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Black Trillium - The Fatal Shore

Black Trillium
The Fatal Shore
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 15 June 2020, 7:00 AM

When it comes to vocals, I can usually forgive a lackluster vocalist if the music is good enough. Take the almighty MEGADETH for example.  Few would argue that ol Mustaine is a good singer but you know what?  He definitely fits the music well and I cannot imagine anyone ever singing for them. But every once in a while, I come across vocals so weak that I just cannot overlook it.   Unfortunately, Australian Doom band BLACK TRILLIUM and their debut full length, “The Fatal Shore,” fits into this exception.

And it is too bad because, musically speaking, this album is on fire.  Slow, atmospheric sludgy doom is their style and they play it so well.  Whether the riffs are a slow rumble of metallic glacier moving across a barren landscape or settling into a fat groove,  the quality of doom metal presented here is high for the death/doom style they appear to be going for. Then the clean vocals start.  I have nothing against cleans—even in extreme metal, there are hundreds of examples of great singers.  Clean vocals are especially prevalent in doom and I would question any doom fan who refuses to listen to that style.

I’m not sure which member of the band provides the cleans, or maybe it is both, but they are extremely distracting.  The main problem with them is there isn’t any heft or emotion to them.  The thin, near powerless, approach makes the whole band seem weak and really pulls the bite and somber atmosphere out of the music. “Conviction,” opens the album with somber, near Gothic, lead guitar that is quickly backed by a dominating riff. The death growls are great: loud, gritty, deep, and a bit scary—perfect for this style.  Then the cleans appear out of the muck and throw the whole thing out of the window.  They are so distracting that I found myself constantly wondering when they were going to be go away and worried when they might appear again.  The song’s mid section is tight, featuring a slick guitar solo and drums that stand out among the riffs. The song’s ending goes into clean instrumentation and then it mixes with the distortion for a nice finale.

Banished,” has a meaty groove going for it but, just like the previous track, the cleans just pull me out of this doomy world that otherwise sounds great.  The section of clean instrumentation that begins around the 2:43 mark is a nice change of pace and I love the faster tempo riff fest that plays afterwards.  The third track, “Diseased,” ups the intensity factor with its burgeoning moments reminding me a lot of black metal, especially the drums and bass.  The first half of this song is everything I could ever want from this album but after the three minute mark, the many interruptions from those clean vocals render the rest of the song a challenge to listen to.  It is very frustrating because their light and dark elements work for them so well, musically speaking.  It is just the vocals that bring it all down.

Haunted Oceans,” features cleans done in a lower tone, making them much more tolerable than the presentation found in the previous three songs.  The melodic leads are done tastefully, flowing in and out until the song gets ultra heavy.  The bass guitar is a highlight, pounding away on the low end like a pulse that keeps everything alive.  And what about the song’s ending?  The harrowing scream that kicks off the rapid fire drums, catchy riffs, and deep growls?  Just perfect and what the album needs more of.

The Fatal Shore,” title track ends the album on a weird note.  The clean vocals butcher the song’s first half, so much that wading through the rest of the track is asking a lot although it improves as it goes along, getting heavier and more sludgy as the seconds pass. All in all, BLACK TRILLIUM is a very talented band and “The Fatal Shore,” certainly isn’t a bad album by any means.  However, if the cleans were absent, or took a different approach, this album would definitely have a higher score.

Songwriting: 6
Musicianship: 6
Memorability: 6
Production: 6

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Conviction
2. Banished
3. Diseased
4. Haunted Oceans
5. The Fatal Shore
Lineup:
Simon Skipper – Guitar, Vocals
Zachary Carlsson – Vocals, Bass
David Schneider – Drums
Record Label: Independent
     


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Edited 11 August 2020
 

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