Review: Ember by Trautonist

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Driving post-black metal tinged with a hint of J-rock-esque shoegaze? Yes, please.

Trautonist is a German post-black metal duo with Katharina taking up vocals duty and Dennis shouldering workload of every instrument other than Rhodes piano, which was done by a fellow only credited as Peter. The title for this record, Ember, is apparently of symbolic significance to the group, standing for “intrinsic personal impulses that define what they are.” Basically, if I understand this right, the album is all about the deep personal needs and wants that make the musicians who they are.

The opening track, “Fire and Ember,” gives a strong dose of that J-rock vibe I’m talking about, with strummed major chords over a standard rock beat. All that’s missing is a particularly involved bass line and you’d have the opening for an anime. If you’re the kind of black metal purist who thinks Deafheaven is unlistenable garbage, you might want to go ahead and give these guys a pass. However, Trautonist pulls off this brand of post-black shoegaze very well and the record flits between floating, ethereal, slightly poppy shoegaze and dissonant black metal near seamlessly.

“The Garden” starts out pretty damn heavy before pulling back a little and getting back into that shoegaze J-rock vibe with Katharina adding a dreamy reverb-laden vocal line that’s catchy as all hell. Dennis’s command of guitar, bass, and drums is pretty admirable on Ember, as his playing is tight and together and it’s not like he exclusively gave himself easy parts to play. Definite props to a talented multi-instrumentalist.

The final track, “Woody Allen,” is probably my favorite, opening with somber Rhodes piano that gets layered steadily with percussion and bass, turning this into a jazz trio straight out of a Persona soundtrack before suddenly taking a hard turn and using the melodic motives established by the piano to ramp up into roaring and intense black metal. Everything comes to a sudden stop and the record is played out by floating synths that fade out.

Ember is nonstandard for sure, but Trautonist have created an album full of interesting texture, compositional style, and a skillful mix of genres that stay interesting throughout.

Ember is out through Pest Productions and Wolves and Vibrancy Records.

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