Metal is what you make of it. If a certain degree of distortion on guitars, coupled with a look resembling the one displayed by Keith Richards in 1972 does the trick for you, then so be it: you have plenty of artists and bands to choose from Pink to Nightwish. However, in more or less common terms, metal is that genre whose boundaries are well-defined by a sense of nihilism and dissatisfaction that is somehow channeled through, and reflected by, whatever is considered ‘disturbing’, ‘cacophonous’ and ‘loud’ by the occasional listener. Trillion Red are therefore quintessentially metal and their new album, Metaphere, is evidence of the fact that pushing the envelope always pays, no matter the result. Their attitude might sometimes remind the listener of that strain of avant-gardism typical of acts like Maudlin of the Well or Kongh: one which seems to mold and adapt contemporary music to metal, rather than the other way around.
Metaphere opens in the easiest possible way: by dissecting a riff before letting the music flow into ambient territories (“Trichroic Prelude: Mira Lore”) that seem to pay homage to Steve Roach and Ulver Shadows Of The Sun era. From there on, the two souls of Trillion Red wisely alternate in a way that enhances the value of the album. In Metaphere, beauty is not an end, but rather a tool in the hands of the San Franciscan band: it builds and is not built; it develops instead of being developed. For this reason, the dark aesthetics of the album and the dynamic alternation between minimalism and violent fits of anger can obviously be restricted to the notion of ‘progressive’ music, but the repetitions deployed in “Cuts Come In 3s” betray a vision that is remarkably more ample than the one easily ascribable to the purveyors of the values of the likes of Yes or even Opeth. The sense of obsessive recurrence haunting “Bug-Id” is, for instance, evidence of the overarching interest of Trillion Red for contemporary and avant-garde music: Tony Conrad has never sounded so melodic.
This is music with savage thrusts and overall melancholy. The production somehow lacks the powerful and enveloping quality that other albums of a similar breed enjoy (think Kayo Dot’s Blue Lambency Downward and Coyote), but this is hardly an issue. It’s an interesting take on psychedelia: one that can be deemed disharmonic and gloomy, but that is also a faithful representation of the state of experimental metal today.
Trillion Red is a one-man band. It’s Patrick Brown’s creative urgency that makes the album a small gem of the underground. If the previous work (Two Tongues) was an attempt to explore the possibilities of sludge, Metaphere is a bold statement that asserts the need for similarly challenging records. It is metal, but it feels like many other things. It’s a multi-faceted prism, but it sounds definitely and undeniably metal. In its own, peculiar and dissonant way.