|3rd of February, 2023
In 2008, a major share of you most probably witnessed a drastic financial collapse that was initiated by anticipation that arose from the seemingly ever-growing housing market in the US. The offspring of this market crash saw impacts around the entire globe. Following this incident, though, it especially influenced the further development of the financial situation in one specific country, namely Greece. After a successful accession to the European Union, documents of shady investment bank Goldman Sachs saw the light of day that transported the impression of Greece not having been able to procure the premised capital (or: reduce the state deficiency) to rightfully implement this accession. These circumstances were accompanied by the fact of an impending national bankruptcy of the aforementioned country right in the middle of ongoing political struggle. As one influential force in this financial crisis, especially Germany felt obliged to intervene. Although representatives from different institutions advertised a clear debt relief in order to regain financial stability, one austerity package after another was issued primarily due to German intervention. Regarding the fact that Germany never fully paid off any of its eternal debts arising from its atrocious history, it is highly questionable that especially this country strongly objected the possibility of a debt cut. The course of history followed with years of financial struggle in Greece, speculating about financial rehabilitation on the back of an entire nation. Only later, it became clear that Standard & Poor’s low ratings of the Greek country drastically influenced interest rates, so that Germany was able to purchase government bonds at a ridiculously low rate. Greece’s government debts thus were the basis of Germany (and furthermore partly the EU) being able to prevail and justify the situation and form a power imbalance the German financial politics benefitted from. And this is also where we find our grip for this specific review regarding Trespasser’s latest release ΑΠΟΚΑΛΥΨΙΣ.
First things first, though. Trespasser is a two-member Black Metal outfit from Sweden. Having gained attention with their 2019 full-length debut Чому не вийшло? that focused on the Ukraninan Makhnovist Movement (hence the Cyrillic writing), this duo returns with their 2022 sophomore full-length ΑΠΟΚΑΛΥΨΙΣ, once more showcasing that this band is capable to convince musically, lyrically and conceptually. On their sophomore record, Trespasser discuss an Anarchist reading of John’s Apocalypse (the Book of Revelation). Probably showing difficulties for acceptance especially for the fellowship of Bakunin, this implementation nevertheless turns out to be highly interesting. I have to admit that I initially wondered when I read this application of the Bible. Having found out the more detailed adaptation of John’s Apocalpyse with an Anarchist reading, I was strongly convinced, though. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not all witty and shit and found this out myself – I just literally inhaled this interview (click here) by Greek magazine „Rocking” that pretty much is one of the best interviews I’ve ever read. Growing from the fact that Trespasser were not content with the left turning out to be primarily “negatively reactive,” the idea arose to follow a concept that focuses on a pro-active (pro Anarchist, pro ecology) perspective. Thus, the Anarchist reading of John’s Apocalypse turns out to be a rather optimistic stance towards prospective changes of society. How does this interconnect with the Greek financial crisis, though? The reading of John’s Apocalypse that Trespasser offers seeks a major juncture with the understanding that justification of oppression in society is primarily derived from debt. As was the case in John’s Apocalypse, when debt is derived from original sin and thus for instance serves as justification for oppression of the sinners (mankind) before God (the cleric). In a more literal sense, this idea instantly reminded me of the power imbalance that was visible in the Greek financial crisis that started in 2010, in which Germany found prevalence due to their structural position in comparison of debt – which drastically showcases the flagrant abuse of power when especially keeping in mind how Germany historically compensated debt and found their powerful position.
Going by the fact that I now reached the length of a regular review but haven’t even lost one word about the music easily expresses the enthusiasm I carry for this release. But let’s get into the music. Starting off with the first track “Forward into the Light,” the anthemic character of the music only takes a few seconds to unveil. Ushering in the album with a siren, the guitars that then kick in instantly showcase a brilliant Black Metal playstyle that convinces from the first second on. Incredibly freezing Black Metal riffs are underlined with the crushing power of the fast drums, giving you no second to take a breath for the first minute. Anyone who still gets stuck listening to the classics of 2nd Wave Black Metal such as Immortal, Dissection or (sorry to state, but musically very close) Marduk should dive into this album for the sound alone. While the riffs bathe in the sound of 90s 2nd Wave Black Metal, the entire song structure as well as the vocals and the further layered riffs and progression draw inspiration from many different aspects.
