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Usually I am of the firm belief that an album's greatness is directly related to the quality of the riffs, structures and arrangements found within, basically the quality of the songwriting. Not necessarily structured in a conventional verse-bridge-chorus manner, but rather with a distinct identity for each song. There are of course some notable exceptions. Teitanblood relies solely on a chaotic infernal atmosphere, whereas Deathspell Omega takes it even further in a blaze of atonal dissonance.
Neither of these bands writes songs that can claim individual greatness but rather creates amazing atmospheres when listened to as albums, as coherent pieces of art. On their sophomore full-length 'Abyssal Gods', New York black metallers Imperial Triumphant attempts to follow this recipe, but falls considerably short.
From the very first tune it is clear that Deathspell Omega has been a heavy influence in the creation of 'Abyssal Gods'. The atonal and dissonant guitar work is typical of the Frenchmen and generally intense and well executed. Despite resting on a firm black metal foundation there are also heavy influences from the technical/progressive branches of the death metal tree, such as Gorguts, to be found here.
The band changes tempo with every second breath from one odd pace to another and psychedelic passages are thrown in here and there. Apart from the consistency of Ilya Godessraper's guttural grunts there are few predictable moments on 'Abyssal Gods'. Imperial Triumphant are definitely skilled musicians, the performance on this one is flawless and some parts, like the galloping rhythm in 'Black Psychedelia' and the unusually audible bass work for the genre in 'Dead Heaven', are really quite enjoyable.
But and this is a huge but, in fact it is a has-to-buy-two-seats-on-the-plane-but, the enjoyable moments on 'Abyssal Gods' are unfortunately few. When moving away from conventional songwriting into more progressive and avant-garde realms it is important that the music still has a direction, a purpose. This is where this album fails big time.
It is technical and progressive, but without a clear thought or motivation. It simply becomes progressive for progressives sake. The claustrophobic infernal atmosphere summoned by for instance Deathspell Omega is nowhere to be found here and without it my focus starts to drift rather quickly. When the intensity drops in 'Krokodil' the album becomes outright boring and closer 'Metropolis', which is more of a jazz song, is directly awful.
Imperial Triumphant are skilled musicians and can surely handle the progressive and psychedelic elements from a purely technical aspect. However, when it comes to writing an album that grabs the attention of the listener from start to finish they have a lot to prove.
I do not expect catchy riffs and choruses around each
corner, but music firmly rooted in black metal needs to provide some
kind of atmosphere that sucks the listener into an otherworldly atmosphere,
especially when blurring the musical boundaries in an avant-gardish
hurricane. This is where 'Abyssal Gods' fails considerably.