The metropolis of New York City has inspired many artists and musicians, but few are able to channel the dark heart of the city quite like Imperial Triumphant. Their boundary-pushing black metal manages to capture the city in all its opulence and squalor. It’s enthralling and terrifying in equal measure.
In fact, that’s the whole reason for their existence. “The concept of this band has evolved since its inception. It’s largely a product of our surroundings—that is, the city we’re in,” vocalist and guitarist Zachary Ilya Ezrin says. “We observe all kinds of lifestyles from the low-level subways to the magnificent skyscrapers and see people suffering within them. The big city isn’t a typical subject in most metal, but it’s a very real darkness. Of course, New York City is the apex of many things great and even more things evil. It’s filled with ancient symbols that fascinate us, and the Art Deco themes have so much style that we find very fitting in our black metal world.”
The city serves as a perfect muse for their dark art. “This place is spiritually vexed—or haunted,” Ezrin says. “Everything here has a way of being expanded and condensed all at once, and it is within that vice grip where one’s true nature emerges. This city is a constant reflection of said circumstances, and its resplendency shines brightly, just as it has for all prior power centers in antiquity—aka a hellhole for [the] non-opulent.”
All of this chaos and beauty can be heard on Imperial Triumphant’s new album, Vile Luxury, which drops July 13 on Gilead Media. Those expecting rote, by-the-numbers black metal will be taken aback. Vile Luxury takes some interesting left-field twists and turns, which only add to the power of the music. That’s the point. “Our music is constantly evolving. The sum total of all [our] band members’ musical upbringings, our environment, and observations influence our sound,” Ezrin says. “This diverse sonic palette allows us to dig deeper into the rich musical history from past to present. As we play together, our music evolves. It’s really an organic process.”
However, those expecting any kind of statement from the band—including drummer Kenny Grohowski and bassist, keys player, and vocalist Steve Blanco—will be out of luck. “We have no statement,” Ezrin says. “That’s not how life works. Vile Luxury—with exception to ‘Chernobyl Blues’—is an observation of existence through our lens that is New York.”
The new album is wrapped in a gorgeous cover that brings to mind Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” gone evil. The ideas put forth by that movie and its director fit perfectly into Imperial Triumphant’s music. “‘Metropolis’ is a massive symbol or reflection of the civilization we’re born into and its creators,” Ezrin says. “New York City is undoubtedly our ‘metropolis,’ so we wanted our artwork to represent this. It could’ve been Berlin, London, Cairo, Paris, Tokyo, Beijing, etc., but we’re here, so it’s the New York metropolis.”
The band’s commitment to an unnerving aesthetic also applies to their live performances, where they don mask and robes. This gives their shows the feeling of an unholy ritual. They didn’t start out this way but consciously moved in this direction. The band feel it perfectly fits their concept. “The masks came into the equation very naturally. Anything you wear onstage is technically stage costume—even with a dirty shirt, jeans, and sneakers, you’re still making a statement,” Ezrin says. “We wanted something that reflected the music and the aesthetic. The masks were custom made for Imperial Triumphant. They are meant to spark curiosity and draw people into our world. Each person in the crowd should feel like Bill Harford in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’: curious and scared.”
Be very afraid. Imperial Triumphant’s urban black metal is rooted in a very real darkness. This is no cartoon, no gimmick. It’s a reflection of their surroundings. Those craving something dark and cutting-edge, meet your new favorite band. Black metal needs bands like them, and so do their city and scene. “All bands fit into the N.Y.C. metal scene, as it’s quite diverse,” Ezrin says. “It’s highly probable, however, that the types of influences, particular tastes, and artistic goals we have most likely find their home in a city such as this.”