Imperial Triumphant’s journey began back in 2005. By 2008 founder and at the time only member Zachary Ilya Ezrin was able produced one EP with the help of fellow New Yorkers Pyrrhon’s rhythm section. Since then Imperial Triumphant have become a full band with the inclusion of Kenny Grohowski on Drums and Steve Blanco on Bass. They have also added 3 full length studio albums to their discography; Abominamentvm in 2012, Abyssal Gods in 2015 and Vile Luxury in 2018. Over the course of that discography the band have moved from Avant-Garde Black Metal into the realms of Technical Black/Death Metal, the Avant-guard has stayed despite the added technicality.
The music that Imperial Triumphant play is a mix of Black and Death Metal, to be honest it’s difficult to put it into either camp due to how this band approach extreme metal. It’s a form of Extreme Metal that is technical in the way that Gorguts or the aforementioned Pyrrhon are Technical. So, dense, complex sometimes atonal riffs mixed with very fast ultra technical drumming and harsh vocals throughout. In many places the rhythms feel lurching and stumbling, but still fit together. Zachary Ezrin’s guitar uses a lot of tremolo bar dives as part of the rhythms, it’s something that feels risky as it seems as if the guitar is about to go out of tune, but it always fits. There is a definite Jazz sensibility to this as well; experimental Avant-Guard jazz, maybe a little bit like John Coltrane in his later years. Another feeling that you get from Imperial Triumphant’s music and aesthetic is a nineteen twenties futuristic feel. Almost as if the film Metropolis had become a Black Metal band. This is an Art Deco Technical Death/Black Metal album as rooted in New York of the nineteen twenties as it is in Early Nineties Florida or Norway.
Although I’ve mentioned the aspects of Imperial Triumphant’s music that might be challenging to the listener, that does not mean it’s unpalatable. Yes, it’s technical but you don’t need a degree in music to appreciate it. Rotted Futures has some very intricate technical riffs, but although its technical it’s also very melodic. The rhythms are slightly fractured and lurching, but you quickly find your head nodding along, on the surface it seems chaotic but there is an underlying order that as a listener you can latch onto pretty quickly. City Swine is another standout track. It opens with clean riffs, almost a Post Metal guitar sound, this helps the Jazz aspects to shine through. The track also features a fantastic part with only drums before adding some chaotic Piano parts. The piano then joins in with what I can only term as Blast Beat Jazz.
The track Atomic Age is a simpler song. Opening with vocals that sound like they were recorded in the nineteen twenties, the track then goes into some very rhythmic riffs that are much less complex than the other material on the album. This makes the track feel more direct and straightforward than a lot of the material on the album. It’s still much more complex than a lot of extreme metal, but for Imperial Triumphant it’s simple. Title track Alphaville is a lurching monster of a track that also features more vocals that sound as if they were recorded in the nineteen twenties. The abrasiveness of the music is tempered by the beautiful vocals in a really affecting way. Final track The Greater Good is dense and harsh, with some very impressive atonal riffing. The track features an organ in the second half, which as the guitar bass and drums fade out, brings the track to an end.
Alphaville is a stunning album. Yes it’s very technical, something that some people might find difficult and challenging, but Imperial Triumphant manage to make an album that is technical and challenging, whilst at the same time being melodic, tuneful and affecting. The difficult aspects are tempered by stunning musicality, and an atmosphere that feels like jazz age futurism. Making music like this whilst still making it palatable to your average metal fan is a clever trick to pull off, and Imperial Triumphant have pulled it off with aplomb. I feel like this album is destined to be a classic, an album that will be remembered for years to come, and will inspire many more musicians to attempt to do what Imperial Triumphant have done here. 9/10
Thundermother: Heatwave (AFM Records) [Paul Hutchings]
I remember reviewing the third album by Thundermother two years ago. At the time I stated that I’d have wagered substantial cash on them being from down under. I was wrong at the time, but the band’s antipodean stomp sits very much in the AC/DC and Airbourne hard rock quarter. There was certainly nothing to dislike on that album and the good news is that the Swedes have maintained the style and drive on album number four. It’s a raucous, vibrant, and punchy record which once more bristles with energy.
Whilst 13 tracks may be a bit ambitious, there was only the occasional ballad which didn’t impress within the close to 50 minutes of stomping, big sounding heavy rock. Having reformed the band in 2017 founder and guitarist Filippa Nässil now has a solid line up with which to move things forward. Singer Guernica Mancini’s smoky blues roar is back whilst the engine room of drummer Emlee Johansson and Majsan Lindberg on bass keeps things purring along.
