Releasing their very own, Deathspell Omega influenced brand of avantgarde black metal since 2005, I first became aware of Imperial Triumphant's music with the release of their sophomore full-length album Abyssal Gods in 2015. I really liked the morbid atmosphere, implementation of choirs and occasional classical elements as well as their loud and overwhelming sound, especially on the drums. Each snare hit was like a gunshot and only served to enhance the invasive nature of their sound. I did, however, feel like Abyssal Gods lacked a bit of focus.
Nonetheless, I was excited to find out that the band was working on more material and Inceste, their fourth EP, is the product of their effort. Just like their previous releases, this EP was mixed and mastered by Colin Marston, well-known for his performances in projects like Behold... The Arctopus, Krallice and Gorguts' 2013 album Colored Sands.
According to the band Inceste is their "interpretation of the works of French aristocrat Marquis de Sade", an author of the 18th century responsible for works such as Juliette, The 120 days of Sodom and Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue. The band makes the connection to their inspiration for this record quite clear, adding french vocals by female guest musicians at the end of two tracks as well as what sounds like a cembelo to me on the opening track coupled with some french spoken word.
What makes those additions so impactful and atmospheric however, is the use of effects. Reverb and distortion make those parts sound dated and run-down in an unsettling way.
The music on this EP is as eccentric as always with wailing guitars, gritty, echoing vocals and, in parts, very jazz-influenced drum and bass playing. That is not to say that Imperial Triumphant doesn't rely on traditional black metal elements though. There's plenty of blastbeats and tremolo-picked guitars as well as some mid-paced, swirling guitar riffs all throughout this EP.
That being said, I really like how the band implemented additional instruments and the voices of their guest vocalists into their compositions. The mid-section of the second track features some Saxophone playing that manages to add just the right amount of chaos to the intensity before the band cuts everything off for a section of quiet, sparse guitar notes and whispers from their main vocalist.
Another example of that are the clean background vocals on the third track, Oblivion in Morsels, that really top off the eerie atmosphere of that song.
The last track on this EP takes the price for me, however. Breath of Innocence starts off with a wonderfully dark choir setting the scene and reminding me of tracks such as Celestial War Rape off of their previous album. I think the band's ability to create a coherent, impactful atmosphere really shines in those parts and the way they bring in guest musicians and additional instrumentation makes their already very solid musical performances just that little bit more special and worthy of attention, in my eyes. The song itself begins fast and straightforward, featuring bouncing guitars and alternating between blastbeats and drumrolls in the intro before everything slows down around the mid-section.
Distorted, loose guitars and strained vocals in the background set in and quickly make room for some plucked strings paired with what sounds like whistling that precedes that band kicking back into gear and ramping up the intensity. What comes after that is probably my favorite part of this entire EP. Everything comes to a stop and the guitars slow down to slow chugging of the lower strings whereas the drumming turns into bursts of incredibly creative drum play that wins me over with the choice of unusual sounding high-hats and cymbals.
The very last seconds of the song feature some abysmal, banshee-like screams by another female guest musician and Inceste comes to disturbing close.
Imperial Triumphant delivered a wonderfully dark and twisted EP with this and continue to be one of the most noteworthy black metal projects around for me.