In a word, Ethereal Shroud’s too-young swansong Trisagion is staggering.
And yet it’s also an album that begs to be described in more words than just one, it screams to be written about for years and years to come. Hopefully it will. In a surprising resurgence year for atmospheric black metal (Mare Cognitum’s Solar Paroxysm, Spectral Lore’s Ετερόφωτος), it’s a startling pleasure to see something come in and blow the door off its hinges right in the last stretch of the year, a sharp reminder not to be so quick in making those “Best Of” lists as soon as December rolls around.
Trisagion was the product of fifteen years’ effort and that fact cannot be missed between the songcraft and textures of the album, a work whose facets are in complete harmony with one another. At a glance, it seems more sci-fi themed than its predecessor, They Became the Falling Ash, but a closer look at the lyrical themes and Phil Lang’s artwork brings about a similarly grand, but more human sense. Rather than ventures into the stars, sole songwriter Joseph Hawker is eyeing the cosmic consequences of the paradigms of humankind, the repeating political and social machinations that have accelerated to threatening the planet itself now. Essays can, will and have been written on this subject, but seeing it put to music is a rarer pleasure.
Everything on Trisagion ultimately hinges on the melody though, the things around it are support more than anything else. It’s not a riffhead’s album with the guitars reeling off twisty headbanger after headbanger. The drums have an effective weight to them, but the rhythm section is a vehicle on which the melodies can flourish. Even Hawker’s wraith-like howls sink down into the music to the point that they’re more of a texture than a leading facet. And that’s absolutely ok, because Hawker’s sense for melody is fabulous. The viola that comes in near the beginning of ‘Chasmal Fires’ is utterly chilling and it’s just the appetizer to what proves to be a powerfully cathartic ending some 25 minutes later, which all manages to come together fluidly in spite of the songs’ bulk. Few albums are as front to back packed with jaw-dropping melodic phrasings, the kind that elicit instant emotion and never let up.
In the end, perhaps it’s actually that it’s very hard to find the words to describe Trisagion, rather than that it requires too many to describe. Words may not suffice at all. It must be heard and it must be felt.
Trisagion is out now via Northern Silence (CD/cassette) and Throne Records (vinyl) and can be ordered here.
Words: Brett Tharp