Live Review: Imperial Triumphant – The Dome, London
21st April 2023
Support: Wolvencrown, Necronautical
Words: Sam Jones
The crowd is sparsely populated initially, a few people milling around following the 7pm opening of the doors yet it isn’t long before Wolvencrown, the night’s first support take the stage, an angelic chorus flowering the night that soon brings people to where they stand. The band immediately enthral the crowd with atmospheric playing that’s drawn out, ethereal and yet grounded. Beautiful soloing is offset by bellowing vocals that ring effortlessly through the venue. The night is young yet the twilight hath already descended for the band are tight, playing as one cohesive unit whereby you can’t separate one member from the other. To experience Wolvencrown is to behold a seamlessly unified core crafted for the sole purpose of enveloping your senses. I appreciate how Wolvencrown know their target audience yet understand the need to utilise different elements within their songwriting; incorporating chunkier riff sequences get this predominantly death metal maniac headbanging without difficulty. But who said Black Metal was entirely gloomy? Wolvencrown’s lighting is soon bathing it’s audiences in swathes of turquoise and magenta as an enraptured audience is wholly brought under its spell. Yet Wolvencrown would be at half strength without their keyboardist, whose keys offer ominous chimes and underlying doom to the band’s otherwise spectral soundscape. The band’s full set may be just half an hour but in that time they completely rule the audience and all who beheld them. At the end they yell “Big up White Ward”; so do we all.
Out of the gate, Necronautical demonstrate an altogether more vicious and visceral onslaught of black metal. The riffs are sharper, the atmosphere more diabolical which includes the lighting also; faster flashes of white and red engulf the audience as Necronautical’s symphonic infused assault develops and takes centre stage. It’s a familiar yet unique sound to Wolvencrown’s performance. Blast beats colour the night and Tom-toms pepper the band’s performance. There’s more crowd interaction which I do like, severing the ties from our rudimentary lives where only blackened abysses reign. Yet the visceral nature of Necronautical works for their increased interactions with the crowd. They’re on later, the audience is growing intoxicated and is all the more ready for battle. Using smoke to their advantage, Necronautical hold nothing back as they annihilate preconceptions this was going to be some easy and laidback show. They bring us along for the ride, more importantly, their support for White Ward is continuous as they recognise the talent that couldn’t be here. Their performance may be pretty grounded and their on stage antics aren’t too adventurous yet their sound is one that could slice steel straight through. It’s a potentially underrated gesture but I loved the band’s dry sense of humour. Upon crowd interaction whether we want more, amidst a score of approval, the band remark “Good, because we’re going to give you more.” Such offhand statements may not be thoroughly “kvlt” amongst black metal but it showcases Necronautical’s humanity as well as the following they’ve amassed in the years they’ve been active. One thing that can be said about these enjoyable sets: they’re over far quicker than you realise. To a sea of horns they leave the stage and this one, in particular, has become a fan.
I like weird metal. So seeing Imperial Triumphant come out all masked up and playing a completely unconventionally metal, dissonant piece was incredible. I’m not afraid to say I teared up; standing right at the very stage behold these three maniacs push black metal to the zenith of comprehension was extraordinary. Their otherworldly demeanour was broken only by their vocalist whose mouth you could see moving as syllables are uttered but aside from that, it’s a totally immersive experience. Their bassist takes to the drummer’s stand, his instrument held aloft and piercing the light infused sky above him. What no one told me about their live performances was how groovy it would feel; these guys conduct riffs and songwriting that would deconstruct the frantic of Creation yet it’s so organic and in tune with what feels to be a natural performance. Their bass uses a whammy bar that turns it into a secondary electric guitar; it’s utterly maddening what this trio can pull off. It’s half the reason I love this band; they aren’t afraid to push it outside your conventionally, aesthetically pleasing
boundaries and into evil aeons where laws have ceased to prosper. It’s one of the few shows I’ve ever attended where a bassist has taken centre stage and it’s fully justified as to why. At the front as I was, the totality of their immersion was striking. The previous supports certainly possessed merit yet this is something else entirely. Imperial Triumphant’s hold on their audience is absolute; no escape, no withdrawal, no hint of mercy. The band demonstrate why precisely they’re considered a foremost champion of the modern era’s extreme metal calibre.
The band’s complete lack of crowd interaction works for the best; we became completely engrossed to their depraved onslaughts. We don’t need to know what songs are coming next; as children to the piper we’ve been hypnotised with ecstasy to the band’s perverse nature. Like some meddling, parallel revulsion of natural law, Imperial Triumphant play as if this warped and perturbed variation on extreme metal were the norm. Soon, the band are opening a bottle of champagne and I’m fortunate to receive a full brunt of its poured contents; my sight has been marred and my senses are needing realignment. But what an honour; receiving the decadence of Imperial Triumphant firsthand. Many join in the revelry; a night made immortal by debauchery and excess and all elements Capitalism has made monolith in its grandeur. Undoing the straps on their instruments, playing amongst the crowd, getting down on their knees to afford the crowd a up close view of their performance, beating guitars upon the ground with rhythmic pounding, Imperial Triumphant throw convention and tradition out the window in pursuit of something higher. The fact these guys are prepared to go this far in extremity and dissonance is something else entirely; most bands would put off on playing a track live that’s rather lop-jointed and eerie and bizarre in time signatures, yet Imperial Triumphant proceed not to care one iota. The decadent madness is for all and we are a subject to their mastery. Truly, one of the most visually arresting bands of the time.
And that was Imperial Triumphant. By the end I was in awe. Shaking hands with Zachary, their guitarist and vocalist, I congratulated the band on what was an utterly immaculate performance. There will be a next time; that was too good a performance for Imperial Triumphant to be just a one-off viewing. One of my personal favourite gigging experiences of the year as of yet.