A lot of variance within a doom/death framework

Black Trillium is a death/doom metal collaboration between Simon Skipper (guitar, vocals) and Zachary Carlsson (vocals, bass), formed from a mutual appreciation of the brooding nature and darkest aspects of that particular metal genre. Following along from 2012’s The Locked Woods EP, The Fatal Shore is their debut full-length album.

Conviction starts things off, and at near on ten minutes in length is the longest track on offer. A mournful lead beset by crushing riffs and guttural vocals soon gives way to an atmospheric section lead by clean vocals. Conviction seems to feature a nice balance between the heavy and the light; and the guttural and clean vocals. Some skilful lead guitar in the middle of the song heralds a quick time change, but overall Conviction sticks to a slow, punishing tempo that works in its favour as an opener, before an unexpected acoustic-led section sees the track out.

Banished starts off at a faster tempo, which always enjoyable for a change of pace. A call and response section between the guttural and clean vocals works effectively here, particularly at the introduction of the track. A lengthy instrumental piece drives the motif of the track home. I appreciate that Black Trillium seem to know when less is more; Banished allows them to focus on each vocal style individually while introducing a haunting section that sounds like the accompaniment of a violin.

Diseased is perhaps the track that leans closest to ‘pure’ death metal in its approach, featuring ample room for the guttural vocals to take centre stage. With that said, there is still a focus on creating an unsettling atmosphere; juxtaposed by the haunting reprisal of both the clean vocals and further acoustic guitar work. I particularly enjoy the direct overlay of the acoustics over a heavy passage, while the clean vocals return, albeit delivered with a greater amount of force behind them as compared to prior appearances.

Haunted Oceans begins as the name suggests, in a quite haunting manner, driven by some crushing doom metal and some delicate acoustic guitar passages. There’s an almost self-reflective approach to this one, plaintive in its relative minimalism. The clean vocals work quite well here, as if both Simon and Zachary are trading lines off of each other. Even when the piece ramps back up in approach and in heaviness, the reflective quality is still evident. This track has a great flow to it.

Title track The Fatal Shore functions as the album closer. It kicks off with what sounds like a lonesome, solitary harmonica, before beginning the way of many a classic blues. Both vocal styles soon begin duelling with each other. The harmonica returns to take on a focal role, genuinely surprising and unexpected within the context of the album but it works quite well. An almost drone-like passage ushers the track into a brief lead section; the kind employed to good use on prior tracks, and it performs just as well here on The Fatal Shore, providing a brief respite before proceedings are called to a halt with the ghoulish strains of feedback.
On The Fatal Shore, Black Trillium seemed to hit their stride as the album went on. Conviction and Banished almost seemed a bit by the numbers, at least in terms of the alternating passages between guttural and clean vocal; it almost became possible to predict when each might appear. However, musically there was a lot of variance within their doom/death framework that both Simon and Zachary seem apt on exploring. Proceedings improved as the album continued; and the tracks that resonated most with me (and their sound itself) lay stacked towards the culmination of the album. Black Trillium seem quite focused on what they want to do; and I commend them for that. The Fatal Shore is a fine start, so to speak, and I look forward to seeing Black Trillium both overcome its limitations and grow anew from that sound.

  1. Conviction
  2. Banished
  3. Diseased
  4. Haunted Oceans
  5. The Fatal Shore