New York City is the new home of French black metal. No, I’m not entirely fucking with you. Hear me out… back in 2013, Madam X reviewed Goliath, Imperial Triumphant‘s two-song EP, and it impressed quite a number of us here at the offices of Angry Metal Guy. The mix of savvy technical death metal and viscous, oozy black metal was well-played and well-produced, creating a rather unsettling, but incredibly awesome, listening experience. All of that is a moot point, for as promising as Goliath was, nobody was prepared for the ingenuity, the murkiness, and the sheer WTF Factor that their sophomore full-length, Abyssal Gods, would bestow onto our jaded ears.
Wasting absolutely zero time, “From Palaces of the Hive” stampedes and blasts with the fervor of Deathspell Omega meeting up with Today is the Day for a nice stroll through the murky depths of Hell. Ripe with atonality provided by vocalist Ilya “Goddessraper” Ezrin’s guitar acrobatics, as well as bludgeoning drumming by Alex Cohen (Pyrrhon). And then, two mintues later… silence and atmosphere, horns, twangy Gorguts-esque melodies and thick Voivodian bass by Erik Malave, before it all stomps, lurches, and pukes its way out the door, leaving ichor and entrails in its wake. It’s chaotic, ugly, eerie, uncomfortable, and I loved every second of it.
“Unsettling” is easily the secret password of the day, as very rarely do you hear a passage and think to yourself, “Hey, that made sense!” And yet, when you hear these moments, they’re so jaw-droppingly bizarre and awesome that you go back to hear them again and again. Thankfully, Abyssal Gods is full of these moments. “Dead Heaven” (“Dead,” not “Deaf”) evokes more Gorguts lunacy and even a bit of a Domination-era Morbid Angel crawl before going full-on blackened tech-death. “Krokodil” sees Cohen sharing drumming duties with Kenny Grohowski (ex-Hung, Secret Chiefs 3) on the album’s longest (over eight mintes) track, with Ezrin’s guitars bending and warping, putting you in a state of complete unrest and discomfort with RK Halvørson and Yoshiko Ohara (Bloody Panda) singing and moaning over the blasts and chaos. But the award for “Did That Just Really Happen?” goes to standout track “Opposing Holiness,” for its expert use of a two-second happy, almost Cajun ragtime breakdown at the :51 mark, complete with unholy ukulele! Yes, Imperial Triumphant took a page out of Rob Scallon’s book and incorporated ukulele into black metal, and quite successfully, I may add!
Proving once again that something unbroken doesn’t require further tinkering, Colin Marston (Krallice, Gorguts, Behold… The Arctopus) once again helmed the production at Menegroth the Thousand Caves, and did a damn fine job of making sure the chaos was overwhelming, but not at the cost of the instruments suffering. The bass is good and thick, guitars cut and slice, and the drums pummel with reckless abandon. The artwork by Andrew Tremblay is also stellar. Really, I’m having a hell of a time trying to find a flaw with this album, as even the interludes are quite tastefully done, though the album could be a little more dynamic. Still, it’s been a damn long time since a record made me feel happily uncomfortable, pleasantly scared, and absolutely enamored by its insanity and performance.
So I’m not joking around when I say that Imperial Triumphant put out the best French black metal album of recent history. For as good as Goliath was (and it still is incredible, don’t get me wrong), it just looks dwarfed and downright adorable compared to the sheer lunacy and onslaught that Abyssal Gods delivered. The bar has been elevated. Folks, meet your new masters.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Code666 Records
Release Dates: EU: 2015.03.16 | NA: 03.10.2015