Have you ever felt that an album was speaking directly to you? Have you ever felt that you had a tangible connection to the music you were listening to? I try to have that connection a lot, in fact nearly everything I review here is something that I have a connection to, something that touches my soul in some way or another, I wouldn’t see the point in talking about an album if I didn’t feel something, if I didn’t believe that it was in some way extraordinary. So what do I do when I am asked to review an album that specifically thanks me for the support that I’ve given the band? Honestly, I have no idea how I can be objective. I’m so honored that someone thought to say thank you to me of all people that I feel like I have to over compensate on my analysis of the piece of music. I realize this and start over and attempt to remain objective, but it’s hard. Really hard. Not only because I have a connection to the artist who crafted the work but I was supportive enough that they went out of their way to say thank you. I’ve tried to write this review this morning a few times now, trying to get everything right and retain my analytical prowess and not succumb to flattery. Rive started out as a band I found while searching through countries and ended up finding something magical, something dark and twisted yet so much more artful that the appearance would suggest. I even became friends, or at least an associate of, the man behind the band, Danthor Wildcrow. Sorg, the first album under the Rive banner, was a major step in my study of depressive black metal. What will I think of this new album, just released today, “Trist”? Let’s find out.
First, let me be fair in saying that while Sorg remains one of my favorite depressive albums, it was not without its production flaws. It was uneven in places and the volume was not always symmetrical. Trist immediately fixes the flaws of its predecessor while becoming an entirely new beast. Where Sorg was a very ambient album, Trist is acoustic. Trist is a very personal, intimate album. Danthor’s talents have only increased from his time studying and playing other forms of metal. Sorg was primitive and raw but Trist is refined and nasty. There’s a natural progression, a natural musical evolution on Rive’s releases that warms my black heart. The talent increases, the vision sharpens, the production is rounder. What can I say? I enjoyed this album on many levels. It satisfied my thirst for depressive black metal, it satisfied that minor anxiety we all have when we think there is no way the new album could top the old one, it entertained me, and it made me think. The production of Trist is a hundred times better than Sorg, and Sorg was one of my favorites last year. Looking at the album purely in terms of music and sound, this album is an absolute hit, knocked out of the park, scored a goal from centerfield, whatever metaphor you want to use here. It’s only January and I may have found my favorite of the year. And I don’t say that with a bias. I can unequivocally say that Trist is a masterpiece, of not just depressive black metal but black metal in general.
Each song is only one word. Of course my inquisitive mind would have to dissect the meaning behind each of those words as they relate to the music. Memories, Forsaken, Heartless, Hviske (Whisper). What do these words have in common? How does each relate to each other? How do each of the songs’ titles relate to the sound? Each song is really two songs intermingled in my opinion. You have the acoustic portions and the electric, black metal portions. Each of the represents a theme at plays through the entire album. Trist is not a concept album, not by a long shot, but each of the songs are connected to each other and each of them are woven together. What are the themes then? Are they competing themes? Mirrored? I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that they are mirrored themes, looking at the same event, same tragedy, with different eyes. The two themes are two narrators. We have depression and sadness in the acoustic sound, then we have the wrath, the rage, in the metal. Each theme is internalized; we are given a look not into the actions of the narrators but the thoughts. Oft times thoughts are more vibrant when given artistic form. What we cannot express in words, we can express in art, and in this case music. Rive is really good at giving a voice to something that can’t intrinsically have a voice, each nuanced emotion is given a special sound. The result can be cacophonous and chaotic because the human mind is exactly that but there is a form to the madness.
Trist is a once in a lifetime album. It has effectively captured the emotions of trauma and loss, so much so that I can do no less that give it my absolute highest recommendation. Regardless of how you feel about depressive black metal, you need to listen to this album. It’s not a long album, and in fact Rive released an instrumental version of the album, but it has a lot to say that people ought to hear. I say none of these things because I’m friends with Danthor; even if I wasn’t, I would tell you that this album is one of the best I’ve ever heard, it’s not your stereotypical depressive black metal. It has all the trademarks of it but Danthor pulls in so many other influences and nuances that it stands among the elite. Listen to Trist, you will not regret a single moment of it.
Listen and support!