Imperial Triumphant - Vile Luxury
Gilead Media
Avant-Garde Death Metal
8 songs (55:59)
Release year: 2018
Gilead Media
Reviewed by Goat

The more that time goes by, the harder it gets for bands to create original heavy metal with a touch of genius, made harder by the genre's obsession with its own tradition. Upstart New Yorkers Imperial Triumphant (now free of members of Pyrrhon but still with a lot of influence from that direction) impressed on 2015's Abyssal Gods yet left reviewer Charles with a sense that the jazz influences were as much a piss-take as a serious artistic statement; that album's closing moments of free-form jazz improv a veiled threat for the future? Vile Luxury builds on this even more, beginning Swarming Opulence with a five-piece horn ensemble and tying it in with their usual off-kilter blastbeats and twisted, Pyrrhon-esque guitar riffing. That is a perfect song title (mirroring the excellent album title!) exactly describing the sound within; dark, chaotic yet rich in scope and depth, and as far as it seems, perfectly serious and embracing the jazz as part of their already decadent sound rather than some louche cultural touchstone to appeal to arrogant musical elitists.

It's a great introductory track for an album like this, and I'd have been perfectly happy with a full set of similar songs, but Imperial Triumphant are more ambitious, and immediately change things up on you with the following Lower World, beginning with a sample of (I assume) the New York underground, leading a technical percussion-driven piece that's reminiscent of late Altar of Plagues with its twisted stop-start riffing (and the Colin Marston-helmed production already highlights the drums so this will be heaven for some) but which gives equal weight to rhythmic piano alongside the guitar and peaks with nightmare choirs torn from some Dario Argento fever dream. It's one of the album highlights, and one of the few places where it doesn't feel that the band are a little too in love with their own experiments.

Gotham Luxe has more of that sickening opulence of before, spreading out across its eight minute running time and deceptively straightforward initially, revealing itself to be full of electronic experimentation with time and very much of a mind with the other tracks, breaking down into droning noise at one point and ending with a hazy unaccompanied piano piece. Chernobyl Blues, meanwhile, begins by emphasising the growled vocals atop an ambient backing but is soon all sound and fury, with Bloody Panda's Yoshiko Ohara shrieking and yelling over a blackened torrent of drums that nearly drown out the insane guitarwork. The band are self-aware and open the following Cosmopolis with silence and much more gentle jazzy blues, giving the listener a breather and leaving the chaotic metal/jazz mashups for a few minutes in.

This is definitely an album that rewards repeated listens, although those who dislike the description of it or 'Colin Marston metal' in general won't be swayed however many chances they give it. The Filth's nine minutes are especially abrasive, starting with a Portal-esque wormhole trip that soon morphs into a series of drum beatdowns (all the musicians here are superb but drummer Kenny Grohowski consistently steals the show) interspersed with Diamanda Galas-esque operatic female vocals, separate female yelling (apparently thanks to someone called Andromeda Anarchia although more reminiscent of a less annoying Agnete Kjolsrud) and a very weird section of whirry, almost industrial noise that's just about recognisable as metal but could just as well be a sped-up recording of blastbeating. Vile Luxury is a difficult, difficult album to listen to, enjoy, and especially to love; it's the sort of frustrating listen that music nerds sing the praises of and everyone else tolerates the existence of (how Pitchfork aren't all over this is beyond me). Once I'd have given this a solid 90+ and called it Album of the Year, without question, but as I get older I find my tastes shifting away from this kind of thing and so this is a fascinating yet troubling album that I'll keep on the playlist and rate highly in the end-year awards but hesitate to call true genius. It's definitely original, though, and if you like music to surprise you more than entertain you, this Vile Luxury has your name in the gift tag. That Dario Argento mention of earlier sums it up best; his films aren't always what you're in the mood for, but they possess a peculiar genius of their own that's impossible to deny.

Killing Songs :
Swarming Opulence, Lower World, Cosmopolis
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Imperial Triumphant that we have reviewed:
Imperial Triumphant - Abyssal Gods reviewed by Charles and quoted 80 / 100
Imperial Triumphant - Goliath (EP) reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
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