Company: Season of Mist Release: 2008 Genre: Heavy Reviewer: Etiam
A disarming polyphany at once repulsive and intriguing
Originally consisting of the genetive half of Enslaved and the two members of Fe-Mail, Trinacria are perhaps the first metal band to be commissioned by an art institution. Although the band's completed lineup includes other metal musicians (including Ice Dale and members of Manngard and Slut Machine), the genre 'metal' must be applied rather loosely. The band does feature heavy riffing, harsh vocals, and aggressive instrumentation, but if we label Trinacria as metal, to be accurate it will require the prefix of 'Industrial drone noise', or something equally cautionary and improbable. This is not metal as we are accustomed to it, even in this age of great experimentation. Though neither the most intolerable nor structureless of noise-related projects, Trinacria are unique in how they approach dissonance, and for some 'Travel Now Journey Infinitely' will be either frustrating or simply boring. To others, this concoction will be an enthralling, bizarre marvel.
Indeed, 'Travel Now Journey Infinitely' is the kind of soundtrack one would expect whilst perusing a Banks Violette exhibit, as cuts like 'The Silence' would fit right alongside such Thorns songs as 'Underneath the Universe' or 'Shifting Channels' (Under the name of Thorns Ltd., Snorre Ruch and collaborators have provided the sonic element of some Violette visual art exhibits). Minimal riff structures are doggedly repeated and fight constantly for dominance against the noise elements, with neither side winning absolutely; the result is a disarming polyphany at once repulsive and intriguing.
In that respect, this album could almost be 2008's version of 'Ordo Ad Chao'--a cloudy, restless pool that only clears when we eschew our ingrained listening habits and approach the album on its own terms. Fans of Ivar Bjørnsen's and Grutle Kjellson's 'day job' will already be somewhat familiar with this method. Enslaved's genius stems from their ability to imbue a simple foundation with an (often equally simple) embellishment or complementary voice that achieves an eventual revelation--the classic art 'greater than the sum of its parts'. On the past few albums, that pivotal role has been given to Herbrand Larsson, the band's keyboard player and backup vocalist, a soothing model of Scandinavian reserve. Those same fans should be forewarned however, as Trinacria is a tougher nut to crack; here, the duo of Fe-Mail have taken Herbrand's place, and their addled noise aesthetics make Trinacria a surly beast indeed. By far the lesser known of Trinacria's two contributing parties, Fe-Mail's Maja Ratkje and Hild Tafjord do not struggle in the least to keep up. In fact, they supply 'Travel Now...' with nearly all of its peak moments and are unquestionably fundamental to the group's uniqueness.
For, rather than using noise as a trendy accent or in wanton extremity, Trinacria's two halves are interwoven in a nearly symbiotic relationship where each relies upon the other to succeed. As 'Travel Now...' explores the more musical side of noise as well as the more drone/experimental side of metal, each half of the project pushes to emulate the other. Thus, the awkward phrase 'Travel Now Journey Infinitely' is highly apropos, as it forces a motif of movement (that it achieves, ironically, through the use of 'static' sounds and strophic riffs). Guitars do lead the mix the majority of the time, along with traditional harsh vocals from Ivar and Grutle, but the noise shoots up to the top often enough to be much more than lip service. One such power shift occurs on 'Make No Mistake', one of the album's shorter tracks at 6:20. The whole track lurches around the same diminished triad, slowly losing cadences until it is constantly voiced amidst an explosion of rattling dissonance. At song's end, the riff repeats again, crackling with electricity and with the rests reinserted, needing nothing else to reiterate its point--that we shall 'Make No Mistake'.
The draining trial of the first five cuts is well rewarded by the title track, a lumbering and cathartic affair capped by Ivar's baritone growl and avian shrieks from the Fe-Mails. Pushed inexorably forward by a single grinding riff--reprised at half-tempo in the coda--and cymbals crashing like the waves, this song culminates the 'Journey' with a revelation equal to 'Ruun' or 'Vertebrae', though vigorously opposed. If Trinacria can be compared to any of Enslaved's canon at all, it would be to the boundless experimentation of their middle years--'Mardraum' and 'Monumension'--but with a mature, collaborative vision and precise execution. Caps off to Rikskonsertene for precipitating this collaboration, and kudos to the Norwegian culture for celebrating and encouraging the metal art form, despite having suffered the most during its painful adolescence.
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