Trenches put out their debut [The Tide Will Swallow Us Whole, 2008] at an interesting time. My Metal palette was changing, perhaps at the same time as change was happening in Metaldom. I’m talking about the late 2000s (2007-2011) when my infatuation with Metalcore was showing signs of wear, and so was the genre, which was becoming stagnant, relegating itself to a pantomime of its former self. Post-Hardcore was also dying, with horrifying hybrids such as Attack Attack (remember those crab dances?), early The Devil Wears Prada and Of Mice and Men dominating all of Metal space. Perhaps they had a decent tune or two, but it often felt like the ship had already set sail. On the other hand, Post-Metal was ascending at the same time.
Post-Metal of course had its giants in Neurosis, Cult of Luna, Isis, Rosetta and the like. I loved this detour into the now familiar drawn-out and moody discourse that increasingly paralleled my own personal disenchantment with undergrad life. The music often became a conduit to channel that disenchantment into some sort of auditory recognition. But what interested me in equal respect was another crop of bands that that arguably did not have their time in the sun as much as the giants of the genre did.
Bands like the thoroughly captivating Fall of Efrafa, the expansive Amia Venera Landscape, the mechanical trudge of Time to Burn, the shoegaziness of Lantlos, and the slow brooding nature of Mouth of the Architect. All of these bands were doing something different and not simply aping their forbears. Into this milieu came Trenches with The Tide will Swallow us Whole, which surprised me with its partial disownment of its roots in Post-Hardcore. Fronted by former, and I dare say better vocalist of Haste the Day, Jimmy Ryan, the music was a rather heavy exploration of longer songs that placed emphasis on atmosphere.
Ryan’s similarity to Zao’s Daniel Weyandt was something I could get behind, and it charged the music up like no other, despite it being in a tone that was more pensive than it was hook or chorus driven. What stood out on this release was when they would go full-on melodic in places. If I were to give it a quality, I’d describe it as elysian as much as it is cathartic. It was most often a careful arrangement that traded away the usual chorus within a song structure for crescendo-like passages of almost ethereal melody which had a much more pronounced affect on a listener like me. It moved me much like most of Post-Metal at the time. It brought me to tears…moments of deep reflection and at times a dose of elation.
Twelve years have passed, and I’m now slowly creeping towards my mid-30s, achieving the status of a sodden lump with two feet and obviously existentially on soggy ground. It helps then to hear those ethereal passages again. It helps to remind me that there might be hope and all existential dread will pass. A hope to turn the knob down from its ‘simmer in dread forever’ setting. I could use some Post-Metal – Definitely right? – and there happens to be a new Trenches album to assuage all that gloom and doom.
In fact, Trenches’ aptly titled Reckoner, is chock full of these passages where they’ve incised off the Post-Metal moorings to focus entirely on such musical movements. Yes, there are the characteristic abrasive vocals of Jimmy Ryan, but then the focus on brevity and melody gives it a unique charm. My favorite two songs off the record are for this very reason. “The Death of All Mammoths,” and “Lenticular Clouds.”
These songs embody those godly melodies, and bathes in an atmosphere that is second to none. It does have an extremely strong Zao flavor, with songs that are strongly emotive as much as they are an exercise in brevity. Perhaps the band realizes that it’s not 2008 and doesn’t require us to contemplate over a financial meltdown brought about by speed and greed. Perhaps they fully realize it’s 2022, that the dull and dreary slow sucking of life the pandemic has brought in its wake, requires an urgency that, to my mind, is captured powerfully and poignantly on Reckoner. We all reckon with our past… always have….. and always will.