Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Trist - Hin-Fort (2007) 85/100.


On these warm summer nights I cannot help but long for the cold harshness of the autumn and winter months especially. As the humid and sticky nights draw to a close with the oncoming autumn season bearing down upon us, I thought, in the spirit of all things cold, I would begin a series documenting some of the very best bands to break the cold seasons in with. Where better to start than with Trist’s mammoth ode to bleak winters in the form of ‘Hin-Fort’. This German one man side-project of gifted Lunar Aurora musician Benjamin König, also known as Aran or Tristan, is a tale of two halves. One, being the side that I truly, madly and deeply love, is an hour long ambient black metal voyage into mystical worlds where Mother Nature only allows the toughest beings to survive the barren wintry landscapes. The other is a similar story but told somewhat differently through the medium of stirring dark ambient.

I must admit, I’m not a big fan of dark ambient. In fact, on most occasions, I downright loathe it. I find it incredibly uninteresting, but the first disc, which contains the ambient black metal song ‘Hin’, is worthy of a review all of its own. However, I will take into account the second disc despite ‘Hin’ being the song I wish to recommend. In light of this though, I will give two scores, one for the first disc and the other to the second. In essence, ‘Hin’ is itself a partially dark ambient song. For the first fifteen minutes, the song agonisingly builds to a gigantic burst of life. For fifteen minutes, this song consists of stirring noise until a voice, speaking in English, comes into the foreground and starts talking about cosmic and philosophical matters before the onset of winter is upon us in the form of the engaging black metal material.

As far as wall-of-sound black metal albums go, this is one of the best. The absolutely crushing material, based on heavy double bass drumming and astral synths, is amongst the most powerful I’ve ever heard. The opening fifteen minutes, though they build slowly, hint at something monstrous to come. The wintry fuss and haze through the constant pounding and pummelling of the drums reveals a certain ecstasy that no form of drugs can induce. The song doesn’t require vocals, though in the early-to-mid stages of ‘Hin’ there does seem to be some form of gargled vocals, somewhat akin to that of bands like Blood of Kingu, though this could easily be created by the astral sounding keyboards, an instrument which plays a very important role in the make-up of this album. As with every band of this nature, like Darkspace for instance, ‘Hin’ requires a lot of patience.

Once you’re immersed in the song and your ears have adjusted and become accustomed to the immense sound, you’ll begin to notice a flurry of small changes in sound beneath that huge wall created by the drums and guitars. To call this solely metal would be an injustice. This is transcendental of metal and any other genre. When I listen to it the cosmic forces that bind together in the form of the guitars and keyboards specifically remind me of a mesh of genres like ambient, psychedelic trance and so on. No one genre can be attached to ‘Hin’ as it is simply out-of-this-world. After 15 minutes of swirling ambiance, the barrage of wintry soundscapes doesn’t let up until after 35 minutes. At this point, the keyboard effects take hold, the so-called metallic elements subside and the movie samples discussing space are drawn back in. “… If you want to understand space, you have to give yourself over to it.” This is precisely how it works with Trist’s ‘Hin’. In order to understand it, you must allow yourself to be consumed by it through immersion.

The cyclical nature of ‘Hin’ is an art form in itself. It reminds me of life and how it follows patterns and becomes bigger than ourselves. Once the samples have subsides for a second time, the wintry, blizzard-like metallic soul comes into focus again in much the same way. The song is incredibly repetitive when you listen to its backbone, but there is so much more going on than meets the eye. Listen carefully and scratch away at the surface to peel back the layers of this intricate song. The keyboards are majestic. They move in and out of the song, affecting the listener with engaging swirling ambiance and lighter textures amidst the heavier touches. Like stars in the night they forge out certain patterns and our imagination is drawn into them like a moth to the flame as a flurry of images of the season of winter flood the mind and desolate landscapes filter through. ‘Hin’ is like a dream and space rolled into one and it’s absolutely phenomenal.

As I said, there is a very cyclical sound to this song. As it did when it began, the song recedes into its shell like a snail and the subtle ambiance moves into the place where the metallic soundscapes once were. This begins our introduction to the second disc and where my enthusiasm begins to decrease. Despite this, the general tone and themes of the album are clearly still alive and well. I myself am not a fan of dark ambient, but there are plenty of people who are. The second disc does compliment the first well, but I cannot help but find these eerie and sometimes uncomfortable songs to be nothing more than filler tracks, despite the length of individual songs (which includes two ten minute plus tracks). The opening song, for example, continues the theme of movie samples and eerie background noise. This song is reminiscent of ‘Hin’, but it doesn’t evolve into anything other than a cheap filler track, as I stated before.

As the second disc evolves, more noises and ambiance become a feature of the album. The second song, for example, features harsh noises and creepy ambiance in the background. It’s like the build-up to a nightmare. You know you’re asleep, but you cannot wake yourself up. That sort of inevitability and dread when you know something horrible is going to happen and you’re absolutely powerless to stop it. The ambiance is definitely affecting, but not in the same way. The ambiance moves like waves, steadily getting more and more violent as winds pick-up. The second disc feels very underwhelming in comparison to the first. The amount of movie samples makes it feel a bit gimmicky, too. I’m quite fond of movie samples in albums, but too many can really ruin the direction and feel of the entire thing in general, which seems to be the case here. I don’t wish to dwell too long on the second disc because there isn’t too much to be said about a side which contains mostly movie samples and minimalistic electronic noises with barely any change in sound. I don’t want to detract too much from the incredible experience of ‘Hin’, which is essentially the reason I wanted to write this review. So, in conclusion, erase the second disc from history, unless you like simplistic dark ambient, and stick with ‘Hin’. It’s a journey worth taking all on its own.


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