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To some, jazz and metal may seem like odd bedfellows, but over time the paths of jazz and a variety of heavy music styles have crossed on numerous occasions in varying ways. Plenty of bands have cited the likes of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miles Davis as an influence whilst acts from the likes of King Crimson to contemporary artists as diverse as Between The Buried & Me, Meshuggah, Trioscapes and The Contortionist have shown signs of its inspiration and aesthetic. Very few extreme metal acts however have shown as bold and overt a marriage as France’s Trepalium have over the years.
Over a number of albums Trepalium have taken Jazz’s most stereotypical musical traits and instrumentation and intertwined with a gnarly but accessible breed of death metal, creating a mind-jarring but infectious hybrid; and their latest EP, the recently re-titled Damballa’s Voodoo Doll (Klonosphere), is their strongest and most fully-realized effort to date. The jazz elements come across as very cartoonish rather than as avant-garde unpredictability but this is clearly the desired effect. EP opener ‘Moonshine Limbo’ encapsulates this with the introduction of what appears to be a bar fight in a classic Western style bar, with broken glass and piano before a chorus of trumpets signals its eruption to the current day.
Both sides of the coin take center stage at different points rather than messily fighting for attention. The title track for example shows the band’s jazz side taking time out on the bench, whilst on the likes of ‘Possessed By The Nightlife’ it is given room to really flourish. Taking these two musical styles as standalone parts, neither are revolutionary takes in themselves, while the vocals are a tad one dimensional in tone. Altogether, though, this delivers a unique and, most importantly, fun combination.
Of course for some this may seem like a gimmick, and yes it is very tongue in cheek at times, but here Trepalium have fine-tuned their vision and given their strongest, most immediate and enjoyable release to date. A strong reminder of both extreme metal’s (and jazz’s) knack for experimentation and of both genre’s ever crossing roads.