What I found quite striking on this first track already is the subtle amount of Punk that can be found in this music. Although you probably wouldn’t address this music as Punk when listening to the sound in general, the structuring of the chorus especially reminds of what I strongly associate with Punk music. The repetitive “Forward, into the light!” that is shouted during the chorus is something I can imagine to be absolutely powerful when experiencing Trespasser live. The simplicity of this chorus in the middle of rather complex arrangements is perfectly placed to give the song its incredible catchiness. This practice can be found on numerous tracks on this album. On the second track “Great Debt-Strike I,” this again takes place when Trespasser shout “Burn the records of the creditor!”. This works on two different spheres. First of all, the clear repetition of these statements within those tracks once more highlights the fact that the lyrics and concept of the album are of utmost interest to be understood. Going by the fact that the idea behind this album is very huge, there are several corner points that should be understood and help to get deeper into the subject matter more easily. Secondly, though, these choruses underline the basis of the idea that is conveyed on the album, namely the perspective towards the future coming from the fact that those lines will be easily sung along at concerts, bringing like-minded people together.
Another aspect that comes to the forefront in combination with the memorable choruses is the level of epicness that this album carries. When regarding the fact that the basis for this album derives from the Bible and the perspective is set towards an optimistic future, this is clearly a very suiting framework. Lead melodies as well as cadences and arrangements follow the pattern of transporting a highly cathartic and epic sound throughout the whole album. Both “Flake of Ash” as well as “Holókauston,…” specifically carry this epic sound. The latter track, however, also showcases the strong arrangements on this album. While the general arrangements on almost all of the tracks follow quite a “regular” global pattern of intro, a follow-up of verse and chorus to some extent and an outro, it is especially what takes place in between that showcases the finesse of the songwriting. On “Holókauston,…” as an example, the track is introduced by an epic opener, only to take a halt and continue with a sequence that is accompanied by (I assume) a banjo that is probably going to delight the Panopticon fans among the listeners. The interludes and in-between sequences between verse and (somewhat) chorus are, however, ever-changing. This means that, although we have a certain general global structure, the songwriting lets you assume that this is not the case, because different interludes lead from one spot to another. Thus, all of the tracks grasp your interest from front to back.
Next to everything that is happening as mentioned before, a broad scope of different genres is also mixed into the sound of this album. Whereas there are quite purist Black Metal tracks to a certain extent, such as “Forward into the Light” as well as “Hand in Hand towards Har-Megiddo,” elements from Heavy Metal, Post Black Metal, Death Metal as well as Sludge and more can be found on this album. The epic Heavy Metal elements seem to be omnipresent on almost all of the tracks, broadcasting the divine character of this album, the Post Black Metal elements can primarily be spotted on “Holókauston,…” and the aforementioned instrumentation together with the opening sequences. On “The Honourable Thrall,” there is a strong Death Metal sequence in between that is then mixed with Blackened Death Metal only to return to the original sound of the album. On the final track “The Great Debt Strike II” we then get a finisher on which repeated “Hallelujah!” shouts mark the climax of the track. I would have never thought that I’d ever fancy such an aspect on an album to such an extent, but this works absolutely great here. This track then closes with trumpets that are probably meant to signify liberty trumpets, conveying that all depts are scratched.
I could go on forever. This most certainly is one of the best releases in 2023, I can assure you. I feel joy like a little boy seeing that the left seems to find a stronger spot in Black Metal. With releases of Dawn Ray’d and Trespasser in 2023 alone, this just keeps getting better. Only a few days ago, the aforementioned bands also announced the first Antifascist Black Metal gathering in Switzerland that is hopefully also going to be continued in Germany and as many other countries as possible.
Although this surely is one aspect that underlines my interest in Trespasser’s latest album, there are several other reasons that should drive you to listen into this music. Be it for the concept of the album alone, which is strong enough already, or the craftsmanship that casts this freezing, ferocious Black Metal upon you, this album must not be missed. I can’t wait for more to come!