Imperial Triumphant is hardly the first heavy metal act to be inspired by the writings of the infamous Marquis De Sade, but they’ve gone full libertine for the release of their Inceste EP.
Imperial Triumphant have been riding a wave of critical acclaim since the release of 2015’s Abyssal Gods, which made a host of critics’ top lists from last year. They’ve even been called “… one of the most important U.S. black metal acts currently active” at No Clean Singing. Not content to rest on their laurels after the success of last year, the band quickly recorded their followup, which continues down the same path of blackened dissonant death metal established on Abyssal Gods. Inceste (you guessed it, “incest” in English) manages to become an even stranger animal than its predecessor, remarkable given the much briefer runtime.
“Dead Heaven” from 2015’s Abyssal Gods
I’ve already called into question the veracity of Imperial Triumphant as a black metal band on this site (more than once, actually). If you’re here today looking for archetypal black metal, you may be disappointed. I will concede today, however, that Inceste conjures a feeling of black metal, without staying within those parameters precisely. It’s reminiscent of much of the work of Dutch noisemaker Gnaw Their Tongues, whose horrific soundscapes instill the listener with their brand of nightmarish dread. Writing this, I am torn on the band’s dedication to sadist imagery, as to whether or not they successfully utilize it without attempting to be edgy or controversial. The title, Inceste is splashed on a cover of a nude and submissive human. The track titles run the gauntlet of Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom: “Libertine” (the intro), “Kaleidoscopic Orgies,” “Oblivion in Morsels” (I have a good idea what they mean), and “Breath of Innocence” (which was also the advance track for this EP). I’m interested in your perspective on this, dear readers. If Imperial Triumphant was a lesser band, it’s likely I would comically write these themes off as edgy; as it stands, the music on Inceste grants them a considerable amount of wiggle room.
Inceste’s intro “Libertine” is a creepy call for Sade’s revolution, forgoing metal for understated classic instruments and a monologue in French. The album’s first proper track “Kaleidoscopic Orgies” is the successor to “Dead Heaven” (above), and follows suit with a mechanical dissonant stomp. The angular riffs it opens with have less in common with guitars and more in common with power machinery. Chaotic fills backbone the track until it stops abruptly over a minute in, leaving only subtle drumming and bird noises until the violence resumes again. “Kaleidoscopic Orgies” repeats this pattern, becoming even more off-kilter as it progresses, underneath deep bellows from Ilya, Imperial Triumphant’s architect, guitarist, and chief vocalist.
The next two tracks follow suit: bizarre, dissonant metal that gives one the impression it could fall apart at any moment. Imperial Triumphant mixes things up further with a host of collaborators, keyboards, a saxaphone; they end two songs with sounds that could come from an old-time victrola. “Breath of Innocence” uses the same trick as “Kaleidoscopic Orgies,” delving into free form excursions during a break from its chaos.
Imperial Triumphant might not win over any converts with Inceste, with its taboo subject matter and genre-bending approach to extreme metal. If you love Deathspell Omega’s most recent material, or the idea of Gorguts taking the Left-Hand Path after birthing skronk in extreme metal in 1998, chances are you’ll dig this EP. If you loved Abyssal Gods (like I did), Inceste is more of what you already like about this band. Inceste’s length proves to be one of its drawbacks. It clocks in at twenty minutes of new material, with only three proper songs. Each time I reach the end, left with hammering drums, the splay of ominous noises, and bloodcurdling shouts of some imagined victim, I’m left wanting more, and ponder what Imperial Triumphant could have done by transforming Inceste into a full length album.
4 out of 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Inceste is out this Friday, April 15 on Redefining Darkness Records. Cover image via.