When a band states that they make “truly unique music” or something to that effect, I’m always skeptical. Most of the time it just means that it a) sucks ass or b) isn’t “unique” at all, but just more of the same. Trillion Red, however, really do have a sound of their own, and it doesn’t suck. While you could just throw them on the huge pile of Neurosis copycats, it really wouldn’t do them justice, because there’s more to their music. It has the typical ingredients of atmospheric sludge, the down-tuned guitars, the huge riffs, the minimalistic drumming, the synths, and, unfortunately, boring and sometimes awkward ambient sections.
Still, this doesn’t feel like your typical atmospheric-sludge/post-metal album. For one thing, the vocals are not your typical sludge vocals. They range from whispering and crooning to panting and shouting, they are intense, that’s for sure. If they’re good, that’s another question. And I’m actually kind of undecided on that matter. Some of it fits the music very well in my opinion, while other parts stick out like a sore thumb.
Another thing that sets these guys apart from the rest is the experimental/progressive vibe. Each track is layered, and most of the time the song structures aren’t straight-forward. They don’t evolve from a simple pattern to something more complex. Rather, they’re constantly shifting, like in the opening track “No Visible Help (Hold on Tight!),” where the band starts of with slow, grinding guitars, before going into an ambient section and then locking into a nice groove. Finally, there is a black metal influence that can be heard in the drumming, synths and overall atmosphere.
The EP consists of four tracks, clocking in at about 25 minutes total, but two tracks stand out. The first track is called “Forging Two Tongues: A Reckoning.” The song starts slowly, with nice post-metally guitars but really awkward, half spoken vocals. They’re probably supposed to sound serious or foreboding, but to me they just sound plain silly and out of place. Then suddenly the flow of the guitars is interrupted, the song goes to a halt, only to break out in a full-on black metal frenzy with some fitting shouting. Then, it picks up the opening riff again with a little variation and there there they are again, the weird vocals. The track continues to build momentum and culminates in… Gollum puking all over some weird ambient sounds. For one minute straight. Why, god, why?
The other track, “Right over to the Helm,” however, does everything right. It starts with post-rock serenity, but soon the dark clouds, in form of a thick, sludgy guitar riff, come rolling in. Haunting vocals join in, and the tension builds slowly between the calm, serene sounds and the foreboding guitar riff and vocals. And then a huge wall of sound erupts and sweeps the unsuspecting listener away. To top it all off the song concludes with a huge riff that is reminiscent of the Battlestar Galactica reinterpretation of ”All Along the Watchtower“. Since I love that series and the reinterpretation of that song, I also love a sludgy version of one of its riffs. Really, really awesome.
I’d have to say that Trillion Red are doing some interesting stuff here. Some succeeds, some utterly fails, but overall, this is a good debut EP from a promising band. I sure will give their upcoming LP a try. If you like Giant Squid, Cult of Luna, Isis or Neurosis, chances are you’ll also like at least parts of this first offering.