Sometimes they just turn up out of nowhere. Unknown bands, with a compelling tune and a chip on their shoulder. Metal that just rushes onto your detection radar like a UFO on steroids. On top of that, they’re often the epitome of the underground, being locally known at best, or not at all at worst.
Then, maybe they emerge from a neck of the woods that may not be all that known for Extreme Metal. We’re all kinda tuned into Scandinavia for that kind of thing. Yet here we find ourselves with the Australians of Black Trillium and their debut full-length The Fatal Shore.
Now, the outback is not that much of a metal wasteland, though. We stumbled across a few pretty juicy metal offerings like Hope Drone, the terrors of Deadspace, or – again – the elitist Wardaemonic from down under. All of those made me seriously question the stereotype of the laid-back Australian. Ain’t it, Crocodile Dundee?
The Fatal Shore comes complete with all the accouterments Doom Death Metal likes to adorn itself with. Yet this time, things are not all that simple. Those tracks have a tendency to strangely drone about the soundscape, kind of a weird case of doomgazing.
Downcast Post Metal mingled with death, scratching a quiet, somewhat monochrome itch if you will. A juicily zesty, often strangely blackened and airy mix of a darker Alcest (yet another duo) and the deep files of The Drowning. A record that isn’t afraid to go the extra mile and to experiment somewhat. Out there in that dreary ocean of tears.
Black Trillium‘s inclusion of violin and harmonica perfectly fits into that scheme. And I daresay, some eyebrows went up sky-high once we cruised through those passages. Now, before you scream prog, think again. If anything, The Fatal Shore may exude a slightly alternative flavor, but no more.
Conviction – the first track – already charts the course for the record with its sludgy, mid-tempo Doom Death offering. A tearfully powerful, yet never overwhelming track with clear voice vocals and growls that never gripe. A juicy mix of raw riffing, dirty metal, and pretty flamboyant, yet somewhat weird acoustics.
The rest of this decidedly short tracklist does follow in that same vein. Yet, I’d call that setting the theme and being on message with the rest of the record. All of the tracks kinda get their cut pretty much from the same or similar cloth. Yet, they always surprise you with an astounding variation. An attention to detail that follows through with the story at hand.
All tracks stand tall by themselves until you hit The Fatal Shore, the title track. This is where the aforementioned harmonica appears, which sometimes eerily sounds like something straight from the age-old movie score of Once Upon a Time in the West. In this track, all the strengths of this album neatly come together. From the perfectly executed ambients and expert riffs to this tasty conversation of clear voice and growls. Truly, ’tis the essence of the record.
And whilst there’s a relatively heavy loudness at times, I could hardly find fault with the production. Despite the frequent changes of tempi, styles, and tonality, those juicy pieces of doom feel forever flawless. So much so that we gave the record a few additional twirls to double-check. But to no avail, and this is a good thing.
To wrap this up, it is true that the record cruises along at a short 39 minutes of airplay on five tracks only. But in the end, this is all good. First, The Fatal Shore boasts a rare subtle and technically high-standing intensity. This is not one of those records that tries to impress with insane speed and endless screaming until the doctor comes. Nor is it lathered in cheese, far from it. But one that constantly challenges you with ever-changing soundscapes, hooks, licks, and directions that nobody expected or saw coming.
In other words, this is not your usual grind of doom delivered by a dime-a-dozen metal outfit. On the contrary, The Fatal Shore is proof of that sludgy, mastery flow that many search for, but few achieve. Down a downturned and sometimes blackened river full of shoals, reefs, and other sharply metallic dangers. A highly complex, but never boring piece of Extreme Metal that lumbers forward on its grey and desperate limbs until it finally reaches that terrible fatal shore.
Ed’s note: And the record made it onto the 2020 Top 10 Records. Congrats!
Record Rating: 8/10 | Label: Self-Released | Web: Facebook
Album Release: 29 April 2020