British historian John Keegan, following in the footsteps of German historian Hans Delbrueck, wrote his best book, “The Face of Battle,” as an investigation into the oft ignored tactile experience of battle. Most historians will look at battles in terms of the grand movements of armies, strategic and political outcomes, or even the minuscule tactical maneuvers of squads but rarely do they look at the reality on which their words are based. Keegan’s book smashed many closely held myths about battle, such as the galloping cavalry charge smashing through an infantry line, and unveiled the blood, grime, confusion, chaos, triumph, terror, and brutality of battle. Trenchant’s debut EP is the fitting musical equivalent of John Keegan’s book.
Music is a language that is well-suited for describing psychological, spiritual, and emotional realities that underlie so much of the surface world that we inhabit. In the first two songs of the EP, “Trumpets of Jericho” and “Wardrivers,” Trenchant unleash the musical equivalents of roiling battlefields. “Trumpets of Jericho” starts with a sample of a military march along with the sounds of dive bombers (a technique invented by the United States Marine Corps and perfected by the Luftwaffe) before kicking straight into the riffs. The main riff of Jericho sounds like a minor-key variation of the sampled military march and with added chromatics mirrors the barely-ordered chaos of battle. The vocals alternately grind across the rhythms and march in step with the rhythms like the shouts of a tactical leader straining to keep an echeloned attack formation in order and moving forward. “Jericho” ends with an Over fjell og gjennom torner-esque solo section that trails into uncertainty; even the victors have only merely survived and often fall into a stone-like lethargy. “Wardrivers” has some interesting riffing with some unexpected larger intervals that serve to illustrate that in battle there are large gaps in information and that while the fight may be raging furiously in one place, only a few tens of yards away there can be perfect calm. “Into the Fires of the Night” takes a different approach and looks at what John Keegan calls ‘the will to battle.’ Less dissonant and chromatic riffs and more streamlined vocal delivery show keen insight into the comradeship, sense of elitism, proximity of authority, and the dark spiritualism (as celebrated in Ernst Juenger’s “Stahlgewittern”) that inform a man’s willing or unwilling entry into the field of battle.
The production sound is gritty and claustrophobic and although each instrument can be clearly heard they are well fused into an integrated tactical unit. The guitars sound like an up-armoured version of Graveland’s “Following the Voice of Blood” twang and there are several riffs in the songs that are very reminiscent of that album. The drums remind me very much of Alex Hernandez’s drumming for Immolation – excellent precision and timing, yet loose and un-mechanistic. If nothing else, the drumming on this album can be likened to the Galil rifle – informed by previous successful designs and superbly engineered for ultimate functionality, lethality, and ergonomic fit but with tolerances loose enough to ensure total reliability in a myriad of operational environments. In any battle there are casualties and mistakes, but on this album there are precious few and the one that stands out most obviously is the occasional awkward fitting in song construction. The four to the floor pause at about 4:40 on “Into the Fires of the Night” is one that comes to mind. Overall, this EP is a very promising first outing by Trenchant, a death metal band from (shudder) Austin, Texas.