No one could accuse Imperial Triumphant of going easy on us with 2020’s breakthrough, Alphaville, and true to form they’ve journeyed further into obscurity with their latest album rather than slowed down to capitalise on all the attention. Spirit Of Ecstasy is, let’s put it fairly and frankly, completely fucking insane. Where previous releases jarred and jangled nerves but left you with a semi-coherent set of coordinates, this is a fragmented, obliterative journey whose jazz-blasted landscape makes no such concessions.
Cruelly wrought in black and gold, the record is all god-baiting spires, jagged crenelations and impossible angles: a terrible, imposing place where ideas and motifs are stretched, inverted and forced to devour their own poisonous tails. Tower Of Glory, City Of Shame transforms from a grand seasick shamble into something that can feasibly backdrop hymnal chants and glitch-smashed atomisation, while Merkurius Gilded’s pleasant, filmic introduction is cruelly mirrored by cracked, shrieking dissonance and Bezumnaya seems to be voiced in the actual language of demons.
Ever ones to collaborate, the band have brought together a cast of guest players that is impressive but also varied to the point of mania. Members of acts like Voivod, Testament, Krallice and Mr. Bungle all enter the fray, improbably rubbing shoulders with an Emmy-winning composer and a gun-for-hire trumpeter who’s appeared on Broadway and gigged with Barry Manilow. Oh, and did we mention that Kenny G is on here too? For all its goadingly obtuse turns and decisions, Spirit Of Ecstasy somehow coheres into a wonderful, ornate and aberrant whole – one where diseased fusion intricacies, choral vocals and brass instrumentation feel like hostile incursions, and the moments of death metal savagery serve as air pockets of blessed relief.