Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury (2018) REVIEW

Consider the thirteen year history of Imperial Triumphant a tale of gentrification. Born in the human meat grinder of New York city proper, the project is masterminded by Zachary Ezrin aka Ilya Goddessraper aka Ilya and first gained some notability around five years deep with ‘Obeisance’ (2010). Though it was an EP of fairly accessible, semi-melodic orthodox black metal it was nonetheless served bearing curiously high-concept anti-Christian fruit. All would change drastically in collaboration through a so far career spanning relationship with Colin Marston (Krallice, Behold the Arctopus) and the addition of Pyrrhon‘s drummer and bassist at the time. Caught up in the luxurious flux of his Brooklyn based peers Ilya‘s collaborative vision was elevated to far greater potential with the relatively overlooked ‘Abominamentvm’ (2012). From this point Imperial Triumphant have gathered resource and insight alike in building towards the conceptual apex of ‘Vile Luxury’.

There is a wild, mathematical pressure point in extreme metal guitar work that can quickly unfurl into puritanical ‘mathcore’ due to the shared asset of jazz fusion influences. Herein lies the subtle divide between Imperial Triumphant‘s discography and the bands they’re most often compared with. None of Botch‘s spindly flair makes way into the visceral atmospherics of Deathspell Omega or Portal‘s lawnmower gusts, at least not on the level that you’ll hear in Ilya‘s playing post-debut. Nowhere is this more evident than on ‘Abyssal Gods’ (2015) which was by all means a breaking point more than it could be considered a breakthrough. If you consider where extreme metal’s mindset, lyrically and conceptually -is-, Imperial Triumphant had already seen the forest for the trees years previous and their masterpiece was too ambitious to be understood at the time. In this sense ‘Vile Luxury’ iterates with artful restraint and better communicates their overtly complex majesty.

To say ‘Abyssal Gods’ was a progressive black metal album suggests that technical death metal genetics didn’t drive it’s overall expression and that’d be a step too far out of line. With both members of Pyrrhon out, now members of cosmic tech-death Long Islanders Artificial Brain affiliate closely with the conception and further artful reach of Imperial Triumphant. The grime only intensifies as a lustration of ‘math’ and ‘grind’ elements eases into a more inclusive musical narrative that goes one floor deeper beyond that of ‘Abyssal Gods’. ‘Vile Luxury’ is a set of consciousness blurring art-metal pieces attempting summation of New York’s writhing dark realities through an uneven flow of avant-garde extreme metal instrumentation. Whips of psychedelic Penderecki-influenced guitar work bring a nuclear black metal bossa nova to life, and offer a great inspired leap from Krallice and Thantifaxath‘s forward-thinking shoulders.

Compositionally speaking ‘Vile Luxury’ provides fewer notes with greater impact and as such it has guaranteed ease of entry for listeners stymied by the technical exuberance of past Imperial Triumphant releases. A pause for effect is a lesson rarely learned in extreme metal’s highly self-taught, low collaboration leanings. There is no doubt that Ilya‘s ambitions are realized as a combination of his high valuation of collaboration and this leads to grand contributions from session brass musicians, Will Smith (Artificial Brain), and Yoshiko Ohara (Bloody Panda) among others; This should in no way undermine the enormity of the albums conception as there is nothing more endearing to the arts than a musician who gathers increasing community for great works. I don’t want to get too pompous here but it is worth gushing over such a well executed vision.

In the moment Imperial Triumphant is an avant-garde beast moaning in with diabolic brass fanfare and proceeds to ooze itself across eight tracks of jazz-fused fits and starts that barely eek of any traditional death or black metal tendencies. If ‘Abyssal Gods’ was a furious grinding technical black/death blender celebrating New York as the main point of entropic control over Earth then ‘Vile Luxury’ is the murmur of a lounge atop a high rise with a window cracked open just enough to let the din of suffering below blow in. Long gone is the circular, anxiously twitching tech-death and math-metallic edge; In it’s place are operatic salvos, serpentine floods of blackened atmospheric guitar work, and a wildly non-linear performative affect that defines the experience. It is not a rock album extruded through extreme metal technique, but rather a cinematic score built for a dozen piece metal orchestra.

Throughout several sessions with ‘Vile Luxury’ I found it most effective as focused listening but the intended ‘setting’ took some time to click. I played a video game, read a book, and yet it wasn’t until I entered the metropolis that I live in that it’s foil reverberated best. I won’t compare the major city I live in with New York but I will suggest that pondering their similar inequalities and abuses is entirely reasonable. What is more important was that it ‘worked’ for me differently when surrounded by street noise, the chaos of rush hour, and the uneasy closeness we endure cramming together for the sake of survival. If walking amongst the concrete garishness of Amazon headquarters wasn’t the intended environs for ‘Vile Luxury’, perhaps I missed the point along the way. Either way I found the experience curiously relaxing, gorgeously produced, and easy to recommend.


Artist Imperial Triumphant
Type Album
Released July 13, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Imperial Triumphant’s Bandcamp! Follow Imperial Triumphant on Facebook
Genre Avant-Garde Metal,
Black Metal,
Technical Death Metal

Vambrace of our eternity. 4.0/5.0

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