Imperial Triumphant – Abominamentvm (self-released, 05 September 2012)
Imperial Triumphant – Shrine to the Trident Throne (Code666, 23 June 2014)
Our story begins “in early 2011,” according to the narrative I first started composing sometime between late 2012 and early 2013 (and which has been stored as a draft on this website until today). As such, apparently I’ve been a big fan of NYCBM hellions Imperial Triumphant for quite a while: since prior to my taking up music-writing as an unpaid side profession, and (clearly) since I used to have spare time to read what others were writing about music. In the interim, I’ve accumulated a bit of a stockpile of this trio’s releases, intending to write something meaningful enough to suit the innovative and interesting music contained therein — a task that has seemed more daunting with each passing year.
Anyway, I’ve finally concluded that enough is enough, here are my ramblings and musings on this band’s output over the past five and a half years. It will be broken into two halves, and don’t forget (once you’ve finished wading through all this nonsense) you can catch Imperial Triumphant in Pittsburgh TONIGHT alongside Vile Creature at the album release show for Slaves BC‘s latest, Lo, and I am Burning.
What follows is the original introduction to the Abominamentvm review, scribbled by myself sometime after September 2012 and before March 2013:
So way back in early 2011, I remember seeing an article on MetalSucks which pointed out the fact that two new metal videos had appeared right around the same time, each of which coincidentally featured nuns and nudity in some way.
Now, the description of the first band sounded pretty unappealing, so I ignored it. In fact, I saw the description again just now when I searched for the link to the article, and I’ve already forgotten that band’s name again. But the second one was Imperial Triumphant, a black metal band from New York City, and the article seemed pretty complimentary about them. It also mentioned that the EP the song was taken from had been mastered by Colin Marston, which caught my eye because I’m familiar with his work in Krallice (and Dysrhythmia).
Like many other fans of black metal, I sometimes get bored with what the genre has to offer nowadays, so I’m always on the lookout for something new and interesting. While I wasn’t crazy about the sensationalist tactics being used in the MetalSucks article, it did point out Imperial Triumphant seemed to have much more of an artistic vision in the way they had constructed their “Stormgod” video.
Anyway, based on the description I was at least curious to hear the song, so I decided to give it a chance. The video itself (watch it here; of course, NSFW and all that) wasn’t really anything shocking — it was very dark and bloody, par for the course for most black metal videos.
But musically, it really made me take notice. In addition to the typical metal band line-up, these guys were also using a cello; then at one point everything else dropped out and it turned into what sounded almost like a baroque string quartet. And to top it all off, then there was a choir of voices singing, which lent an epic (and borderline terrifying) quality. Coupled with the war-march feeling that drove the rest of the song, well, I was impressed by what I was hearing. So I found the band on Bandcamp (where I was able to experience the full six-track EP Obeisance — it’s still available to hear, or buy
on CD oras a download here [UPDATE 2018: unfortunately, it appears the CD is no longer in print]).
So, fast-forwarding nearly two years later, Imperial Triumphant has another new release available. Since we’ve gotten all caught up in terms of my history with the band [UPDATE 2018: “Ha!”], I’d now like to move on to telling you about that new release — their debut full-length, Abominamentvm. Running a little under half an hour in length, spanning across eight tracks, Abominamentvm first hit cyberspace in digital format in the beginning of September 2012; again, the album was engineered, mixed and mastered by Colin Marston.
I listened to it as soon as I learned that it was available — and my first reaction was surprise at the complete lack of cello, since that instrument was so integrated throughout their previous release. I guess this was as a result of my having latched onto the cello so much in that earlier material, to the point where it became the principal identifying factor of the band (in my mind). But after having later revisited the album several times, I realized that once I quit pigeonholing Imperial Triumphant as “that black metal band with a cello,” I started to see all sorts of facets that I may have overlooked before.
In retrospect, it’s funny that this album didn’t immediately grab my attention, because in the next couple years following its release I absolutely fell in love with it. When Code666 put out the compilation album Shrine to the Trident Throne in 2014 (which combined all eight tracks of Abominamentvm with the two-song single Goliath), I completely broke my own unspoken rules: normally an album of previously-released material would have been relegated to Honorable Mention status at year-end, but this particular one had grown on me so much since its original release, I stubbornly insisted on inserting it into the Top 14 of 2014 list to make up for not giving it the respect it deserved back in 2012.
The album is full of darkness, frightening and macabre; nothing ever seems consistently in tune or unwavering in tempo — so I suppose it stands to reason that it may be difficult to digest all of it upon one’s initial exposure. But the uneasy mood created by the album as a whole is damn near perfect. That thick, gritty bassline that jumps out of the speakers (or earbuds, whatever) about 30 seconds into opening track “Hierophant,” and the sickeningly detuned guitar divebombs that accompany it, set up the atmosphere the utterly evil sounds that will follow throughout the entirety of the record.
While sometimes bringing in more of a death metal sound (particularly in the vocals) than pure black metal, and occasionally peppering in elements of doom and grind (even bouncing seamlessly between the two), probably the material here would be most accurately described as avant-garde: a roller-coaster-ride of tempo and rhythm shifts, truly disturbing pitch-bending in the guitar (and sometimes bass) parts, wildly flailing bass (and sometimes guitar) lines that emerge out of nowhere. Not to mention the simple and subtle, and yet somehow truly terrifying-sounding piano parts that make up the interludes “Credo in Nihil” and (especially) “Scaphism.”
The album, as originally presented, concludes with “Bellvm,” conveying the sort of apocalyptic end-of-days battle tone that characterized the band’s earlier EP. On the Trident Throne release, this is followed by the one-two punch of “Sodom” and “Gomorrah” — each a bit lengthier than the tracks that came before, and also a bit more cinematic and theatrical, expanding the band’s bizarre and frenzied style into what feel more like a pair of mini-suites than just individual songs.
Abominamentvm is still available on CD and digitally directly from the band.
Shrine to the Trident Throne is on sale in CD/vinyl/digital formats here.
Check out the second half of our two-part series on Imperial Triumphant right here.
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