Everyone’s favorite, or at the very least favorite-to-be, reality benders Imperial Triumphant are releasing their new record Spirit Of Ecstacy on July 22. I sat down with my fellow writer Robert to re-establish our ongoing Finnish-Romanian alliance after a while, and to scrutinize this album that’s, for all things considered, quite the event in its own right.
Eeli: How are you Bromani?
Robert: I am very fine Brotendo. Let’s just add that in post.
E: That is the post.
E: So, to the matter at hand, the new Imperial Triumphant. Need to actually provide a bit of a backstory for that, as I’m relatively new aboard the IT train. I think the first time I ever listened to them was when you raged on about their previous album, Alphaville, around the time it came out. I don’t know how, but I was totally oblivious to their existence prior to that.
R: I was aboard the hype train a little earlier, I think a year or two before the release of Alphaville. My first contact with them was Vile Luxury. It was just something else for my avant-garde, metal-seeking taste buds. I was, needless to say, surprised earlier this year when I heard that they’re doing a new album, so soon after Alphaville. I was instantly hyped; the singles amplified that hype and the hype boomed as I started delving into the album recently.
E: Yeah, and I think there couldn’t have been a better introduction for a newbie to me like Alphaville was. I just got my shit properly floored by it. That’s also why the announcement of the new album raised my eyebrows quite a bit.
It’s definitely a plus that there wasn’t more time in between. For some reason, I also felt that with Imperial Triumphant, there wouldn’t be the regular downsides usually associated with bands releasing new music so shortly after the previous one.
R: Yeah, I sort of subscribe to that, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little skeptical seeing an announcement so soon. Another very surprising thing for me was finding out, sometime after the announcement of the record, that Max Gorelick, one of their former guitarists, is the son of Kenny G – the Kenny G. That surprise multiplied thousandfold when they both appeared as guest musicians on the fourth track of the album, which is honestly, I think, the finest of the songs on this record, its qualities being utterly catalyzed by our honorable guest performers.
E: Interesting. I think the Kenny G announcement ruffled some feathers, but after all, it’s the most Imperial Triumphant thing to do, honestly. The other guests also provided quite the hefty weight flavor-wise to the songs. I think each guest really shines through in the mix, but none feel out of place somehow.
In addition, I like how they have amped up the visual aspect with this album, like with the videos and such. To me it feels like they’ve really put the whole pandemic-era into use in the best possible way.
R: I mean yeah, each had their own place defined clearly and in an organic way. Kenny G is just the cherry on top of the guestlist, so to speak, if you ask me. There’re too many guest musicians to list, but people can check out the full lineup, however, I do commend them for bringing in Colin Marston – it only makes all the sense in this context. The band’s over-the-top presence and demeanor is at an all-time high, somehow topping the one present on Alphaville.
I agree with amping up the visual element. I feel like the sound rose in tandem with that and taps further into that Art-Deco-inspired, early/mid 20th century, oldie American aesthetic, drenched in opulence, decadence, and social rot. As an aside, saying that and considering the music at hand, I can’t also help but feel that Spirit Of Ecstasy could’ve been (in an extended form) the ideal soundtrack for the BioShock series, if they were oriented more for this kind of sonic accompaniment.
E: I can see what you mean. It goes without saying that the theatrical aspect has always been a huge part of their output, but it’s surely been upped this time. The soundtrack-y vibe is something I paid attention to as well, but goes without saying I (or you) don’t mean to diminish it as a soundtrack per se. It just has that feel to it, and not in the slightest due to the two almost entirely instrumental songs in the middle of the album, “In the Pleasure of Their Company” and “Bezumnaya”, which I thought was an interesting approach. Granted that the latter has some vocals, yes, but overall, the atmosphere in the pair is uncanny. Did you pay attention to that?
