Sunday night – what better time for an evening of thinking man’s chaotic avant-garde black
metal, namely Imperial Triumphant from New York. This show was another covid casaulty,
originally penned in for last year but was inevitably postponed. Formed in 2005 by Zachary
Ilya Ezrin, they released a few full-lengths but it was 2008’s Vile Luxury that catapulted them
to the forefront of the extreme metal underground.
Bedecked in an emotionless classical art style, golden masks and black cowls, Imperial
Triumphant grace the stage. They waste no time with introductions as they brute-force their
show with the eight-minute Tower of Glory, City of Shame. With Ezrin’s guitar and Steve
Blanco’s basslines of off-beat psychosis and schizophrenic passages, this should be a
cavernously unnerving experience. Unfortunately, the sound is awkwardly hampered; Kenny
Grohowski’s drums overpower all the other instruments, vocals and harrowing orchestration,
leaving the music threadbare.
Keeping to the new album Spirit of Ecstacy, the three-piece immediately launches into
Merkurius Gilded, full of nasty but almost melodic tremolo picking and flattening tones.
The contrasting barbershop quartet sample, signals for a trip to 2020’s album Alphaville
with the sinister Atomic Age, featuring an abundance of technical, prog and jazz trimmings,
occasionally reducing the heaviness and tempo to harness a more subtly sinister mood.
Transmission to Mercury from the same album follows, and by now the sound has mainly
improved, but still loses a lot of its dense atmosphere. It’s hard to do justice to this kind of
music in the live sphere.
Bassist Blanco offers forth an unusual bass solo, something rarely witnessed at black metal
shows. Despite their unorthodox nature, the band’s stage presence resembles that focused
ritual that other modern black metal acts have become adept at creating: mysterious,
austere and wordless. It 100% works for Imperial Triumphant, perhaps more so than others.
After new song Maximalist Scream ravages the audience, the Americans march off. The
crowd remains in place as they demand for more madcap avant-garde metal. The trio
returns to satiate appetites with a final one-two strike of Swarming Opulence and Rotted
There’s a lot of adjectives you can employ to describe Imperial Triumphant’s cacophony:
sociopathic, nightmarish, rotten, majestic, astral, labyrinthine, torturous, neurotic,
virtriolic…the list is endless. Such original multi-layered and technical music is a delight to
behold live. Sadly, sound engineers and venues are likely to conspire against these sounds
because they’re so rare. Still, Imperial Triumphant’s stage presence and performance marks
this a highlight for the week.