Jimbo talks with TND of Austin, Texas based blackened death metal act Trenchant. He discusses the band’s new album Commandocult, (out now on Godz ov War Productions), their themes of warfare and the occult and their musical influences. He also discusses the band’s love of playing live, their opinions on the US extreme metal scene, gatekeeping and Six Feet Under, as well as other topics.
Interview by Jimbo, brief review by James Sweetlove
Hails! Can you tell us about the recording process of “Commandoccult” and what kind of formula you were going for?
TND: The process was actually arduous as it was in the thick of the pre-vaccine pandemic, and a lot of the mixing and editing had to be done over the phone and by email. I had a very fixed idea of a sound that was lean and muscular, one that would properly capture the martial tone of our themes, and I think we managed to achieve it after a lot of pulling and pounding.
Which bands influenced the sound of Trenchant and how would you describe your style?
TND: The genesis of Trenchant was the shared admiration for the band Molested, which remains a critical touchstone. We also claim influences from Angelcorpse, Immortal, and Immolation. As for a description, Trenchant is World War Metal, or blackened death metal if that’s not specific enough for you.
Could you elaborate a bit on the artwork and theme pertaining to “Commandoccult”?
TND: The art was a pre-existing piece by the talented Vladmir Chebakov, but we thought it captured the otherworldly nature of our content. It captures battle, death, and a vision of the other side in one ideal presentation, so it was the perfect choice. We don’t write about war or conflict in a literal way, everything is figurative, metaphysical, and tied to occult workings, hence the reference in the title.
Can you give us some background on how the band was conceived, including some info about your other/past bands?
TND: NRS and I had been friends for years, and his primary band was Morgengrau at the time. As that was winding down, he came to me with some demo material he had created on his own, already dubbed Trenchant. It started out a Molested worship, and right away I told him I wanted in. We started writing in earnest and building out the concept, and off we went. It was funny, because we decided right away that GRA was the only drummer for the job. He has been in a myriad of bands, including Sacrocurse, Morbosidad, Mortuary, and Abyss of Perdidtion, and he has a really specific style that we knew would fit our sound perfectly. We created all our drum patterns based on his sound, and then hoped like hell he would agree to join when we showed him the material. Fortunately, he agreed, and the core of the band was complete.
My main band from 1995 to 2010 was Averse Sefira, then I also had Birth AD for about a decade, and I also joined Imprecation in 2016. NRS is also a permanent member of Imprecation now, so we are making the most of our collaborations.
Do you pay attention to criticism relating to your music? As is often the case, too many pompous idiots on the internet with no clue what they’re talking about.
TND: I used to, but it has been a very long time since I cared. I’m on year 35 of being a metal musician, and you are right, the social sphere is clogged with endless uninformed opinions from people who may not be here a year from now. I know who I am and what I’m doing, and I’m pretty unshakable in that regard. I’m always glad to receive feedback or insight from a peer whose opinion I respect, however. This release has made it easy, because for the most part everyone has had a lot of positive things to say.
I think some of the more well-known labels nowadays are sometimes too eager to sign a band, which as a result spawns a plethora of mediocre releases. Your thoughts?
TND: Is that really the case? My impression is that well-known labels make no effort to take on an unknown band and develop them. They sit back and let the small labels do the work, then snap up whatever seems to be catching on. Usually, these are the bands that happen to be mediocre enough to have wider appeal, which is why we end up with all those bland releases. I suppose it doesn’t help that a lot of the smaller labels tend to be less discerning with the bands they sign, along with the fact that there is now an endless supply of bands, most of which are middling at best.
What’s your opinion on the current state of metal from the US? Has it been a good year for metal in your opinion?
TND: Hipsters found their way into the US underground in a big way over the last decade, and we are seeing the damaging results. “OSDM” is now its own cottage industry full of sound-alike style hoax bands that the kids are eating up with a spoon. With a few exceptions, the bands are musically generic and have no themes, concepts, or presentation that isn’t a complete lift from a superior band of yore. The whole situation is very much for the funderground, where you can enjoy death metal ironically in your “battle vest” and pink trucker hat while batting around beach balls at the show.
The silver lining is that elder statesmen like Immolation and Incantation are getting the attention they deserve right now, though the fact that so many newcomers hold 5-year old bands in equivalency with them is insulting and absurd.
In general, I’d say it has been a good year for metal, in that there are at least a dozen releases I’ve heard that are worthy. Back in the 90s, a dozen releases worth hearing was a big deal, so not much has changed aside from the level of background noise when seeking them out.
Will you be playing any shows in the near future or go on tour? Hypothetically-speaking, if some mainstream band invited you to tour with them, would you do it?
