Overall Score: 7/10 Musicianship: 10/10 Songwriting: 7/10 Cohesiveness: 7/10 Pros: Another abrasive and disorientating record that will push your limits further than before Cons: In embracing more free-form elements, you will get lost but that's also the point
After just two years (yes, it’s really only been that long) since their 2020 release Alphaville, IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT are back. The unique death metal/jazz fusion three-piece reached new heights both musically and thematically last time out so expectations for a follow up were incredibly lofty. Spirit Of Ecstasy chooses to lean further into the unbound creativity and explorative side of what they do, creating a record that feels even more dizzying than the last which carries with it both positives and negatives.
Whilst Alphaville smuggled you into a dystopian version of New York and had you staring up at skyscrapers whilst you choked on the fumes, Spirit Of Ecstasy is less concerned with spectacle. Feeling more at home in the dark, twisting catacombs of a seedy yet stylish underground lounge, IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT are still incredible at creating a mind’s eye image on this record. Like taking the opening steps into BioShock’s Rapture or the moment in From Dusk Till Dawn where the evil unveils itself, the first half of this record creates a feeling that you’ve just wandered into something that you are going to wish you hadn’t ever come across.
From moments of sheer noise in the opener Chump Change and screams in Metrovertigo that embody pure terror, this album is somehow even more abrasive and chaotic than the last. There will be many moments throughout the runtime where you have no idea what is happening, even checking to see whether that noise you just heard was actually from your headphones. New directions or elements burst out from behind the curtain as the free-form jazz element of what they do is on full display here. The saxophone section performed by Kenny G on the track Merkurius Gilded is a particular highlight.
Through all of the elements that are dialled up so far that they reach the point of insanity, IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT’s musicianship stands as the base for all of it. Whilst there are a million different extremes happening all over the record, occasionally you will pull yourself away from it to realise just how mind-blowing the band themselves are. When one of the trio gets to take centre stage amongst the pandemonium going on around them, it’s just another factor that will leave your head spinning trying to work out how a human being is doing this.
If the first half of the record is instantly an onslaught of creativity, ideas and noise, the second half is more of the same but if the wheels have gone off-road. Multiple instrumental tracks in a row give the latter half this incredibly disorientating feeling that is so difficult to get a handle on. Whilst Alphaville felt creatively free yet still cohesive and tight as a project, Spirit Of Ecstasy dives down a rabbit hole just when you think it’s shown you its hand. It feels free-flowing from the moment when you click play on the record and it starts with a guitar being plugged in but tracks five through seven will push your boundary of where you’re willing to go with them, for better or for worse.
Radio samples are dotted in and around some of the tracks but they don’t give you any sort of through line, they just add to the baffling madness of it all. While Alphaville was a record you had to invest a lot in to get something out of, Spirit Of Ecstasy feels like it’s challenging you to see how long you can endure it. Whilst the second half is just a further expression of their no boundaries in sight sound, it does mean that the record as a whole loses its cohesiveness before bringing you back in on the last track.
Spirit Of Ecstasy is a record that couldn’t be duplicated by any other band and that’s its greatest selling point. In that sense, the times when they push even further into disorientating and difficult waters are just an extension of their most chaotic tendencies. It will leave you feeling lost at points and whilst that is part of the appeal, leaning more into the jazz foundations means it loses some solidarity. It’s strange to describe Alphaville as a cohesive record but it wrapped you up in a world from start to finish whilst this time around, IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT leave a path that dares you to try and follow it. It’s a great extension of what they’ve done in the past but without any restraints, it feels less sturdy than the architecture that came before it.
Spirit Of Ecstasy releases July 22 via Century Media Records
For more information on IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT, like their official page on Facebook.