At a point in their long career when the Polish death metal band Trauma might be expected to slow down or even get stuck in their tracks, there is zero sign of malaise in their forthcoming eighth album, Ominous Black. Instead, they have created a record that’s explosively exuberant and persistently inventive.
To be sure, the music is unmistakably ferocious and fully capable of bludgeoning you black and blue, but what drives the album to heights of great fascination are all the head-spinning instrumental pyrotechnics and wildly mercurial permutations that mark the twisted path of each song. It’s almost tempting to call this music “progressive death metal”, except this album seems too weird and wondrous, and maybe even too malevolent, for that kind of label. On the other hand, just calling it “death metal” seems inadequate, because it’s so out of the ordinary in its ingenuity.
It’s our fiendish pleasure to throw a full stream of the album at you today, in advance of its March 6 release by Selfmadegod Records, and to imagine the looks on your faces when you figure out what’s happening to you.
Guitarist Jarosław “Mister” Misterkiewicz and drummer Arkadiusz “Mały” Sinica have been in harness together under the Trauma name since the very early ’90s, while other elements of the line-up have been in flux, and they clearly have reached a high level of instrumental skill. While vocalist Artur “Chudy” Chudewniak hasn’t been part of the team since the very beginning, he also clearly knows what he’s doing. And while it’s not entirely clear to us who else participated in the performances on Ominous Black, they also deserve a deep bow, because this isn’t the kind of music that merely average technicians can pull off.
The album opener, “Inside The Devil’s Heart“, wastes no time in giving listeners a vivid preview of what’s in store. Fast and frantic, it discharges wild, insectile, dissonant riffing, rapidly thudding bass, galloping and clobbering drums, bursts of blaring notes, and onslaughts of savage, imperious growls. A slowing of the pace leads into groaning bass tones and a more hopeless melody, capped by a freakishly swirling guitar solo, and a finale in which the band deliver another display of technical acrobatics while creating an atmosphere of threatening eeriness and rampant lunacy.
The band keep the intensity at a high level as they charge into “Insanity of Holiness”, while combining grand, jacklhammering grooves with their by-now familiar episodes of crazed fretwork frenzy and bubbling bass tones. Here, the guitar solo is strange and wailing, an occult ghostly presence in the midst of the head-spinning instrumental fireworks and the bestial ugliness and inflamed vehemence of the vocals.
After that electrifying one-two opening punch, Trauma only gradually increase the volume of “Astral Misanthropy” until the heaviness of the bass begins to chew at the pavement and the riffing starts jabbing at your cranium. It’s a highly head-bangable way to begin this almost-mechanistic piece of ruination, but while the song continues to hammer your neck into motion, the band also infiltrate the track with an array of menacing and maniacal guitar accents, as well as snippets of weird and woozy melody and a thoroughly sinister and seductive guitar solo.
“Astral Misanthropy” probably ties with the later track “Black Maggots” for the album’s most infectious song (though “Colossus” also comes close to the prize), but “Soul Devourer” is no slouch in the “hook department” either. While the bursts of buzzing and slithering guitar and the fascinatingly unorthodox interplay of bass and drums have the capacity to flip your inner ear upside down and cause queasiness, the jolting grooves in the song produce their own reflexive physical reaction, and the scintillating dual-guitar solo in the song should bring a smile to the most hardened faces.
“Soul Devourer” is also home to some dismal and deleterious leads, while “Among the Lies” again relies on weirdly dissonant arpeggios and strange string mutilations to put your teeth on edge. But all of those tension-inducing escapades are backed by attention-grabbing rhythm-section work, and the song repeatedly veers into other unsettling and pulse-pounding instrumental contortions, held together by recurring motifs.
Trauma favor high-energy pacing and ebullient instrumental romping, but while “I Am Universe” is also packed with skittering riffage and kaleidoscopic drum-and-bass performances, at times it slows and creates bleak and ominous moods. There is also a great temptation to growl right along with Chudy Chudewniak as he savagely proclaims the song’s title, and the big tumbling drum progression in the song’s mid-section, coupled with an exotic Arabian-like melody, prove to be fiendishly alluring, just as the grim buzzing riff that periodically surfaces sounds downright pestilential.
Trauma chose “The Black Maggots” as the main single for the album, presenting it through a lyric video that we’re including below, and once you hear it, the reason for the choice becomes obvious. It’s such an adrenaline-fueled race, and the pulsating riffs prove to be both physically compulsive and mentally addictive. In addition, the song showcases the fascinating interplay of the bass and drums (which enhances the appeal of the album throughout), and also presents a dynamic change in the middle of the track, when the momentum slows and a fantastic solo shifts the song’s resonance into realms of sorrow and magic.
Speaking of magic, the ringing guitar notes at the outset of “The Godless Abyss” create a mystical atmosphere, one that contrasts with the pummeling rhythms that soon arrive, just as the gruesome buzzing riffs augment the militaristic drum fusillades that periodically cut loose. Once again, Trauma also set up a head-moving rhythmic pulse as the grounding for yet another scintillating guitar solo, and they surge into head-back gallops whose blood-rushing quality is also fueled by the rapid pulse of vicious chords.
Rather than create a sharp departure from what has come before, Trauma bring Ominous Black to a close with a song — “Colossus” — that again melds jolting rhythms with blaring and blizzard-like fretwork, creating yet another demonic thrill-ride of instrumental intricacy and full-throated vocal ferocity, of freakish, mind-mauling tonalities, mesmerizing bass lines, and body-mauling percussive attacks. On the other hand, Trauma did choose to end the song, and the album, with a surprise — a duet of darting classical strings and a gorgeous guitar performance that’s reminiscent of flamenco.
Ominous Black was composed by the band’s “Mister” Misterkiewicz and recorded by him were captured at the band’s TRAUMAtic Sound Studio. It was mixed and mastered by the Wiesławscy Bros at the famous Hertz Studio (Behemoth, Vader, Hour Of Penance, Beheaded), and the album’s cover artwork was created by the immediately recognizable Polish artist Mariusz Lewandowski (Bell Witch, Fuming Mouth, Mizmor, etc.).
Selfmadegod will release Ominous Black on LP, CD, limited-edition CD box, and all digital platforms, including merch bundles. Details on all that can be found through the links below.