TND: Our first show back since 2020 will be at Mass Destruction Festival in Atlanta this November. That promises to be a good one, as the lineup is stacked. We won’t ever really tour, at most I can see us playing a few dates in a region, but we’ll mostly stick to special appearances. As for your second question, how would you define “mainstream”? Like King Diamond mainstream? Ozzy mainstream? Iron Maiden mainstream? I’d be up for it, because I really do enjoy touring, and if were actually getting paid to do it that would be win/win. There are bands that I detest that I’d never be caught dead with on a bill, so that would be the deciding factor.
10 Albums you can’t live without.
Deicide – Legion
Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness
Slayer – South of Heaven
Pestilence – Consvming Impvlse
SOD – Speak English or Die
Immolation – Dawn of Possession
Immortal – Pure Holocaust
Voivod – Killing Technology
Cromags – The Age of Quarrel
Something I find funny is how a lot of these veterans aren’t even into metal anymore, despite having played on classic albums, yet are still in metal bands. Do you find that somewhat contradictory, or is it more a matter of not really knowing how to play other forms of music?
TND: I think it is very much a product of having your passion become your job. I don’t usually see musicians who don’t make a living on their band start to lose touch with it. Nothing kills passion like money. Like I don’t believe Mille from Kreator has wanted to do it since about 1995, for example. But there he is, still cranking them out in a cheerless fashion, because Kreator is a brand that sells and pays his rent. It’s not really contradictory as much as it is insincere. I can think of a lot of veterans who remain very connected to metal, and I am proud to be counted among them. Sure, now everyone is listening to every new band that pops up, but the excitement about the music itself and the old classics remains, and that’s more than enough.
Your thoughts on the following:
*Gatekeeping – Anyone who refers to maintaining standards as “gatekeeping” is exactly the kind of person who needs to be kept the fuck out. The fundamental problem is that music can be art and a product at the same time, and most people identify it as the latter. Thus, they don’t see any importance in maintaining the art form, because “it’s just music, bro”. Let’s look at it this way – in painting, we have known styles and techniques that are widely accepted and agreed upon. There is realism, abstract, surrealism, and so on. One does not get to be counted as the other, any more than cubism is allowed to be pointillism. No curator or art museum would ever agree to that, nor would the fine art community in general. Why should music, particularly a specialized and well-established genre like metal, be any different? No, we did not establish death metal with My Little Pony shirts in mind. Metal was created out of a desire to get AWAY from the status quo, not reinforce it! If you want in, be prepared to truly embrace the underground and all of its violence, ugliness, and antisocial facets. You don’t have to love it all, but you do have to accept it
*Six Feet Under – And here’s the other side of the gatekeeping coin with a legacy band that should be pruned posthaste. This band must make some kind of money, because there’s no way they’d be tolerated by a label if they didn’t. I think they are kept afloat by a core audience of absolute cretins with drug problems worse than Chris Barnes’. Way to corner that market, dude. You’ll never run out of idiots to give you a buck! The one good thing about Six Feet Under is that it is a handy barometer. Their fans are easy to dismiss and ignore.
*Hedonism – I’m not an excessive person myself. I’ve never smoked or done drugs, and I drink very rarely, usually at the behest of others. I think we all need to cut loose and indulge (or even go overboard) now and again, but hedonism as a way of life gets disgusting pretty quickly, and I generally don’t abide people who define themselves that way.
*Dissection – a notable band that squandered their true potential and met an unfortunate end.
Brief Commandocult Review
While genre wise Commandocult isn’t war metal, thematically it most definitely is. From the band name and album cover to the song titles, this is war focused music. Once you start listening, you’ll find that the themes of the release perfectly suit the music. There’s something focused and driven about the music, an intensity and aggression that just works perfectly to elevate the album’s concepts.
Personally I’m picky with blackened death metal, as a genre it combines elements of two of my favourite genres. It can either elevate both genres by playing them off of each other’s strengths or it can weaken them by layering them clumsily drowing out the best elements of both. Luckily for us Trenchant are very much a case of the former. The band expertly combine the raw venomous tones and energy of black metal with the unbridled aggression and technicality of death metal.
Instrumentally speaking I cannot get enough of the guitar tone used on the album, it just perfectly captures what I want in a blackened death metal release. The fast-paced riffage yet mid-tempo song progression makes it all that much more intense. The drum work compliments it perfectly, constantly chugging along with an incessant intensity behind the guitars.
Vocally we have a raw and commanding yet fully understandable style that sits far more clearly in the black metal camp. The mixing allows these vocals to be heard clearly over the music but without drowning it out at all.
Overall, this is a fantastic offering of blackened death metal and one that I can’t believe I hadn’t covered until now. The band have really done something special with their debut and personally I can’t wait to see what they do next.