EP Review: Trepalium – Damballa’s Voodoo Doll
Posted by ChristopherMammal
Genre: *Big breath…* Off-the-wall progressive jazz/swing death/thrash/groove metal
Release date: 9 February 2015
Previous releases: Through the Absurd (CD, 2004), The Holy Party (DVD, 2005), Alchemic Clockwork of Disorder (CD, 2006), XIII (CD, 2009), H.N.P. (CD, 2012)
Length: 24 minutes
Recommended to: Fans of Destrage, Meshuggah, Protest the Hero, Diablo Swing Orchestra
Mammal’s rating: 5 out of 5
Trepalium are highly esteemed in France for their wildly eccentric and addictive style of metal. They’re not yet totally famous around the world, although four of the five members have been together since 2000 and the present members started making demos in 2002. If you’re not familiar with Trepalium but you love the most musical of experimental metal, be prepared for Damballa’s Voodoo Doll to blow you away in an orgasm of creativity.
Compared with their previous albums and their DVD, this EP is a short and tantalising introduction to what this band has to offer. Go and explore their discography. If you can’t easily find their earlier recordings, ask them in a message you can send from their Facebook page. A treasure trove of inventiveness awaits you.
As you’ve probably gathered from the genre description, Trepalium is just about impossible to categorise. The core of the band – the five members – are metal. So is Joseph Duplantier of Gojira, who guests on the title track. Behind these guys, however, is a complete woodwind and jazz ensemble. Clarinets, trumpets and deathcore-style guitar palming make a fascinating combination. Add the honky-tonk piano that plays the opening bars on the EP and you know immediately you’re about to hear something very much out of the ordinary.
Halfway through the first song, “Moonshine Limbo”, the thumping guitar and bass make way for an orchestral passage that could be somewhere between Glen Miller’s swing and the craziest 1930s New Orleans scat. The drums switch to Big Band style. Then the song reverts to insistent metal grooves and growling.
That opening track is representative of the way the music jumps from genre to genre and era to era throughout the EP without ever losing its way… or the listener. Some music is said to draw the generations together. Trepalium blasts them together in a tightly organized frenzy.
Every track begins, plays and ends in its own uniquely different way. For example, track 3 – “Possessed by the Nightlife” – eases in from the keyboard of a jazz lounge piano which becomes engulfed by some of the hardest and deepest riffs you’ll hear outside sludge metal. Next thing the electronic keyboard is pulling you into psychedelia, followed by snippets of wailing guitar solo.
As the EP title suggests, the theme of the EP is redolent of the occult and black magic. One might expect that this would result in a dark set of songs. Damballa’s Voodoo Doll is nothing like that, though. It is one of the most fun-filled and happiest listening experiences I’ve enjoyed this year.
I have to give top marks to the entire band and their studio technical team. Take a few bows, KK (vocals), Harun Demiraslan (rhythm and lead guitars), Nicolas Amossé (rhythm guitar), Sylvain Bouvier (drums) and Ludovic Chauveau (bass). Then please pass the champagne and caviar to those jazz band backing guys who have such fine appreciation of the way metal and jazz can slot together so elegantly.