posted on 3/2010 By:
There are some bands that achieve the hallowed “innovative” tag with a dense, complex melding of various musical styles into something that stands head and shoulders above that which inspired it. Then there are bands that attain this same status by taking an established sound and tossing in a single, significant curveball. In the oddly named True’s case, that sound is old school death metal, and the curveball in question is a Croatian lute instrument called a tambura.
Any time an established sound is experimented with in this manner, it always becomes a question of how well the oddball elements are phased into the sonic base. In the case of Still Life, the resulting sound is something akin to a death metal Drudkh, and this could very well be the first genuine “folk death metal” album I’ve ever heard. I don’t mean mellowdeath with Pagan keyboard sounds, a la Ensiferum, but real raw death metal with folk elements blended seamlessly into the mix. The acoustic ethnic flavor that the tambura (also called tamburica or tamburitza, depending on the location) contributes adds an entirely new dimension to True’s brutal death metal core, and it’s definitely intriguing, to say the least.
Some may immediately dismiss the tambura use as a gimmick, but True dispel that notion by actually integrating this instrument effectively into their compositions, rather than just stacking it on top of some phoned-in riffs. This Croatian collective has the death metal aspects of their music down pat; regardless of what you think of their experimentation, the gruff vocals, technical drumming, and Cianide-meets-Suffocation brand of riffwork are executed just as well as any band that doesn’t bother adding in native instruments. And while the tambura doesn’t exactly fit perfectly into its DM framework, it amazingly doesn’t clash with it either. The atmospheric interlude of proper opener “Once” is hauntingly effective, as is the complex arrangements that appear throughout the epic “Who Am I?.” The tambura’s warbling acoustic tone definitely isn’t a“brutal” or intense sound, but it’s pretty impressive how well True have adapted it to fit their atmosphere.
If there’s one flaw to True’s approach, however, it’s that the tambura almost hogs the spotlight from the other instruments whenever it comes in. It’s not used all the time (it doesn’t appear at all in the brief “Massacre”, for instance), but its distinctive, trebly sound tends to slightly overshadow the guitar and bass when it appears. It doesn’t help that the instrument is mixed a bit loud in comparison with the others, but honestly it’s mainly because its just such an unusual element for death metal music that it almost becomes this band’s defining factor. It's obvious that the guys in True have made a dedicated effort to concoct full, multi-faceted compositions that extend well beyond simple gimmick-value, but many listeners may look right past this much in the same way a lot of people think of Finntroll as merely “that band with polka keyboards."
Ultimately, I can’t guarantee that True’s unusual sound will fly with all death metal enthusiasts. Their mix is a risky one in that they’re opening themselves to be known solely for their unorthodox instrumentation rather than as an artistically viable band that happens to feature an unorthodoxingredient in their stew. But I can guarantee that you’ve never heard a sound quite like that formulated on Still Life, and that those who are willing to give this band a chance will find an intense and seriously interesting death metal album at their disposal. True’s music doesn’t deserve to be liked by everyone, but it definitely deserves to be heard by everyone, especially those who think they’ve already experienced all that death metal has to offer. Check it out.
Register to post comments.