Every once in a while, an inventive style of music full of creative vitriol and an album representative of its sound and ethos comes to encapsulate the character and essence of New York City, captured in time and place. Like music, the City keeps on evolving, mutating, shedding its skin and confronting its internal parasites as part of a grand struggle between a glorious past, the crossroads of the present and the paradigm shift and rebirth looming on the horizon, so bright and violent that it burns retinas. In 2018, Imperial Triumphant take up the torch and joins this lineage with Vile Luxury.
New York City’s simmering inferno of aggression and rebellion was never meant to be definitely branded by the self-destructive modus operandi of punk or the macho posturing of NYHC, as their raging potential and tangible impact ultimately crashed powerlessly against the gilded façade of lavish skyscrapers colonized by the ultra-rich or the inevitable tidal wave of gentrification manufactured by the greed of real estate interests. Distilling the angular assault of Abyssal Gods together with the bleak essence of Incest into a magnificent concoction, on Vile Luxury Imperial Triumphant bottle the sights, smells and sensations of this perennial tension between the haves and have nots with impressive poise and meticulous skill. In fact, the avant-garde sensibilities of Vile Luxury are best understood by closing ones eyes and imagining the sonic representation of the phenomena and spectacle captured inside the bottle.
It is the throbbing pain of torn ligaments; the wailing of spirits being crushed by the unbearable oppression of living in a decaying metropolis; a riddle about whether spines will turn into glass or rubber; bones sucked dry of marrow and sinewy arms breaking in resignation and relief; the rhythmic punctuation hidden behind the seeming clatter of someone overdosing on heroin collapsing down the stairs of a dilapidated walk-up.
Screaming. Always some stranger screaming feverish nonsense at invisible foes, for no clear, observable reason. A horde of rats trapped inside everyone’s ribcage, rabidly trying to gnaw their way out to filthy freedom through your intestines. The nonchalant yet cocky ignorance all around you driving everyone crazy.
Vile Luxury is the sound of the City’s inherent indifference to the plight of passers-by who are in tears, a tribute to the homeless people with vacant stares huddling inanimate under lice-infested blankets, forced to roam the streets at night to stave off hypothermia. The unearned privilege of hedge fund managers who ignore them and their pleas for pocket change that would buy them food and help them survive the night.
The album conveys the exasperation of waking up with a sordid hangover and finding an eviction notice nailed to your apartment door, as you are displaced by the gluttony of landlords and the bottomless appetite of gentrification. It the soundtrack that fuels your hatred of the staggering concentration of grifters and con-men who deserve to be drawn and quartered.
Vile Luxury witnesses the umpteenth catcall which finally releases the pent-up rage that has accumulated over the years, manifested in the bloodcurdling shrieks of guest vocalist Yoshiko Oharaz (Bloody Panda), the howling banshee guardian of the City.
While the band has stated they “cast no judgement,” it is testament to the multidimensional excellence of Vile Luxury that the album can also function as a sociological audio guide that exposes the ugliness hidden behind perfect smiles and cheery Broadway musicals, the rotting corpse of the shambling City that somehow stays alive despite — or because of — its impossibility and unsuitability for life.
From the regal brass ensemble introduction of “Swarming Opulence,” through the ghoulish lurch of “Chernobyl Blues” and the high-octane speed-freak jazz section of unstoppable momentum of “Cosmopolis,” pausing for a depressing realization of the false promise of succeeding in the City if you just worked hard enough during “Mother Machine,” before culminating in the spiraling anguish of “Luxury in Death,” Vile Luxury is utterly unique and haunting, where chaos coalesces into something remarkable and profoundly captivating. It is where Imperial Triumphant become the living embodiment of New York City and take a quantum leap in the evolution of metal.