Imperial Triumph – Spirit of Ecstasy
From the outside, the metal scene is often equated with loud guitars and screams. This is true to some extent, but you should never underestimate how diverse metal is (at least musically). Tastes vary and absolute consensus bands apart from the classics are rather rare. It is even more surprising that the Imperial Triumphant has become one of those acts that everyone celebrates or at least respects – despite, or maybe because, the trio is so damn unique and extreme on several levels.
Imperial Triumphant can be safely called a conceptual ensemble: their aesthetics are permeated with elements of film noir and art deco; we are transported back to the hustle and bustle of wild New York in the crazy twenties, when the great catastrophe and horrors of World War II were already hanging over the multi-million dollar metropolis. Musically, the band explains the excess and pride, building a panorama of extreme metal and jazz that threatens to collapse at any moment, just like the world in which it exists. And the most glaring thing: with the fifth album, it doesn’t get boring either. On “Spirit Of Ecstasy” Imperial Triumphant sounds more abstract than ever and is saying goodbye to the established song structures more and more often. I would be lying if I said that the predecessor of ‘Alphaville’ is not more accessible in many ways, but who wants accessibility here?
Incidentally, the list of guest metal and jazz musicians is three times longer than the track list. I’ll put this into debate as to whether it was absolutely necessary, but it fits pretty well with the band’s almost absurd wealth.
Mantar – Pain is eternal and that is the end
For ten years, Mantar has been celebrating, as they like to call it, “the joy of destroying things” – and I am celebrating euphoria. How the direct and uncompromising duo spat out their first two albums “Death By Burning” and “Ode To The Flame” at the foot of the German metal scene was quite impressive and, let me say: charming. Not to mention, they just threw out one of the greatest modern metal anthems of recent times, “Era Borealis”. There were no gimmicks, no big gimmicks, just untested in front of the blackboard.
But even a no-nonsense band like Mantar will grow sooner or later, and if you envy them, you should just listen to your old Motörhead records. “Pain Is Forever …” dares much more than its predecessors, from complex production to clean vocals – without drawing attention to itself. Not every experiment is a huge hit, but the courage to be available is perhaps more rebellion than the fourth front on the album could ever be, and once again it puts the exclamation point behind the statement that Mantar with limited stage thinking and unwritten genre – Rules can’t and won’t want anything do.
Wake up – thought forms a sink
It wasn’t love at first sight. Founded in 2009, Wake released early in their grindcore career, which for me is usually exciting for a maximum of one song, which is about a minute. But with their last two albums “Misery Rites” and “Devoring Ruin”, the Canadians have moved more and more towards Blackened Death – and that is exciting for me.
The new album “Thought Form Descend” is the current pinnacle of this development. Complex songs sound simple big and they are full of musical ideas which, despite their intensity, are strangely calming as a whole. I wouldn’t say you haven’t heard tracks of this caliber anywhere, but watching the band break free of all constraints and assumptions as to how they should sound is always impressive. And the fact that it produces such a strong album is not obvious.
RIP Mariusz Lewandowski
Unfortunately, this column edition is one of the (hopefully) few in which I not only celebrate strong publications, but also want to mention the sad news: on July 16, Polish artist Mariusz Lewandowski unexpectedly died at the age of 61. Lewandowski’s surreal (nightmarish) dreamlike paintings decorate numerous, sometimes very good, metal albums, perhaps the best known is his cover “Mirror Reaper” for the funeral duo Bell Witch.
His unique style, often reminiscent of the work of Zdzisław Beksiński, opened the door to other spheres with mystical grandeur. Religious symbolism found as much space as sci-fi influences – in his extensive works, the imagination was limitless. He gained notoriety in the metal scene thanks to Lewandowski’s collaboration with Bell Witch in 2017 and has created over two dozen album covers in the last five years, including for Mizmor, Fuming Mouth and most recently the deathgrind band Morgue Supplier.
Christina Wenig is an editor, journalist and photographer from Berlin. He writes about metal, hardcore and similar stuff for magazines such as Visions and Metal Hammer; on her Instagram feed, she shares her live impressions of sweaty clubs and reflects on feminism, anti-fascism, movies and her dog.