Delving into the bottom of the weekly cauldron of hate that contains items for review, this fourth album by New Yorkers, Imperial Triumphant (a three piece although you’d never guess it from the gargantuan sound they produce), stuck out like a compound fractured fibula, glistening in the sun like liver under lights. Standing in its glorious tumescence, proud, tall, proud and erect, revelling in the wonderful coalescence of so many ideas, styles and agendas, it’s one of my best random review picks ever.
As previous scribblings may have indicated, flights of fancy and overblown similes and metaphors are de-rigour in this part of leafy Maidenhead, but I may have met my match here in terms of the sheer number of florid ideas and concepts contained within Alphaville. Grappling with this album is like wresting with a greased pig in a pit of desiccated coconut whilst wearing a clown outfit having had both eyes poked out with a shitty stick. I don’t think you’ll ever be able to fully comprehend what Imperial Triumphant are intending to convey on this album, rather you need to lean into this with an open mind and allow it wash over you like an overturned toilet, on day 5 of a black metal festival in Hungary, after being filled with the entrails of a crowd hit with Noro Virus.
I can see how many may feel that this album is taking the piss, coming as it does in waves of atmospheric black metal, trumpets, bass driven jazz soliloquies, razor sharp chugging death metal riffs and vast swathes of barked vocals on a bed of madness, blast beats and keyboards. It is the dietary equivalent of a roast dinner served on a bed of angel delight with a side order of sausages filled with marshmallows and cat treats. To its credit, this album offers no safe harbour, it twists and turns like the bowels of a murderer awaiting sentencing. You can only stand back and admire the sheer hutzpah of the band in creating what is an aural landscape that would make Hieronymus Bosch scratch his head and rate his own daubing’s as vanilla flavoured blandness in comparison.
Hyperbole be dammed, this is a work of genius OR it could be the emperor’s new clothes. Are the band being too clever, too arch and relying on the trust and understanding of their audience’s patience whilst lapping at this bowl of confusion? I veer between the two, but I can find more than enough in their heavier moments to sate my metallic appetite whilst also revelling in the jazz infused sections that confound and contort in front of your (virtual) eyes. Make no mistake, this is a demanding listen, you cannot do anything else whilst listening to it, no operating heavy machinery, baking a cake or masturbating. You need to sit rigid in a chair, strapped in Clockwork Orange style, peering into the 8th level of hell, staring agog at the madness contained within. The playing here is mechanical AND loose, ebbing and flowing, bathed in guttural vocals. The production, as befits such complexity, is huge, expansive and warm, coddling the beast that this album represents. I can see, as previously mentioned, that this could well fly over some heads, in the same way that say Mike Patton’s more flights of fancy projects do, more jeering at their audience rather than taking them on the same journey. But Alphaville, to its credit, stays the right side of prevarication and if you can hold on, there is so much to enjoy rather than endure. Imagine a band that is the Melvins, Meshuggah (who’s drummer Tomas Hakke guests of one of the albums highlights ‘City Swine’) Car Bomb, Cannibal Corpse and Duke Ellington.
For a band to embrace such a myriad of musical genre touchpoints within the confines of an album’s run time and manage to create such a cohesive body of work, is to be applauded. Do not try to understand it, just drop to your knees in genuflection and embrace the metal jazz chaotic darkness. In conclusion, I will quote Ave Noctum’s mission statement that acts as its modus operandum –
‘with the intent of becoming a reliable source for fans of extreme music and film alike, and with a strong focus on covering stuff that is dark, atmospheric and extreme’.
If ever a band have summed this up then it is these lunatics, managing to juxtapose extremity, darkness, jazz, metal and atmosphere together into a slavering beast of a record. Dense, macabre, seething, complex and moving, I urge you to dip a toe into these dark waters.
(9/10 Nick Griffiths)