There’s no shortage of shoegaze bands around. Hell, there’s no shortage of any type of band around anymore. And that’s what makes bands like Trench special – they can work within their genre and somehow transcend it.
Their new album, Ritual Love, is a perfect autumn record. Hailing from Syracuse, NY, the record sounds like it was written in the deep cold of the Northeast winters. Complete with reverb-drenched vocals and warm, clean guitar leads, Ritual Love takes it rightful place in the shoegaze tradition alongside records like the Lilys’ In The Presence of Nothing or Jesu’s self-titled. And yet, this record also has something to offer fans of modern emo, sounding reminiscent of bands like Turnover or Foxing.
From the opening pitch-shifting in “Bend,” the record transports us to a moody dreamscape. There are some records that feel earthy, somehow grounded. Not Trench. As soon as the full band comes in on “Bend,” the band transports us to a washed-out, wall-of-sound dreamscape. And that’s what great shoegaze bands do – they take us somewhere else. “Bend” lets us know that we are in for a ride.
“Liminal,” the second track, almost sounds like 2009 Manchester Orchestra took a swim in a pool of reverb and delay. It’s a massive, fuzzed-out power ballad – transcendent and desperate. What separates Trench from a number of other shoegaze bands is that they’re not afraid to wear pain and heartache on their sleeves. Sometimes, shoegaze records feel inaccessible due to the emotional content hiding beneath loads of effects. Trench is bridging the gaps between shoegaze, emo, and grunge.
Melody is at the forefront of everything on this record. Not only are the vocal melodies strong, but the riffs are hypnotic, smart, and catchy as hell. Try not to bob your head to “Carbon Dust,” which is easily the poppiest song on the record. It’s a refreshing, upbeat banger after the heavy, brooding opening tracks. The dynamic shift around the two and a half minute mark offers a moment of quiet reflection, featuring just bass, drums, and light guitar chords.
It’s incredible to hear a band play with dynamics. Halfway through the record, “Chroma” provides a similar quietness to the break in “Carbon Dust.” With just ambient noise and clean guitar noodling, it gives us a reprieve from the heaviness of the rest of the record. Though sonically different, it offers the same reprieve that “Within You Without You” offers on Sgt. Pepper – a chance to get lost. I love when bands play with sonic space, recognizing that an album does not have to be hard-hitting at all times. Ritual Love is a dynamically varied experience.
Beneath the layers of guitar work, Trench’s rhythm section provides the heartbeat of this record. The floor tom rolls on “Drag” along with the fuzzed out bass tone provide a perfect groove. It’s a song like “Drag” that makes us go back through the record to listen to how perfectly locked in a drummer and bass player are. On first listen, Ritual Love is absolutely a guitar record. Listening again, however, we find that beneath the surface of the record is an aggressive and totally locked in rhythm section. Trench not only writes great songs, but they are all great players as well.
Trench also knows how to sequence a record. It’s commonplace to hear records that start off so strong but by the seventh song feel like the band is repeating itself. Ritual Love does not fall prey to that classic blunder. “Strawberry Moon,” the record’s penultimate track, is one of the best on the record. With another note-bending riff, “Strawberry Moon” is perfect for a long drive late at night under a full moon. It’s a mid-tempo burner that is truly the climax of the record. The final track, “Tunnel Vision,” is the shortest track on the album (minus instrumental “Chroma”) at 2:31, but it is not an afterthought. “Tunnel Vision” is another dynamic, transcendent anthem, and it finds it’s perfect home as the last song on this record.
With the leaves falling and the wind howling through the air, records like Ritual Love are important. They help us battle the frost-covered windows and cold floors that winter undoubtedly brings. Ritual Love is warm, dymanic, and When bands make records like this, the next stop is usually something huge. Look out for Trench as they conquer the world in 2019.
Ritual Love was released on September 21 on Flesh and Bone Records. If you have not been following that label, I highly recommend that you start now! They have put out some great albums this year, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store.