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Tronos – Celestial Mechanics (Album Review)

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Trudging through the metaphysical ether.

Shane Embury, best known as the bassist of iconic death/grind pioneers Napalm Death, has been a busy man of late. With a laundry list of current and former projects that are becoming too numerous to count, not to mention co-owning an independent extreme metal label for the past 13 years with a respectable output in FETO Records, one thing that he can’t be accused of would be sitting on his laurels while the metal community continues to expand. He also hasn’t been shy about mixing up his sub-genre affinities and has even taken to paying tribute to old guard heavy and power metal acts such as Grave Digger and Manowar via his traditional outfit Absolute Power. In this context, it wouldn’t be out of character for such a veteran to try his hand at just about anything, and with the help his band mate from the aforementioned heavy metal side project Russ Russell and veteran Belgian drummer Dirk Verbeuren, he has opted to take a walk into the world of the spacey, atmospheric contemplation via a highly unique and eclectic style via a project dubbed Tronos.

The overall sonic nature of this project’s cryptically worded debut Celestial Mechanics could be best described as a heavily distorted excursion into an endless marshland that’s been shrouded in eternal night. The style itself has heavy commonalities with a number of sludge outfits from the old Nola scene, particularly Crowbar and Eyehategod, yet it is communicated through a lens of murky ambiguity that could also be considered along the lines of a more traditional doom metal style, particularly when considering the elaborate nature of the riff work, while one wouldn’t be far off base in attributing a progressive or groove metal label to it, though it bears only an occasional fleeting resemblance to the likes of Machine Head or Nevermore, and then largely in the density of the atmosphere and the occasionally melodramatic vocals. All of these traits, along with some elements of ambient trace music adorns the near 8 minute long opening song “Walk Among The Dead Things”, and permeates the lion’s share of the subsequent songs with a few jarring twists and turns along the unbeaten path.

“Celestial Mechanics” Album Artwork

Though of a highly ambiguous and eclectic nature, this album general tends to root itself within a doom/sludge hybrid sound that continually recurs amid various other moving parts. Alongside the Sabbath and Crowbar inspired riff work that adorns much of the opening epic, the slow trudging misery set to metal that is “Judas Cradle”, the more dissonant stomp of “A Treaty With Reality” and especially the punishingly distorted crawl of “Premonition” have all the hallmarks of a Nola-inspired sludgy template, with the lyrics wheeling through various obscure philosophical ramblings to shouted, shrieked and even crooning vocals. In a rather brilliant moment of disclosure, the root of this album ends up emerging in a dreary re-imagining of Black Sabbath’s latter Ozzy era romp “Johnny Blade”, interpreted through this sort of industrialized swamp of fuzz that is the album’s production yet with a very faithful rendition of Osbourne’s nasally bellows. Naturally it isn’t all groovy sludge of a down-tempo character, as such blazing speeders as “Birth Womb” and “The Ancient Deceit” possess a sort of modern thrashing feel that are a bit more reminiscent of that loose Nevermore comparison made earlier.

If nothing else, this is a very different experience from what most followers of Embury’s better known projects are used to hearing. It has a sort of esoteric charm to it that will probably appeal to those who take their sludge and droning extreme metal with a cryptic lyrical message, with a heavy emphasis on the raging side of the former style. It’s a pretty sizable listening commitment despite being just under 50 minutes in length, and will probably hold a certain level of appeal to those who like to lose themselves in an album on repeat while off from their daily labors, though it’s a bit too harsh and jagged around the edges to be considered meditation music aside from a few moments of fleeting tranquility when the distortion cuts out. Somewhere in Louisiana, it’s possible that Kirk Weinstein and Phil Anselmo are sampling this album only to give each other a confused look and ask what the hell they started.

Released by: Century Media Records
Released Date: April 12th, 2019
Genre: Industrial / Psychedelic Rock / Doom Metal / Progressive Metal

Musicians:

  • Shane Embury / Vocals, Guitar
  • Russ Russell / Vocals, Guitar, Synths
  • Dirk Verbeuren / Drums

“Celestial Mechanics” Track-listing:

  1. 1. Walk Amoung The Dead Things
  2. Judas Cradle
  3. The Ancient Deciet
  4. The Past Will Wither And Die
  5. A Treaty With Reality
  6. Voyeurs Of Nature’s Tragedies
  7. Birth Womb
  8. Premonition
  9. Beyond The Stream Of Consciousness
  10. Johnny Blade (Black Sabbath’s cover)
7.4 Very good

Droning through a metaphysical sea of esoteric themes set to distorted minimalist landscapes, one of extreme metal’s senior alumni tries his hand at progressing via a slower, more contemplative mode of aggression

  • Songwriting 7.5
  • Musicianship 7
  • Originality 8
  • Production 7
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