Imperial Triumphant - Alphaville
Century Media
Avant-Garde, Jazz Metal
9 songs (59:19)
Release year: 2020
Century Media
Reviewed by Goat

Following on from the dystopian cityscape described on previous album Vile Luxury, New York's own Imperial Triumphant are back. And as you may expect from that artwork and title they have doubled-down, creating a sequel experience that is sure to please those who delighted in Vile Luxury's violently experimental soundscapes whilst creating few new fans among the doubters. Lyrically (as seems to be usual these days) this is an attack on capitalism, something of a concept album in its descriptions yet quite listenable as a collection of songs. And it's a more obvious concept particularly when considered alongside that artwork, depicting an art deco skyscraper in the centre of a fractal city, reflecting a bigger tower that rises even higher. It's an arresting piece, more involved and artsy than Vile Luxury's murky cover, and using a brighter gold that draws the eye well. And the musical mixture on the album follows suit with a more involving, often more straightforwardly metallic assault, such as the backing groovy riffs on opener Rotted Futures - still very avant-garde with its technical drumming and jazzy discordance, of course.

Yet there's an increased influence from Voivod particularly audible here in moments like Excelsior that gives the band a more solid base from which to erect its demented towers of babel, with dizzying architectural offshoots such as said track's sudden subway sample that leads into eerie industrial beats and squeals. The vocals being dominated by a dry growl ensure that this will remain directed at ears familiar with underground metal too, although certain moments like City Swine are engagingly close to jazz-rock. Imperial Triumphant are still very much in love with their own sound, however, meaning that it that almost randomly turns into a tribal percussion and restarts with Meshuggah-y chugging (Tomas Haake provides guest taiko drumming on this track). Whether, say, the barbershop quartet that opens Atomic Age is effective or incongruous will depend on your patience for this sort of thing, but the resurgence of even more Meshuggah-esque repetitive riffing before crashing pianos and female screams (Bloody Panda's Yoshiko Ohara again doing her thing) will probably be as big a test for more conventional metalheads to endure!

There's no doubting that Alphaville is as plain difficult an album as its predecessor, with certain moments feeling a little too zany for the sake of it. Towards the end of the album, however, there is a more structured, Mr Bungle-gone-black/death approach with plenty of technical drum and guitar work - the title track and The Greater Good especially. Those who enjoy Imperial Triumphant's jazzier moments will especially like the relaxed trombone-and-piano section that opens Transmission to Mercury, although it does turn back into ugly metallic scrambling, the trombone returning in an uneasy and discordant partnership that's closer to avant-garde jazz than metal, even with the unsettling female sobs and screams beneath it. And closing the album with a pair of covers is a bonus, Voivod's Experiment getting a surprisingly straightforward blackened/death rumble with guest Phlegeton of Wormed providing deep growls, before The Residents' Happy Home brings things to a close with eerily high-pitched singing atop a decaying carnival tune. It's all clearly original and fascinating, but isn't really that enjoyable to listen to, even when compared to Vile Luxury - a very different sort of avant-garde to, for example, Thy Catafalque's folky embrace, depicting a much darker, more violent and chaotic world. Personal feelings aside, it's clearly well-played and effectively constructed, and those who relish in the dark underbelly of city life - and that love a more aggressive avant-garde/metal combination - will appreciate this.

Killing Songs :
Rotted Futures, City Swine, The Greater Good
Goat quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Imperial Triumphant that we have reviewed:
Imperial Triumphant - Vile Luxury reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
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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