(For his first album review of 2022 Andy Synn selected a record more than a decade in the making)
Hands up if you enjoyed Zao‘s latest album, The Crimson Corridor, last year?
I did, obviously, since I chose it as the #1 pick on my “Personal Top Ten” list, and I’m guessing that quite a few of you did too.
Well, if you’re looking for something on a similar wavelength – something which combines the bruising bite of Metalcore (or Metallic Hardcore, if that term offends you) with the moody dynamics of Post-Metal – then the long-gestating new album from Indiana’s Trenches should be right up your alley.
Interestingly enough, while both Zao and Trenches now occupy a similar sonic space, they’ve ultimately approached it from opposite directions, as the latter’s first album (2008’s The Tide Will Swallow Us Whole) erred much more towards the Isis-inspired end of the Sludge/Post-Metal spectrum – albeit with certain tracks (“Trip the Landmine”, “End”) possessing a gnarlier (Post-) Hardcore influenced flavour.
Their second album, however, consciously and purposefully inverts this formula, focussing instead on delivering a series of short, sharp (and savage) bursts of cathartic, metallic fury – interspersed here and there with moments of simmering atmosphere – each designed to kick your teeth in and knock you on your ass… and only then to allow you a few moments of reflection as you’re lying dazed and contused on the floor.
Opener “Wrecking Age” is a perfect example of the band’s current modus operandi, dropping straight into a headbanging Metallic Hardcore groove which blends rumbling tectonic bass-lines with juddering, bone-jarring guitars (shot through with just a hint of punky melody) only to transition into a doomier, gloomier, and more atmospheric second half that quickly, and niftily, expands the sound and scope of the song in a new direction.
As you might expect, of course, certain songs do err a little more in one direction or another – both “Ties That Bind” and “The Raging Sea” from the album’s first half lean more towards a jagged, metallic-edged Hardcore sound somewhere between Vision of Disorder and Shai Hulud, whereas the back end of the record is dominated more by Amenra-esque numbers like “Lenticular Clouds” and “Stillness” – but the very best cuts (“Horizons”, “The Death of All Mammoths”, “Eclipse”, “Reckoner”) are the ones which split the difference between these two poles and manage to be as bruising as they are brooding… and vice versa
It may have taken them more than a decade, but Reckoner demonstrates that Trenches have lost absolutely none of their fire or fury in the intervening years. In fact, if anything, it proves that bands don’t have to get softer as they get older. Sometimes they just get even angrier instead.