decline that isn’t fiction any longer, as it’s knocking on our front doors.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://centurymedia.store/store/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.centurymedia.com/

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