Despite a not very eye-catching album cover, Trepalium is a somewhat okay, borderline, finely, marginally, and merely—I ran out of adjectives—decent surprise. This French quintet is labelled as, and sounds like on the first listen, groovy death metal. But listen to this record carefully and one will discover a tiny hint of Opeth in the band’s deoxyribonucleic acid.
Firstly, let’s have some good news: Trepalium doesn’t sound like Six Feet Under! Not one bit! Unlike Chris Barnes straightforwardly groovy death metal project, Trepalium dwells in the realm of technically-executed groovy death metal with a polished, modern sound. The drums pummel like any modern metal band (such as Mnemic) would (only mastered at a louder volume), the guitar riffs deliver mostly chromatic motifs that are swiftly and tightly executed alongside vocalist Kéké’s gruff half-screamed/shouted vocals, and even the mandatory acoustic guitar interlude, a sign that so obviously screams of modern metal, is thrown in (e.g. on the penultimate track, “Raining Past”). Were it not for Trepalium’s lyrical theme of insanity, murder and death, it can be easy to mistake this record to be the work of an anti-clean singing industrial metal band.
Before I forget about that Opeth reference, check out the fourth track, “Order The Labyrinth”. Its introduction creeps in with gentle guitar strumming, a familiar-sounding guitar motif, and a quiet atmosphere that all add up to become so reminiscent of Opeth’s Blackwater Park hit single, “The Drapery Falls”. That recognizable guitar motif continues throughout most of the rest of the song, before evolving into a technical finger exercise in the post-climactic section of the song. Disappointingly, this appears to be a one-off, for no such section is heard again in the rest of the songs. Since Trepalium seem to be rather fond of the modern side of “modern metal”, it might have been more creative of them to expand further on that dash of progressiveness. It’s like teasing your adorable puppy with a strip of bacon, knowing you will never give it to him/her no matter how its wet nose is snivelling in anticipation: only that you are the puppy in this case [less puppy talk on this here extreme metal blog!! – AMG].
Artwork-wise, the cover design looks surreal and hence, sufficiently “modern” enough. If it rocks your boat and turns you over to the churning waters of the We Like Dull And Seemingly Deep Artwork Ocean, you have my well-wishes and I’ll sorely miss having you around this place. Otherwise, it lacks visceral appeal and features one particularly cliché object: that half-completed statue right in the middle of the picture. Doesn’t it just remind you of Tobin Bell on the Saw VII movie poster? In fact, this “half-completed statue” motif has to go. You know the creed of extreme metal. If Hollywood or anyone or anything sufficiently mainstream enough has done it before, so should you only when your creativeness has been pried from your cold, dead fingers.