An empty spot marked that IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT‘s upcoming album “Alphaville,” released on 31 July 2020 through Century Media Records, was still available for review on Tuonela Magazine. Without knowing the band or their sound, I decided to go for it and through their music, discovered more about the New York avant-garde metal giants. I was expecting a sound that’s difficult to process and as a bonus, I got a black/death metal band that mixes in elements of the classic big band sound into their music.
Truth be told, IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT is perhaps not the kind of music you should put on when you are still waking up; it’s ravishingly complex and very hard to process. Experimental at its core, “Alphaville” opens up with “Rotted Futures,” an eerie, atmospheric intro that sets the tone for the album and launches you into a seemingly black hole of music that sucks you in and never lets you go, making you wonder whether IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT have just successfully made a soundtrack to the hell that 2020 has been so far. “Excelsior” continues the same trend, combining obscure jazz moments with blast beats and a lot of aggression.
“City Swine” starts off a bit more laid back and slowly puts you in a trance, reminiscent of Finnish avantgarde metal act ORANSSI PAZUZU. The band has a few tricks up their sleeve in this track, as Tomas Haake of MESHUGGAH interlaces the track with a taiko drum section, separating the different sections from one another. The sound comes together in a dissonant chaotic mess that somehow feels very organized and well-thought-out.
“Atomic Age” starts intriguingly with a totally different vibe, which the band obtained through having an intro with a barbershop quartet. The harmonies among the four vocalists are in stark contrast with what’s to come in the rest of the song. The song mostly focuses on entrancing nightmarish soundscapes fueled by dissonance and groovy bass lines straight from the pits of Tartarus. Mid-way through, this is enforced by haunting screaming mixed into the unique palette of music.
The juxtaposition that is “Transmission to Mercury” follows and paints a whole different picture as it starts off with a smooth jazz intro. It then fuels itself into a black metal feast that interlaces elements of piano and brass, giving an almost jazz noir feel to the track. It could easily be the soundtrack to a grim black-and-white movie about the end of the world and because of its ability to paint a picture in your mind upon closing your eyes, it might just be my personal highlight of the album.
While the previous songs mostly played around with different soundscapes and atmosphere, title track “Alphaville” toys with different rhythms and riffs. “The Greater Good” adds a more melodic approach to the album, with a couple of guitar hooks in the melodies. Mid-way through, the song becomes seemingly more interesting, taking twists and turns. From melodic to an extravaganza of different dissonant soundscapes and ultimately, an atmospheric outro, the track lingers for a while after playing it and is therefore perfect as a closer.
Altogether, having been introduced to quite a few avantgarde metal acts this year, IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT surprised me with “Alphaville.” While I would have enjoyed even more big band -infused songs, the songwriting of “Alphaville” is definitely one of the strongest selling points of this album. All the different sections of the songs are tied up tightly together, making the album fit as a whole and feel very consistent from beginning to end. “Alphaville” truly is a journey through dark and apocalyptic soundscapes that won’t let you down.
1. Rotted Futures
3. City Swine
4. Atomic Age
5. Transmission to Mercury
7. The Greater Good
8. Experiment (Voivod cover)
9. Happy Home (The Residents cover)
Ilya – Vocals, Guitars, Orchestrations
Kenny Grohowski – Drums
Steve Blanco – Bass, Keyboards, Piano, Vocals
Century Media Records