Imperial Triumphant

Abyssal Gods

Colin Marston mixed and mastered the fucker, too

dB Rating: 8/10

Release Date: March 10th, 2015
Label: Code 666

No band in black metal deserves big strings more than Imperial Triumphant—in part because they excel at realizing big ideas without them. The New York-based urban futurist quartet’s second full-length showcases their capacity for coaxing maximal results from minimal budgets even more effectively than 2013’s Goliath EP. Sequencing makes a huge difference. Goliath began with a delicate patch of modern classical abstraction that quickened the hearts of adventurous souls and sent at least a few traditionalists scrambling for the nearest door or window. Abyssal Gods comes out of the gate like Aosoth embracing their inner Portal, with guest guitarist Max Gorelick’s unhinged war metal solo (no way you’d guess he’s Kenny G’s offspring) heralding the arrival of founder, guitarist, vocalist and principal songwriter Ilya Ezrin’s lush gutturals.

By the time opener “From Palaces of the Hive” breaks down to non-Euclidian guitar lines enriched by Amy Mills’ trumpets, even the stodgiest defenders of tr00th are likely to start drawing parallels between the band and Emperor circa Nightside Eclipse—parallels not altogether off-base. The biggest difference is that Imperial are rougher and less romantically inclined. Stronger players, too—bassist Erik Malave arguably has the toughest job—anchoring the rhythmic inferno generated by drummers Alex Cohen and Kenny Grohowski whenever vibe and tempo justify such a thing. This isn’t always, by any means. From Caterpillar-treaded death/doom (“Dead Heaven,” “Twins”) to otherworldly choral interludes (hither and yon), by way of Cecil Taylor-flavored closer “Metropolis,” the album covers nearly as much ground as the town that inspired it.

– Rod Smith
Review originally printed in the May 2015 issue (#127).