In the Pleasure of Their Company: Imperial Triumphant | 02.03.23, The End (Nashville, TN) (with photo gallery)

Photo of Imperial Triumphant by Zach Johnson

w/ Couch Slut, Cloak, Threnodian, and Flummox

Imperial Triumphant’s 2023 Spirit of Ecstasy tour, featuring Cloak and Couch Slut, descended upon Music City on February 3rd for a sold-out show at The End. We profiled all three bands in our tour preview; the Nashville show also featured local support from Threnodian and Flummox.

Located roughly one mile away from the Parthenon, The End offers a gritty reprieve from the cowboy hat-sporting tourists that infest the streets of downtown Nashville. Acts that have performed there previously are written on every inch of the club’s walls; I noticed names as diverse as Tenacious D, Fred Armisen, and Q and Not U. Many of the national tours that come through St. Louis venues like Red Flag and Off Broadway are booked at The End as well.

Using St. Louis venues as a size comparison, I would say The End falls somewhere between Fubar (RIP) and the Firebird (RIP). The stage is on the lower level of the venue, and there is standing room for about 30-40 people on the main floor. There is an upper level about 3 feet above the main floor, which had room for more concertgoers and the bands’ merch tables. The venue has a full-size bar in the back, with a few tables, chairs, stools, and even a couch, which, fittingly, I spotted the band Couch Slut relaxing on when I arrived.

The authenticity of this venue is best displayed through that most classic hallmark of a “dive venue”: bathrooms slathered with graffiti and band stickers. Someone even wrote the URL to their OnlyFans in Sharpie on the underside of the toilet seat—guerilla marketing at its finest!

Threnodian is a melodic black metal band local to Nashville, consisting of guitarists Aaron Stearns and Grant Fannin, bassist Thaddeus Sparkman, vocalist Jordan Thompson, and drummer Wesley Thompson. The band released their debut album, Solastalgia, in 2020. I listened to this album several times in preparation for the show and enjoyed it immensely—I would recommend it to fans of St. Louis’ Stormruler, or any of the Scandinavian melodic black metal bands that are common influences for both bands. I’ve spoken with members of Threnodian online and recommended that they partner up with some of STL’s many great black metal bands (e.g., Unspeakable, Blackwell, the previously mentioned Stormuler) for a local show.

Flummox was, without a doubt, the surprise of the night. A local legend, judging by the crowd reaction, the band is based in Murfreesboro, TN, about 40 miles southeast of Nashville. Yes, somewhere nestled between all of the Civil War museums and souvenir shops of central Tennessee lies the practice space of a Diablo Swing Orchestra-style carnival metal band.

Chaotic, intense, proggy, and relentlessly technical, the band cheekily describes their music as “genrefluid.” People I spoke with in the crowd made positive comparisons to artists like Frank Zappa and Mr. Bungle. It was hard to believe how many antics bassist and vocalist Allyson Dellinger crammed into their 30-minute set: dive bombing into the crowd, stripping to her underwear, donning a cow skull, dismembering a baby doll and flinging the limbs into the crowd. “We are Flummox, and if you don’t know who we are, you will soon,” she said. Point emphatically made!

Couch Slut is a noise rock/sludge metal band from Brooklyn, NY. They have played with fellow New Yorkers Imperial Triumphant at several East Coast gigs, but this is (to my knowledge) the first time the bands have toured together nationally.

Vocalist Meg Osztrosits has a habit of intentionally injuring herself during the band’s sets so that her face is covered in blood. At first I thought this was stage blood, but in speaking with Meg after the show, she assured me that “the blood is always 100% real and comes out of my body” and that she “gave [herself] at least two concussions during the tour,” sending me pictures of a head wound and a dented microphone to prove it. This is not the first time I’ve had musicians send me pictures of their bloody equipment after a show I reviewed, and I suspect it won’t be the last.

It certainly adds a visceral element to the band’s screamed tales of self-injury, desperation, and abuse. Songs were introduced with off-hand comments like “this is a song about when I first started cutting myself.” At the risk of understatement, it was an intense experience, and certainly an interesting counterpoint to the shenanigans that preceded it.

Cloak is a band that just oozes classic heavy metal energy. Everyone but the drummer was clad in leather, with the bassist rocking an impressive Lemmy Kilmister-style handlebar mustache. Somehow, they found room for their war banners and candelabras on The End’s relatively small stage. It is so rare to see a completely unpretentious, gimmick-free, yet very talented band like this anymore—four bands deep, this was definitely the surge of energy the crowd needed before the main act. I definitely recommend them to similarly labeled “black ‘n’ roll” bands like Midnight and Devil Master.

Around 10:30 PM, mysterious inquisitors Imperial Triumphant finally made their grand appearance. The theatricality of these masked performers cannot be understated—despite not saying a single word to the crowd directly, every gesture from guitarist/vocalist Zachary Ezrin and bassist Steve Blanco carried an immense gravity to it. True to their jazz training, the band’s sets feature a heavy amount of improvisation, with Ezrin and Blanco abusing every last fret of their guitars. It is truly stunning how much noise three people can make.

As is the band’s tradition, halfway through the set, Ezrin popped a bottle of champagne and sprayed the crowd with it, before pouring it in the cups and open mouths of eager fans. (Blanco would later bash his bass with the empty bottle during a moment of improv). The band remained steadfastly “in character” throughout the entire set, making occasional moments of levity, like Blanco’s “hang ten” gesture, all the more entertaining.

The band brought out a special guest for their encore: Cesar Gueikian, brand president of Gibson Guitars (which is based in Nashville). He joined them for a very sincere cover of Black Sabbath’s “Symptom of the Universe,” a great tribute to the founding fathers of heavy music, without whom metal culture wouldn’t be what it is today. Now, back to the OnlyFans link beneath the toilet seat… | David Von Nordheim

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