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Trenches Reckoner


Album Review: TRENCHES Reckoner

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Anyone with any interest in new Trenches material mostly likely ran out of Haste The Day puns after 14 years. Speaking of Haste The Day, Trenches originally formed after vocalist Jimmy Ryan left the aforementioned Christian metalcore band. The band's 2008 debut The Tide Will Swallow Us Whole brought a hefty dose of post-rock and sludge metal to the metalcore style Ryan was known for. This was an uncommon sound for Tooth & Nail Records, essentially making these guys the equivalent of Isis or Cave In for youth group kids. Jokes aside, the record holds up after 14 years—certainly enough to keep fans clinging to every cryptic update about their second full-length. The release of Reckoner came like a thief in the night, and what a joyous return it is!

As the first fully fleshed-out Trenches single released in over a decade, "Eclipse" shows that the band isn't overly concerned with capitalizing on "Jimmy Ryan's in a post-metal band." Actually, the song's skronky syncopation steers closer to new Zao (no, not just Ryan's Carcass-y vocal rasps), delivered in under two minutes! Actually, Reckoner is under 40 minutes long, surprisingly short after so long to amass material. This puts a lot of weight on the strength of the chosen cuts. To that effect, "Eclipse" succeeds with its memorable chorus and infectious anger. These tracks were chosen for good reason.

Album Review: TRENCHES Reckoner

Make no mistake, Trenches is still very much about the atmosphere. Opener "The Wrecking Age" may open with propulsive tom-toms and explosive riff changes, but the song's unforgiving mosh part finds the perfect foil in a monolithic wave of sweeping chords and spacious precision. In the same way, "Horizons" comes off like the metalcore version of noisecore legends Today Is The Day, complete with a breakdown straight out of HTD's 2004 album Burning Bridges, interspersed with noodling meditations more suited to math rock or even prog.

The charm of Reckoner manifests in that Trenches doesn't sound like they're trying to recapture their original sound. The combination of metalcore, sludge, and post-rock is there, but shorter cuts like "Ties That Bind" and "The Raging Sea" hit like a sucker punch for those expecting the moody dreariness of The Tide.

The former starts with ferocious blast beats and vicious quarter note triplet riffs, while the latter harks back to Ryan's old "rock n roll with breakdowns" approach. Ryan balances his signature vocals with the more gravely howlings of guitarist/keyboardist Joel David Lauver. From melodic sing-screaming to hair-raising shrieks, the vocal chemistry is one layer of the artistic confidence Trenches has maintained in their absence.

Slow-burning dirges like "The Death of All Mammoths" displays more of Trencheschemistry, as well as this album's immaculate production. Dyllen Jerome Nance drums have a perfect balance of clarity and grit, while new guitarists Ross Montgomery and Carey Stilts mesh well with the styles established by Lauver and bassist Bill Scott. It all sounds so dynamic and gritty, leaving room for the vocal melodies of "Lenticular Clouds" to progress from soaring harmonies to low-key musings. Ryans screams prove their versatility, adding to the emotion of the song's melodious section and playing off Lauver's own harsh vocals during its final crescendo.

Trenches doubles down on their disdain for genre labels, imbuing the verses of "Empires" with an inexplicable combination of alt-rock grooves and an almost gothic gloom—in contrast to the lumbering dissonance of its central motif and a mosh part worthy the sludgecore elite (Admiral Angry style, baby!). Even a more straightforward number like "Stillness" maintains interesting songwriting chops. They know when to split their arrangements into multiple layers, and when to unite on one punishing riff. This happens without either overstaying their welcome, with multiple facets of Trenches' sound to manifest efficiently.

The title track's immersive intro shows the benefit of having three guitar players, offering more ways to build upon a simple idea. It also makes the midpoint drop into a more stripped-back palm-muted riff command more attention. Trenches' ability to keep their songs concise in their creativity makes it hard to realize the instrumental outro "Remnants" has laid the album to rest, because its echoing guitar licks and hypnotic percussion take hold so quickly.

It's not often an album in this genre has such an easy replay value, and proves that atmospheric heavy music isn't relegated to double LPs. Trenches didn't need to make up for their absence with a massive undertaking. They let their songs speak for themselves, and they're quite good! Here's to hoping the wait for more Trenches is a bit shorter than the wait between The Tide and Reckoner.

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