It’s been almost 14 years since Tristwood graced the digital pages of Last Rites with their 2006 sophomore album, The Delphic Doctrine. Because there is just too much damn music out there, subsequent releases went unnoticed, and we must yadda yadda our way to 2020 and Blackcrowned Majesty, their 5th full-length. Back in The Delphic Doctrine days, the band leader felt like it was the drum machine. The music was dense and relentless, though very effective. In the convening years, Tristwood has kept much of the density without relent, but they have also opened up their sound, and branched out into drone with last year’s 22 minute single track EP, Crypt of the Perennial Whispers.
The band has expanded their tonal playbook to keep the guitar and bass from blurring into the background, such as the Sunlight Studios buzz cranked to 11 in “He Who Traversed A Greater Oblivion.” At times, the bass strings sound like they’re about to rattle off the instrument. Overall, think of The Amenta, or Anaal Nathrakh with a bit more grit and no clean vocals. But the best current comparison would be an earthbound version of Progenie Terrestre Pura, with these Austrians and those Italians sharing a love for skillfully weaving ethereal bleeps and bloops with their caustic riffs.
“Bone Cathedral” is both an awesome song title, and the preview that hooked me. Tortured, reverbed growls tell a tale of bones crafted into a cathedral (I assume), and the music drills forward, recalling the harrowing, constant blasting of their past.
There is an original concept here telling the story of Rauthra, the horned fellow on the cover, as he attempts to stop Ar’ath, the Blackcrowned Majesty herself. While it can be hard to absorb a new mythology during a casual listen (and without any decipherable vocals), it’s great to see bands like Tristwood or Sallow Moth immerse themselves in something creative and unique. Fans can look forward to the Vortex of Damnation EP that’s in the works and will continue Rauthra’s tale.
Perhaps the most adventurous song is the title track, which opens with a breakbeat atop synth chords before launching into black metal blasting. The industrial element remains throughout, and in another electronic section, along comes some flute! Tristwood again melds the mechanical with the human, elevating both.
Whether you’ve been along for the ride since their genesis in 2001, or if you just pop in once a decade or so, Blackcrowned Majesty is an uncompromising slab of industrial black metal with a unique lyrical concept. Here’s hoping we do a better job of keeping up with Tristwood’s output in the future, especially with more music already on the way!