R: Totally. It took me a few listens to catch on to that, though, and quite frankly, I’ll need, like, 50 more listens until I will feel that I found every little detail and placed it in the full picture of it all. I would almost dare say that “In the Pleasure of Their Company” is a deeply progressive song which, alongside “Merkurius Gilded”, shows an elevated and refined usage of elements and influences from jazz music – similarly to other songs from past records. As for the atmosphere you mention, indeed, it is highly unsettling, even by Imperial Triumphant standards, and to me it feels like they’re tapping into that kind of otherworldly and esoteric approach to avant-garde, which I’ve personally only seen done right so far by a few bands, most notably Kayo Dot and maudlin of the Well.
E: That otherworldly angle is a good way to call it, actually. The mood is certainly haunting throughout, and I’ve got to say that it is very captivating, and probably adds to the album’s overall impact a ton. Pair that with the fact that Imperial Triumphant are truly unique, and there’s really something once in a lifetime going on here, quite frankly.
I think that, as a whole, Imperial Triumphant tap into something fresh on Spirit Of Ecstacy, which is something I honestly didn’t even expect from them at this stage – or yet, rather. I don’t know, how do you feel about that?
R: Absolutely, it’s something fresh and even more authentic than what they were doing before. Although I had similar thoughts about Alphaville, Spirit Of Ecstasy brings it to a level where it’s a much more wholly artistic endeavor, rather than strictly musical as before. I was also not expecting them to reach this kind of level yet – so to speak. I’m kind of afraid too, because this has that apex feeling for a band’s output. If they take it further, it’s going to be absolutely amazing, but I’d very much hope this is, in the worst case, just part of the upwards slope of their trajectory in terms of quality.
E: Yeah, I wouldn’t – or don’t want to – be afraid about what the future holds for them, but at the moment this certainly feels like an apex for them like you said, at least so far. The whole album’s a holistic experience, and I think therein lies its biggest flaw as well, if you can call it as such.
You see, while it certainly delivers on all levels for anyone even remotely invested in their output, it’s an extremely difficult listen for someone uninitiated, if not borderline impossible. I highly doubt anyone who isn’t familiar with them prior to Spirit Of Ecstasy will get into them with it. It’s wholly just so ‘out there’ that I can see how it can be too much on every possible angle for someone.
R: Hahaha, yeah, that’s a good point. It’s super dense and very out there. I thought the same thing of Alphaville two years ago, but Spirit Of Ecstasy takes it to a superlative level. I’m going to be honest; it was hard enough for me as it is to get into it. My first listen was a waste in the sense that it was merely just attunement for the ears; I remained with nothing out of the musical info or emotion conveyed afterwards. On my subsequent couple of listens, I started to discern all the forms and nuances, like when your eyes start adjusting to an extremely dark environment. It’s an incredibly rich album, flooded with details and somehow the level of intricacy, as well as these exaggerated complexities, don’t end up being cacophonic or superfluous. I think it’s quite an achievement, especially given the impressive style and level of performance employed to voice said ideas.
E: I can totally understand what you mean in it taking its sweet time to fully unfold. I must’ve listened to it over a dozen times by now, and it still hasn’t fully opened itself up to me. But funnily enough, this hard-access aspect also plays in as one of the album’s mightiest strong suits, because the replay value is not only immense, it’s borderline ridiculous.
R: Indeed, I might have to listen to this record a hundred or so times until I feel familiar with it, until it no longer demands 150% focus to keep up with it – even though I must’ve mowed through it a couple of dozen times by the time we’re having this discussion. Spirit Of Ecstasy is, for all intents and purposes, a metal masterpiece. I believe there will be few records, if any throughout the rest of the year, which will come even near and, dare I say, similarly and possibly for the rest of the decade. Yes, it’s early and pre-emptive in a sense to make such bold claims, but taking the entire package and cutting it to bits for scrutiny, there’s nothing left but gems. I honestly can’t find a single fault with it, no matter how I turn it around. Imperial Triumphant outdid themselves big time and I’m sure fans will agree with this.
E: You know what? I couldn’t have said it any better myself, no matter how hard I tried. All in all, it’s such a leviathan effort to wrap your head around that I think the best course of action is to, for once, shut one’s mouth and just listen to it. This is the very essence of the notion about how words can’t do the art justice.