New York City was once a glimmering metropolis. A beacon of hope for the hungry and hopeful people of the Eastern world arriving in the United States. As time elapsed, the city changed and grew. It undoubtedly stayed a well of artistic inspiration—jazz music, Broadway, visual art, and cinema. It also became a cesspool for corruption and corporate selfishness for those who sat at the top of the towers. In the midst of this dichotomy of ingenuity and avarice is where the avant-garde trio of Imperial Triumphant resides.
"Our city is like the corpse of a giant." The band said in a press release. "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."
The trio of Zachary Ilya Erzin (lead vocals/guitar), Kenny Grohowski (drums), and Steve Blanco (backing vocals/bass) are one of the more unique entities in New York's brimming metal scene. Veiled in cloaks and gold masks inspired by Fritz Lang's 1927 dystopian film, Metropolis, Imperial Triumphant does indeed capture the sounds of the bustling monolith. Their nebulous swirl of black and death metal is as jarring as the city itself. Consequently, their third full-length album, Vile Luxury, is an homage to their home and its overbearing influence on its inhabitants.
Vile Luxury does many things incredibly well, but perhaps its biggest highlight is its overt jazz influence. From the first track, "Swarming Opulence," and other tracks like "Mother Machine," swaths of Miles Davis and Django Reinhardt make their mark on the band's new album. Booming trumpet sections emerge in the album opener, creating a grandiose welcome. The nuanced guitars of "Gotham Luxe" add such emphasis and severity to the band's music—the additional vocals from Artifical Brain's Will Smith certainly don't hurt either.
Guest features are another facet that makes Vile Luxury so sensational. In addition to Smith's guttural growl on "Gotham Luxe," there are three other musicians who received credit on the record. Yoshiko Ohara, the vocalist for Bloody Panda, shines in "Chernobyl Blues," "The Filth," and the finale "Luxury in Death." Andromeda Anarchia of Dark Matters joins Ohara on "The Filth" and elsewhere, Sarai Chrzanowski lends her voice to "Lower World."
While Erzin and Blanco's menacing growls do much for their compositions. Some of these inclusions—particularly Ohara's on "Chernobyl Blues"—push Vile Luxury to another level. Often times, black/death metal seemingly gets tangled in itself; it, unfortunately, can render an album unlistenable. Imperial Triumphant shows great attention to detail with each song. In turn, it makes Vile Luxury more of an austere, urban adventure with something more extravagant or sinister around every corner.
Imperial Triumphant has been a burgeoning band for a handful of years now. In their decade-plus of tinkering and experimenting with metal's very construct, Vile Luxury shows their fully-realized vision. Their homage—or perhaps eulogy—to New York City is simply gripping; their displays urban majesty and decay demand your attention. The jazzy improvisations, off-kilter arrangements, and overall ethos of the band itself have made the New York trio's newest album a grand, avant-garde black metal offering.