“From very small ideas to the grand scheme that we see now.” Metal As Fuck talks to Imperial Vengeance front man C. Edward Alexander

Imperial Vengeance's C. Edward Alexander talks cinematic metal, Cradle Of Filth and his band's 'package'.

“Our approach to this is very Wagnerian.” C. Edward Alexander is not your average metal star. Fifty percent of Imperial Vengeance, Alexander is the face, voice and guitar of the world’s first and only ‘dark aristocratic metal’ band.

Second album Black Heart Of Empire is their grand masterpiece. A mixture of fearsome, charged black metal and beautiful orchestration, creepy fairground music and haunting atmospherics. Some say it was bold and brilliant (I did). But as with everything that’s different, it was sure to meet some resistance. “We’re obviously proud of it but we weren’t sure how it was going to be received to be honest” says Alexander down a crackly phone line. “I mean there’s familiar sounds there but we weren’t really sure how people were going to perceive it” So, what has the reaction been like so far? “The response has been fantastic actually” he adds, with more than an ounce of relief and triumph. “It’s good to know there’s still that free spirit ethic at the heart of the (metal) scene where people are still willing to accept new or odd ideas.”

Imperial Vengeance is the brainchild of Alexander. Fresh from his ‘other band’ he needed a creative outlet for his music, a form of therapy. Together with David Bryan, who writes the lyrics, designs the band’s striking 19th Century London-inspired imagery, everything came together fairly simply. Alexander explains: “I wasn’t particularly happy with the band I was working with at the time. I just wanted to write some music that I like then it just sort of organically formed into songs. (Dave and I) got chatting; he had some lyrical ideas and conceptual ideas. There was no contrived ‘let’s form a band’ or anything like that it was all very much a natural progression.” Before adding, somewhat enigmatically, “from very small ideas to the grand scheme that we see now.”

An essential part of the Imperial Vengeance experience is that striking David Bryan imagery in the band’s appearance, album artwork and even accompanying book. I asked Alexander: how much do you think the success of Imperial Vengeance owes to your image? “That’s an interesting point and actually a very valid one. I think that the success that we’ve had so far and hopefully that we grow over the future is enormously dependent on image. Just like, really, every successful act depends (on their image) to some degree.” But he also adds: “it’s about the overall artwork and the product as a whole (with Imperial Vengeance). It’s one big art form, not just songs…there’s more to music than the music, if that makes sense! This is more like an all inclusive art form.” Alexander pauses a beat. “Well that sounds a bit wanky but you know what I mean.” 

As eluded several times during our chat, Alexander refers to his ‘other band’ he played in before setting up Imperial Vengeance. That ‘other band’ the metal egg-heads will have realised is Cradle Of Filth. He admits that joining them was nothing more than being in the right place at the right time and although there were some obvious advantages to being in one of the most (in)famous extreme metal bands on the planet, this turbulent period is not viewed in hindsight with much fondness. “There was good and bad. I’m not working with them anymore so that tells you the bad outweighed the good eventually. But I don’t look back on (that time) with any sort of regret.” When asked about his reasons for leaving, he says almost apologetically, but firmly, “that’s not something I want to get into.”

Away from metal, Alexander is a composer of film scores. This background of making sweeping, emotive music is essential to the sound and overall deal for Imperial Vengeance. And, like a film score, Black Heart Of Empire was written after the band had worked out the concept and ideas for the album. It also cemented the size of the sound and by design was very cinematic, a term Alexander believes is true to his band, but applied to others too freely. “This word ‘cinematic’ gets bounded (about) for any band that has some string samples. I think it’s a shame because truly cinematic metal is extremely rare and simply taking a guitar riff and putting it onto a brass sample does not make what you’re doing a score as such or cinematic metal. I think it’s a dangerous word, it detracts perhaps from acts that are actually doing something cinematic or huge in scale. But that was definitely what we were aiming for.”

The album has been released, the fans and critics have thrown handfuls of superlatives at it and now it’s time to take the black show on the road. “I can’t wait actually,” Alexander says excitedly. “I think now we have to get out and start playing because otherwise it’s a waste. I think that doing it live will add an entirely new dimension to the experience.”

Prepare for the Black Heart Of Empire experience to roll into a town near you soon.