Imperialist: Zenith-2021.

Imperialist:Black Metal from United States.


Quantum AnnexationEP2015


Joshua AlvarezBass
See also: ex-Dei Anathema, ex-Knight Eternal
Rod QuinonesDrums
Bryant QuinonesGuitars
Sergio SotoVocals, Guitars

Past Members:

Adrian CastanedaBass
Richard NunezBass

One thought on “Imperialist: Zenith-2021.

  1. Black metal of late seems to have evolved from its dingy medieval origins and hazy mystic rituals to the hard cold edge of science and the final frontier of space. Funnily enough, not a great deal needed to change sonically for that plane shift to occur, just toning down the forest frost and murderous thoughts to make way for yawning emptiness and chaotic celestial bodies. Think about it: the location is just as lonely, the protagonist just as separated from humankind, the prospect of a radical mind just as great. As such, Imperialist demand no drastic renunciation of black metal preferences from their listeners, satisfying those keen on Dissection and Thulcandra at least as much as their thematic brethren Vektor, Cryptic Shift, or labelmates Vorga. The Californian quartet have remained stable since Cipher in 2018, here adopting a similar principle of complex songwriting without using too much technicality and adding sci-fi features more through the lyrics than any obvious musical references.

    A release such as Zenith profits from the balance of aggression and atmosphere at the essence of melodic black metal. The album’s make-up can remain relatively dense and free-moving without particularly focusing on specific hooks or an ever-present supply of riffs, while Imperialist’s decision to generally shun technicality in favour of broader strokes actually marks them out as rather an anomaly in the sci-fi crowd. Instead, the only dissonance at play comes in the form of the grating tones used for guitar interludes between the blast-heavy material. In many ways, Zenith simply espouses a modern attitude to black metal by pumping the production up to ensure every instrument is felt, a technique that makes sense when ‘Parallax Descends’ tilts into a spot of death thrash. Indeed, the album even feels upbeat on occasion, since a bounding riff or whirling solo appears much more often than any gloomy ambience. All this makes Zenith much more of an Independence Day than an Interstellar; regardless of the metaphysical aspect of the lyrics, Imperialist have mostly constructed action scenes.

    Of course, every space franchise hopes to achieve Star Wars status, although doing so in 44 minutes would task most bands. Speaking musically, songs such as ‘Majesty of the Void’ leave just a bit too much work to be done by the standard sections, relegating features like guitar solos and interludes to the fringes despite their more immediate effect. Especially when each song averages about 7 minutes, the dynamics become vital to Imperialist’s approach. The sound and intensity levels stay pretty constant throughout each of the 6 full cuts, while the very capable solos arrive rarely and float in on more relaxed tones, altering the mood. Even a brief calm section, a short jam, or a differently paced song would pay off here, since much of the experience goes by at the same tempo and with similar instruments foregrounded, which connotes diminishing returns even when the writing is strong. Closing track ‘Beyond the Celestial Veil’ contains a memorable break in the middle where bass briefly dominates and a lead then sprawls out while the rhythm shifts too, yet this only affects around a quarter of an 8 minute track and thus remains partly in shadow. Put another way, the overall formula for Zenith has plenty of appeal but not enough variety and outside-the-box thinking to sustain that interest.

    That indeed leaves Imperialist in rather a strange position. Since the magnificent artwork and song titles all point to a decidedly sci-fi nature, with Transcending Obscurity even sending their signing out with a description of “sci-fi black metal”, the actual style of this sophomore release bemuses a little due to a more earthy and backward-looking vibe than anticipated. Lengthening the songs since their earlier material hasn’t helped matters, seeing as nothing especially progressive goes into the mixture, structuring differences notwithstanding. All the same, that confusion won’t prevent those in favour of Swedish black metal or other accessible extreme styles having a good time with Zenith, particularly when the more varied cuts get moving. With a few more risks taken, Imperialist could have established a new niche for themselves, but for now they look just a bit uncertain about the future they are trying to depict.

    Originally written for The Metal Observer –


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