They say you should never judge a book by its cover. If you do you might imagine that Ulysses, by James Joyce, is a novel about Irish architecture rather than a masterpiece of modernist literature / a meritless stream of consciousness depending on whose opinion you ask for. A cursory glance at The Other Side Of Sadness (Prosthetic Records) by Austrian quartet, Tripsitter, would imply nu-Metal with its monstrous, Korn-like depiction of a family portrait. What we get instead is a curious blend of Hardcore, Shoegaze and even the tiniest hint of Black Metal – so intertwined are the latter two thanks to Blackgaze.
‘The Illusion’ begins with instruments fading in and echoing feedback as if the album is breathing itself to life. It acts as an introductory song for the album, namely focused around minimalist percussion and Meinhard Taxer‘s shouted vocals. It segues immediately into ‘The Morning Sea’, with a straight 4/4 beat accompanied by almost clean guitars that jangle ethereally through the open-handed riffing. The song is the first instance of the band’s impressive creativity; they aren’t taking disparate genres and segmenting them, but merging them with flair and panache. The pace and passion that you can tangibly feel in the band’s playing has all the hallmarks of Hardcore and Post-Hardcore, while the spaciousness of instrumentation speaks to their Shoegaze influence. A gap of near silence in the middle of the song gives way to histrionic playing atop power chords that do invoke the likes of Alcest, Møl or even Deafheaven: again another genre the band is able to infuse into their music with impressive nous.
Taxer’s aforementioned shouting retains a modicum of melody, as he is able to weave choruses through his frenzied delivery, particularly on the stunning ‘Bury Me’. It’s a song that delves deeper into the band’s Metal edge, but not nearly to the same extent as the brutally scathing penultimate track, ‘Remains’. Everyone gives astoundingly multifaceted performances behind Taxer, allowing his vocal style to cross boundaries of musicianship and never become boring or feel one-paced. The rich textures of the music are only accentuated by the band’s decision to play with a cleanliness and clarity that makes the heavy moments all the more heavy, and the quieter sections more contemplative and tension building.
The Other Side Of Sadness is a tremendous victory for Tripsitter. It’s an ambitious album with a broad scope that pays off in a marvel of cinematic soundscapes and harrowing emotional heft. Even if the songs stray into the overly long more often than not, the album never becomes tiresome or predictable, with an expertly executed melding of genres pulled off without a single failed attempt in sight. The cohesion with which the band play is electrifying, and made all the more wondrous by the fact that the album was recorded live. It’s a fascinating listen that will take a while to get to the heart of.
8 / 10