We have for you today a full stream of the self-titled debut album by the German band Trautonist. When I heard the first single from the album back in January — “Distance” — I described it then as flowing like a slow, sinuous stream under cloudy skies, with you the listener floating along with it, a soft breeze on your neck, falling into a meditative trance but still mindful of a knife edge that lingers under your throat.
I was captivated by the song’s drifting atmosphere of regret and longing, and enjoyed the vocal tandem of the band’s two members (Dennis and Katharina), one harsh and shrieking, the other ghostly and pure.
But it turns out that “Distance” (relatively speaking) is the softest and most self-reflective track on an album that, as a whole, is both emotionally intense and more extreme than I might have guessed. On the other hand, the song also turned out to be a reliable sign of the band’s ability to craft bereft but moving melodies.
Different people have labeled music like this with terms like “blackgaze” or “post-black metal”, and the band do cite the early works of groups such as Lantlôs and Alcest as influences. But I think those kinds of genre labels may mean different things to different people.
Trautonist do employ elements of black metal and shoegaze, but within the album it’s a changing mix of those ingredients (and some others). On the other side of the spectrum from “Distance”, for example, is the opening track “Stay”. For much of the track, you’re caught inside a funnel of sandstorm riffs and blasting drums, with the lead guitar spinning out a sweeping, swirling melody against that ever-present wall of distortion, and it’s a melody that seems both heart-aching and uplifting at the same time. Within that song’s storm of sound you hear both wrenching, harsh shrieks and Katharina’s high ethereal vocals. Both voices appear in other songs, and there’s actually a duet of the two in “Deep”, but the acid vocals predominate.
More raking riffs and blasting drums are to be found elsewhere on the album. “Escapist”, for example, is predominantly a hurricane of dark sound with a slow and somber digression. Passages of gale-force distortion, calamitous percussion, and agonizing screams make an appearance in almost every song. Trautonist’s knives are never very far from your neck.
Yet the band also employ nearly clean, reverberating guitar arpeggios and the chiming of strummed chords to create moments of dreamlike wistfulness (often tethered by the deep, grinding rumble of the bass). Even when the music is surging with power, evocative melodies take shape, moving in sweeping waves or pulsing with urgency.
And so while the album unmistakably wears its pained emotions on its sleeve, with memorable melodies capable of carrying the listener away, it’s heavy, intense, highly charged music, with enough variations in sound and intensity to make the album worth hearing all the way through… which you can do right now.
Trautonist was mastered by Markus Siegenhort of Lantlôs, and the artwork was created by Pascal Hauer. The album will be released on April 28 by Wolves and Vibrancy Records in a 12″ vinyl edition. Pre-order via the first link below.