Jan 282019


The two tracks I’ve added to this list today are diabolically inventive, and in different ways they awaken primal fears and desires. They also happen to include lyrics of rare eloquence and evocative power.


“Built around a core of discordant, dissonant Black Metal, but embellished and expanded by a freakish array of jazzy elements and avant-garde ingredients, Vile Luxury is an album which revels in its own chaotic contradictions as a way of challenging and exploiting the expectations of its audience.”

Those were among the impressions my friend Andy provided in his review of the 2018 album by New York’s Imperial Triumphant. “By turns unsettling and off-kilter, moody and malevolent”, he wrote, “its warped blend of jarring juxtapositions and stark contrasts sees the group… making purposeful use of both harsh shifts in tone and smooth segues between styles to keep the listener on the edge of their seat and to maintain an aura of potent unpredictability”.



The album is indeed “a purposefully difficult, divisive, and contentious record, one clearly designed to push against the boundaries and restrictions of common convention”. Odd, then, that it’s home to a song that I picked for this list.

Swarming Opulence” is itself such a bewildering trip that I’m sure I wouldn’t have immediately thought of it as “infectious”, though even from the first, it exerted a peculiar and perverse attraction, especially when paired with the transfixing video through which it was first introduced. But over time the allure of its “bellerophonic clamour” (Andy’s words again) has grown increasingly irresistible.

As I wrote after watching the video and hearing the song for the first time: “It’s a fascinating piece of music, very much like a musical menagerie of sordid and unearthly delights. The horn section’s prelude is Gershwin-like (circa Rhapsody In Blue), and after that, the music becomes a wild trip that combines dissonant, freakish arpeggios, clanging, angular chords, blazing-fast drum escapades, an array of bestial and demonic vocal expressions, and well-timed reappearance of the horn section. The whole brilliant affair is an enormous and unsettling thrill”.

Exalted golden creature
Impure ungrateful
Bright shining spectacular
We are useless to ourselves

Plenty of time, youth, the vambrace of our eternity

The sky no longer the limit
A sea of iron and energy
Gaze down at the fleshy drones
Black smog and sentient gears

Swarming opulence
Begs our weak hungry minds

Greater than man
Higher than God
Swarming Opulence, that which never stops consuming
We forget our lavish life
And seek luxury in death
Emptiness through decadence
And madness through beautiful greed









This lesser-known guise guise for Mgła’s two members M. and Darkside (joined by second vocalist and bassist Destroyer) surprised most of us with an unheralded release of a new album named Apocalypticists last October. I wasted no time before listening, and then impulsively spewed forth my reactions, including these:

Kriegsmaschine still have their finger on our pulse and our fast-twitch muscle fibers, displaying a mastery of how to make their listeners move reflexively. While past Kriegsmaschine releases have depended more on industrial drives, these rhythms have a primal, tribal quality, invoking deep-seated ancestral memories of lurching and dancing in perilous ecstasy around blazing fires when everything beyond the glow was trying to kill us.

“But the rhythmic propulsions in these songs are also modern, in the sense that they display a bewitching inventiveness and become as much a source of surprise as a means of putting your head and body in motion. The drumwork and bass lines in the opening track provide an immediate example. The drumming is especially marvelous and remains a vital, attention-grabbing ingredient throughout the album (at least to my ears, Darkside seems to employ Latin American and African rhythms at least as much as others).

“Speaking of things trying to kill you beyond the edge of the bonfire’s light, the vocal proclamations are both imperious and blood-freezing in their near-bestial savagery…. And speaking further of things trying to kill you, the chiming and swirling dissonance of the melodies, which are cold yet gleaming, spellbinding yet unnerving, conjure nightmare visions of terrible grandeur and plague-like doom…. The rhythms are full of blood-pumping life; the vocals burn with hatred; the melodies open our minds in fear to the vast hungering maw of extinction”.

The album truly is relentlessly eerie and oppressive, but almost every song qualifies as infectious nonetheless — and perhaps the opening track, “Residual Blight” more than the others. The lyrics, of course, are stunning. I’ve taken the liberty of dividing them into stanzas.

I alone have known all shades of the horror.
I am the pit without sun, where blind beasts dwell.
I am the revenant at the very bottom of the source.
Never to grow weary.
Running on doubt.
Dead thoughts, dead movements, dead ideals, dead desires.

Beneath this world there is another, built of bone and decay.
Grey hell. Dry. Motionless. Upon even rows of downfall.
Methodized loss.
Inherent ruin.
Residual blight.

For these gates need to be opened.
For this shell needs to be broken.
Ether guerilla.
All hail the alpha fallen.

Dead words, dead drives, dead passions, dead urges, dead dreams.
As the world above is shrinking, the one below thrives.
Cinder springs.
Ashen horizon.
The sarcastic grinning of gargoyles.
The refuge among scattered remains.
The temples of iron and concrete.
The great death.
The silence.
The roaring depths of insight.
The maze of severance.
The golden throne, abandoned.
The agony. The strife. The penance.

I alone have known all shades of the horror.
I alone have seen the rays of lost grace.
Residual blight.
A sunless pit to crawl in.
Ether guerilla.
All hail the alpha fallen.


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