Imperial Triumphant – Spirit of Ecstasy Review

We already know what’s going to happen here: I review Imperial Triumphant’s fifth album, Spirit of Ecstasy, and the comments section here will explode with remarks from the peanut gallery, explaining how much they can’t stand this type of music and how it’s “hipster drivel” of the highest magnitude. Ah, yes… the most divisive band we’ve ever reviewed that’s not named Impure Wilhelmina, Fellowship, or Wilderun, New York’s guttural black-death-jazz miscreants have no less stirred up the masses here in such a tizzy that you’d half-expect them to have somehow personally violated your dog. But no, all they did was make music. Complicated, atonal, dissonant death metal with more than a subtle nod to the New York jazz scene that’s either your personal equivalent of the actuating portion of bee legs, or your own personal kryptonite. Oh, and did I mention that Kenny fuckin’ G. is on this thing?!

Yepper, the smooth jazz legend himself makes an appearance on here, as does his son, The Mantle’s Max Gorelick,1 and they both fit the overall vibe that IT are trying to give off on Spirit of Ecstasy. The affluent, shimmering highs are still lofty and deep-pocketed, like the fat-cats that insist on speaking to your manager at any slight inconvenience. The lows, though, plummet to subterranean levels of depravity and filth, recalling the earlier, uglier days of Abyssal Gods. Take opener “Chump Change,” easily the most vicious IT have sounded in recent years, with Zachary Ilya Ezrin’s despondent moans and atonal chugs and riffs, Steve Blanco throwing spider-y bass runs with impressive ease, and Kenny Grohowski tossing out rolling fills, jazzy percussive portions, and stop-on-a-dime precision that continues to impress and frighten, even after knowing all three men’s incredible chops from prior records.

The opulent savagery doesn’t stop there, either. “Metrovertigo” pulls the discomfort further into the abyss before things slow down considerably and go almost dead silent, creating a big enough breathing space for you to stretch your legs, pour yourself a nice glass of pinot noir, and then launch 30 feet into the air when Ezrin gives the most uncomfortable of death moans two-thirds into the song as everything goes gloriously haywire. “Merkurius Gilded,” the aforementioned IT/Kenny G./Max Gorelick combo and album highlight, once again provides the perfect amalgamation of affluent excess and urban decay, as both father and son throw down an awesome dual solo together. “Tower of Glory, City of Shame” welcomes back Bloody Panda’s talented Yoshiko Ohara, shrieking and screaming over soundclips of news bites, police sirens wailing, and stop-start mayhem.

From a production stance, Spirit of Ecstasy is easily IT’s most vibrant offering. The sparse horns, Kenny G.’s sax, and Steve Blanco’s bass have all the aural space needed to breathe and be heard. Still, Ezrin’s guitars and voice, as well as Grohowski’s thunderous drums, all make their presence felt. None of this is easy to accomplish, especially with such a wild mix of styles and vibes, so kudos to Trey Spruance for keeping it all together so well. The only flaws, if you want to call them that, reside on the last two songs. “Bezumnaya” slows things down a bit too much, especially after the chaotic jazzfest that lies in preceding instrumental “In the Pleasure of Their Company,” almost acting like a comedown of sorts. And while closer “Maximalist Scream” features a spirited performance by Voivod’s Denis “Snake” BĂ©langer, it doesn’t quite reach the highs (or lows) of the other six tracks preceding this one and “Bezumnaya,” and it feels like it’s just there in comparison.

In the past, I’ve compared Imperial Triumphant to a host of black and death metal bands in an attempt to better paint a somewhat accurate picture of what they sound like. Now, they have their own identity, their own sound, their own vibe, and almost nobody possesses their level of skill and confidence. That said, I know your mind is already made up about Spirit of Ecstasy before I even typed a single letter, so I’ll part with this: if you hate IT, there are literally millions of other bands to tickle your fancy. If you love them, Spirit of Ecstasy, while not flawless, is still worthy of your time and money. That’s the power of metal, folks.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 22nd, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Who was also a member of IT for a couple years.
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