A metropolis stretches as far as the eye can see; buildings made of brass, the hiss of steam filling the air, and decadent thrills never far away. Such is the twisted world that Vile Luxury conjures; a warped version of the swinging ’20s where the decay of society was painted over, the rot left to fester so long as it was out of sight.
Imperial Triumphant had been building towards this for some time. One of the most technically proficient bands in extreme metal, their releases had been growing in scope and ambition, which all concluded in Vile Luxury. Discordant metal formed the base, a foundation simultaneously stable and warped, from which the band could take flight. The addition of a brass section is a huge part of the album’s success, bringing with it a very clear touch of the 1920s and all the hedonism (and inevitable collapse) that implies. Bold, brash, and sounding like the clarion call of Death himself, this is no feel-good jazz, but instead the sound of ruination through mortal excess via trombone, trumpet and tuba.
This should not play down the strength of Vile Luxury’s more metal aspects. Imperial Triumphant had long been one of the more skilled bands in extreme metal, but this is the record that demonstrated just how powerful they could be. Discordant rhythms and melodies abound, with drumming that is, at times, superhuman. This is extreme metal as free-jazz, where mood matters more than individual notes or movements; yet, in time, the tight structures come to reveal themselves, a solid foundation lurking beneath the dirt and grime.
Not that it’s all a twisted reflection of New York’s (supposedly) high-life. Album centrepiece ‘Chernobyl Blues’ is a noise-drenched slow-build of horror, suffocating in its dark ambient foundations that grow into explosive violence, a reminder that so-called progress is too often built upon the backs of the down-cast. Concepts of “comfort” and “safety” are inverted versions of themselves, whilst worship is given to materialism as much as it is anything that can offer salvation. Vile Luxury is the sound of the ties that bind society together coming undone, of a slow descent into chaos as an empire collapses under its own opulence. It is the end of days put to tape – not in spiritual, apocalyptic terms, but in the slow decay of human realms, of capitalism eating itself as the demand for more, more, MORE can never be met until, finally, the inherent contradictions can no longer be hidden. It may be rooted in the brass-clad ruins of some fictional 1920s version of New York; but it also feels like a prediction of what the 2020s may bring.
Words: Stuart Wain