Beyond Times Square and its throngs of gaping tourists, or the diurnal peacefulness Central Park, lies the remaining hive of New York City. Lavishness gives way to grime, gives way to richly historic areas, gives way to towering decrepitude. All of which slowly rolls like ocean waves across the peninsula. Imperial Triumphant masterfully examines that endless flow of filth and opulence in an experimental manner akin to electric-era Miles Davis joining forces with Deathspell Omega and Portal, and does so as if it’s been done before.
Imperial Triumphant compares New York City to the corpse of a giant, saying “What was once so bright, grand and spectacular, is now filled with greedy maggots writhing towards their share of ‘success’. We don’t support it nor are we against. We only play the sounds of the New York City as we hear them.” Their portrayal of the “high life” in the city comes across in the jazzier aspects of Vile Luxury, while they paint urban decay with free jazz sections off the palettes of modern black metal.
Opener “Swarming Opulence” heralds the degradation with a brass ensemble preceding a black metal apocalypse, while songs like “Cosmopolis” and “Mother Machine” trot out the brass like exiled prisoners to gloomily solo in what sounds like an empty hall somewhere in the bowels of hell (or subway). Then there’s the hammer-handed pianist on “Lower World” banging out atonal lounge piano over the cacophony, and whose menacing return on the demonic bebop of “Cosmopolis” sounds like a jazz club collapsing upon itself mid-performance. Imperial Triumphant doesn’t cater to those jazz elements in a way that knocks Vile Luxury out of character. Instead, the band weaves brass and pianos into the plodding, delirious black metal and improvised-sounding near-noise to flawless and terrifying effect.
Guitarist and vocalist Zachary Ilya Ezrin alongside bassist and vocalist Steve Blanco work well together on Vile Luxury, splitting their time between countering each other’s work and becoming one united force of deafening distortion. The duo creates uneasy and sometimes out of tune atmospheres, like the introduction to “Gotham Luxe,” that occasionally tip over into Bitches Brew-esque backing instrumentals. That, or devastating metal riffs like the punishing unison crunch of “Lower World.”
Drummer Kenny Grohowski takes plenty of improvised liberties throughout Vile Luxury, adding an angular and unpredictable dimension to the record. Grohowski spends the better portion of three minutes on “Chernobyl Blues” blasting away in various styles while tossing in impossibly fast fills to keep you locked in on the madness. Even on the roiling four-minute end of “The Filth,” with its crescendos of trills and noise, Grohowski keeps up his blinding speed and plays only with his dynamics. For the jazzier parts, it all depends – sometimes Grohowski lays back into smoother jazz drums, sometimes he tries his damnedest to make the mics clip.
It’s astounding to hear a trio who are so collectively well-versed in their instruments and in compositional skill that even toward the end of Vile Luxury, your jaw will be hitting the floor every minute or so out of sheer awe.
Imperial Triumphant recorded Vile Luxury entirely live as a band at Colin Marston’s Menegroth, Thousand Caves in Queens. Vile Luxury therefore sounds like one of the best metal live albums recorded in front of no audience. Mirroring the city itself, Vile Luxury sounds confined and boiling with rage and hatred. It’s a caged animal throwing itself against the bars of its confines until the whole enclosure is wet with blood, with its screams and howls echoing down the halls just outside where it permanently dwells.
Imperial Triumphant‘s first foray into jazzier territory yields unbelievable results. Vile Luxury is nearly an hour of metal chaos, classically-influenced compositions, big band instrumentation, and pianos that blend together in a cauldron brimming with rot and self-indulgence. The fumes will make you sick and the brew is inedible, but look hard enough into its reflective surface and you’ll see the light-dotted New York City skyline. The only difference now is that you know what that iconic view is hiding.
Buy Vile Luxury here.