At times, the music is relatively basic and the band stick to a tried and trusted formula. But their feisty style and punk-tinged attitude win out. With all four members of the band now contributing to the writing, there is clear progression and Heatwave is an album that would work well on a hot day with a long drive and the stereo pumped way up. To initiate the test; would you watch them at a festival? The answer is most definitely yes. 7/10
Deathcraeft: On Human Devolution (Self Released) [Paul Scoble]
Borrowing elements from various genres of metal is not new but it doesn’t always work that well. It’s pleasing to note that Greek outfit Deathcraeft ’s debut release On Human Devolution does blend elements of thrash, death, and black metal into a maelstrom of chaos. Fitting really, given that the album is a concept loosely based on the Cthulhu mythos, whilst the lyrics shape around the socio-political self-destructive nature of humanity. Kind of on point as well, given the current state of the planet. Although the band follow the route through HP Lovecraft’s novels, sometimes the journey is more exciting than the destination.
A brave opening sees The Ritual – Beginning Of The End, all 12:31 of it. A kaleidoscopic journey which explodes with insane blast beats, a range of vocals that switch between dark death growls and occasional cleans and more time changes than a Swiss clock maker’s average day. Massive progressive elements underpin the entire piece, which at times is crushingly heavy, a driving rhythmic groove pushing it to the conclusion. From here on the tracks may be shorter but there is ample drama. The cinematic horror scope which introduces Spreading Lies gives way to a pulverising battery of riffs and drums, accompanied by soaring synthesisers which add the classical symphonic element. Vocals switch between black metal snarls and the blunt delivery of Sepultura's Derrick Green, as the track switches between genres at will.
And so it continues. Welcome To Oblivion’s orchestral build-up segues into a calmer but no less atmospheric beginning, the song bristling with energy and the imminent eruption which inevitably arrives. A more jagged and less fluid song, there are ferocious punkish tinges to this whilst the blast beats are relentless. Further changes occur the deeper into the album you delve, the combination of industrial and death metal on Survival is followed by the metallic edges of Daydreaming in the Abyss, with its jarring introduction. By the time final song Free Into The Void arrives, the head should be truly bemused, but in a good way. There may be only one way to address this and that is to dive back in for a second listen.
Recorded and mixed at Infinite Loop Studio, (Ionnina, Greece) by owner and guitarist Kostas Kalampokas, Deathcraeft ’s line up is completed by drummer Giannis Chiondis (also of Echidna) and vocalist Nikonas Tsolakos. On Human Devolution is a complex and intriguing release and one that is well worth taking the plunge into. 8/10
Joe Bouchard: Strange Legends (Deko Entertainment) [Paul Hutchings]
It would be impossible to review the latest solo album by Joe Bouchard without referring to Blue Öyster Cult. Bouchard was a founder member of the rock giants, composing many of their popular classics. Indeed, there are several references to BÖC in the press release that accompanied the album. Strange Legends is Bouchard’s sixth solo release since 2009’s initial Jukebox In My Head and Bouchard enlisted some big names to assist. Current Bryan Adams drummer Micky Curry brings a big drum sound with songs co-written with lyricist and Sci-Fi writer John Shirley, a long-time lyricist for BÖC whilst other songs were written by the late John Elwood Cook. Bouchard plays guitar and bass as well as singing and the production and mix is as polished as you’d expect.
As well as relatively routine cover of The Kinks’ All Day And All Of The Night, Strange Legends features 11 short and sharp rock tracks which vary in style and feel but all of which have that undeniable BÖC quality and flavour. Hit And Run is a classic example, a bluesy solo oozing out of the mid-section, driving bass and catchy hooks. Bouchard keeps things relatively simple, but there is plenty of groove to get interested in here. Racin' Thru The Desert is a smoking instrumental which wouldn’t be out of place in a film score, some 60s style guitar and interplay with brass and keyboards get the foot tapping along nicely. Elsewhere, opening track The African Queen is based on the book and film and is a smooth introduction to the album. She’s A Legend sees thick synths and saxophone add depth, whilst Strangely In Love is the only ballad on the record and is a gentle semi-acoustic number.
Bouchard is rightly enthused by his latest release. “I really got to explore the production and mixing of this album like nothing I’ve ever done before. The guitar sounds are especially well produced. I play all the bass on this album, one thing that many of the Blue Öyster Cult fans miss on other projects and wanted to hear more of. The vocals and guitars fit so well with Micky’s drums. It’s the best I’ve ever done.” As a long time BÖC fan, there is plenty to enjoy here and if you fancy taking a break from skull splitting riffing, blast beats and the like, Strange Legends will provide that alternative with ease. 8/10