Interview: Ilya of Imperial Triumphant.
Interviewed by Tim Finch
If you've never heard of Imperial Triumphant, where have you been? The band have been making waves for a while now with their avant-garde, jazz infused black metal. An inspiring UK live debut at last years Damnation Festival was just the beginning of things and has led us to the point of the band about to release their firth studio album, their first for major label Century Media.
Tim caught up with Ilya in New York City to chat about the bands beginnings, the album and where they go from here.
The Razor's Edge: Let’s get this question out of the way right at the start… how are you guys coping with the pandemic. NYC was somewhat of the epicentre for the US at the start wasn’t it?
Ilya: Yes it was pretty bad in New York, it's definitely getting better now as it get's worse elsewhere in the country, at least we are now able to get focused on other things, rescheduling music shoots and things like that. So at least we can get some work done, it definitely felt a bit limiting and a bit frustrating to not be able to do everything that we planned.
The Razor's Edge: Have you had to change anything or adapt as a band to cope with the current climate?
Ilya: We did have to cancel a few tours and our studio was locked down for a few months so we couldn't get to our gear. Then we had to cancel the music video shoot and our tours.
The Razor's Edge: You’ve got an album about to drop but you’re unable to tour off the back of it right now. Are you planning to mark its release in any way? Live stream maybe?
Ilya: We are looking into our options and there are some possibilities and we'd love to celebrate it with our friends. But if not we'll have until we can tour again. We are working on a lot of stuff, other mediums, to stay creative, stay busy and keep building.
The Razor's Edge: So let’s jump back to the origins of Imperial Triumphant if I can. You formed back in 2005, what was your vision for the band back then?
Ilya: Truth is it was me and as for my vision it was just about being in a black metal band. I wouldn't say anything prior to 2012 is Imperial Triumphant as it is today, its just stuff under the same name, you know. Since then we have the line up we have now, its been more consistent touring and it feels much more of a band now than it ever did.
The Razor's Edge: Would you say that vision has changed or maybe developed or evolved at all over the years?
Ilya: 100%, musically and visually. If you listen to our early stuff it just worshiping those early black metal bands and not doing anything more creatively beyond that. It doesn't sound like anything better than them you know. Now we have hit our own niche and we can do things differently, still true to ourselves and it feels much more comfortable doing "2020 Imperial Triumphant".
The Razor's Edge: You’re sound is somewhat unique, certainly not easy listening. Where did that inspiration for that come from?
Ilya: It comes from us maturing and getting into really into jazz, and some of the others have decades of jazz experience so they are much more knowledgeable about that stuff. But personally that inspiration from all that 20th century classic stuff from all my college years.
The Razor's Edge: And let’s talk about the imagery, the album covers, your appearance on stage, I’m assuming there’s a story behind it?
Ilya: The masks and everything they are just fit the music vision and we want to be able to give a more complete package to our looks and feel. The overall aesthetic and visuals draw the listener and the audience deeper into the sonic experience.
The Razor's Edge: To the unsuspecting gig goer, you’re appearance maybe a little surprising, have you ever had any wild reactions to your look, or indeed your sound?
Ilya: Definitely, there are a lot of people that are very surprised by the way we look. Especially at some festivals who may not know our band on the bill and they might swing by and see this visual, think this is weird and then then draws them in. It kind of serves us well like that.
The Razor's Edge: You made your UK live debut at last years Damnation Festival, despite clashing with Opeth the stage was so busy I was stuck at the back. How was that debut for you?
Ilya: Amazing! I really, really loved our full run in the UK. Playing in the UK we were so well received. That show in particular we thought, you know we are on the same time as Opeth let's just put on a crazy show and whoever is there will get to experience it. Luckily we had a great show, it was packed.
The Razor's Edge: Did you expect the UK to receive you so well?
Ilya: I didn't have any expectations, I was just excited to be in a new market, a new place and meet some fans. The UK definitely exceeded my expectations, the fans really loved this stuff.
The Razor's Edge: Back in the present, you started tracking the album last December, as you finished touring I guess. How long had you been writing it prior to that?
Ilya: We started back in 2018 onwards we were writing through to even like a week before we went into the studio we were fine tuning stuff, it was really kind of close. I think the album represents where you are at a time, your skill level, and where you are in world and it's a perfect representation of us.
The Razor's Edge: It’s your first release on Century Media, which should help you reach a wider audience, especially here in Europe.
Ilya: Yeah, thats really what we wanted, to work with someone who can help us like that.
The Razor's Edge: For anyone who has not heard you guys or seen you live. How would you describe this album to them?
Ilya: It is the absolutely, most dystopian sound of New York City, the 2020 experience you know [laughs]. Its basically just as dark as we can go.
The Razor's Edge: You mentioned the New York City sound, is the city a big influence on your writing?
Ilya: Absolutely, the sound of New York and everything that comes along with it is very inspiring to us.
The Razor's Edge: Going back to your imagery, is any of the artwork or the masks, has that been inspired by the city as well.
Ilya: Of course, everything. The art-deco inspired by Midtown skyscrapers. It's very much a part of us.
The Razor's Edge: So finally, what’s next for you as a band. Where do you go from here?
Ilya: We're going to be hitting every form we can, music video, book film. We really want to be able to creative experience.