Electing to join the I Am the Wooden Object Club before The Table Himself even did, I Am the Trireme’s name can be described as “I am the Phoenician, ancient Greek, or Roman naval vessel with three rows of oars.” Luckily they didn’t pick that one, but in the spirit of needlessly long names, they’ve called their first full-length Gnosis: Never Follow the Light. We know right off the bat that these guys can produce pretentious sounding names for things, but that’s not what we’re here for; we’re here to see what they bring to the Hetfield musically.
IATT “used to” be a metalcore band, and to my ears they essentially still are. Before we continue, hear me out: I don’t mind metalcore when it’s done well, because it’s fun, catchy, and concise. Stylistically, their closest relative is the black metalcore band Abigail Williams, an uninspiring band whose defining achievement was their singer appearing in an Alestorm song. Given that metalcore mercilessly pilfers riffs and ideas from Slaughter of the Soul, it makes a strange sort of sense that some of the record’s black metal influences here come from Sweden too: Dawn’s melo-black beast Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy) gets some love, and the requisite nods to Dissection’s Storm of the Light’s Bane are present and accounted for in some leads and acoustic passages. From Norway, Dimmu Borgir’s poppier moments make a cameo in the form of what sounds like synthesized strings to make things appear epic.
IATT is a talented group of metalcore musicians, and as such, the most metalcore oriented aspects are the strongest. “Grey Fields of Ash” apes what At the Gates did on “Cold” with a clean guitar break appearing suddenly and leading into a good solo, but IATT tinkers with the formula a bit by interjecting a nice synthesized string segment that leads into the melody-focused slaughter of the solo well enough. The long midsection of “A Sullen Reflection of Purity” rides a nice metalcore-ish (read: Swede-lite) melody that switches out some well-placed Hammond organ for chugging guitars typical of that genre with a solid Bjorler disciple lead over top.
Where IATT stumbles is when they try to force the black metal influence. The “black metal” riffs here come across as imitation-grade Swedish black metal run through a metalcore filter and in turn, they leave no real impression nor create any interest. “Basking in the Essence of My Sorrow” can’t quite decide whether it wants to be bland metalcore or bland melo-black, entirely failing at both by committing fully to neither, but still erring closer to metalcore. “Ascending Into Oblivion” attempts to pull a “Where Dead Angels Lie” in its introduction, but neither the acoustic nor electric part is interesting, so it falls on its face immediately. It continues indecisively for another ten minutes, breaking out random quiet sections and incorporating Blasphemer’s playing style now and again, but with such an underdeveloped and bog-standard black metal implementation in the songwriting, it simply doesn’t work. Like “Tamerlane (Chapter 1)” and “Tamerlane (Chapter 2)” it leans far too heavily on metalcore conventions to come anywhere close to succeeding as black metal and isn’t fun or hooky enough to succeed as metalcore. I’m probably just piling on at this point, but “Trusty Noose” sees the boring black metalcore interrupted with an absolutely abhorrent chorus of “la la la’s” that sees vocalist Jay Briscoe shouting his own “la la la’s” over them, and I’m shocked such fucking malarkey didn’t end up on the cutting room floor where it belongs, to be buried by time and dust never to be heard again. This all takes place across a downright gratuitous sixty-one minutes of music as well, and I wish the band had thought to abbreviate the record’s runtime as they did their name on its cover.
I can’t even compliment the production here, as G:NFtL sounds weak. Again, it’s metalcore at heart but sounds like it’s trying to be black metal; there’s almost zero low end presence, plenty of overtly trebly guitars, and a snappy and compressed drum sound. It’s not raw in any sense, although it sounds like it tried to approximate being so. Dropping the black metal pretensions here would have made IATT’s sound more enjoyable, and this is endemic to G:NFtL.
IATT sounds like they’re confused about their musical identity. Attempting to merge two disparate genres just didn’t work here, especially with such meandering and ineffective songwriting. I quite enjoy black metal and can enjoy the odd metalcore record, but G:NFtL overwhelmingly lacks the appealing aspects of both genres, creating an overlong, unmemorable, disjointed, and ultimately unsatisfying mess of a record.