Bands that work within a concept for an album or song walk a fine line. In whatever genre that the project caters to, they always have to keep the source material at hand and be true to it. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to refrain from rattling off successful or failed attempts at such endeavors. You’re here for one of three reasons. One, you’re already familiar with and enjoy the monstrous entity known as Trapped Within Burning Machinery. Two, you caught wind of them when CVLT Nation streamed their newest release entitled The Filth Element and might be curious as to what a reviewer on the site had to say about it. Or three, you saw the album title and wonder how in line it was with classic Science Fiction movie. Well, rest assured, if you’ve yet to digest this beast, you’ll be very pleased in the distance this band has covered in terms of their evolving sound and working alongside the content and characters of the movie. These California natives should be patting themselves on the back, as they have created one hell of an abusive, yet strangely beautiful, album. A lycanthrope of a release that shifts forms between massive, fuzzed-out, sludge-filled hatred to moments of quiet contemplation and solemn passages.
“Leeloo,” the first track on here, stands as a fantastic start to this journey. Sound wise, it fits the entire concept and character of what Leeloo embodied through out the movie. With a quiet, almost ethereal guitar opening that is later joined in by harmonized, primal chanting that seems to echo across space itself. As the song progresses, Trapped Within Burning Machinery drop in almost naturally, with an earth-shattering riff that cracks this album open. As the song plays out– even more so if one is familiar with the movie– Leeloo absolutely sets the tone for this highly ambitious album. From the nine minute mark of the song and on till it’s finale, I was superbly impressed with how T.W.B.M. handled the direction of the song, from the slow, simmering boil around the nine minute mark to its absolutely epic close. To be honest, I was rather shocked upon my first few initial spins of this record as to just how dense and complicated their sonic tapestry is. It even took me a number of hours listening to this album just to wrap my head around all the different arrangements and pieces that the band has brought into play on this release. If anything, that should speak volumes to those about just how majestic “The Filth Element” comes across.
Unfortunately, a vast majority of those reading this are completely unaware of my absolute love of Gary Oldman. So yeah, my heart skipped a beat and I might have pissed my pants just a little bit when track four, “Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg,” roared forth from the feedback that starts it off. A hearty dose of Southern-styled Doom riffs greets you, as lead singer Zak Esparza shrieks from the pit of his stomach to alert those of Zorg’s arrival. I had almost expected this band to veer off into a Blackened Doom metal avenue with this track, which wouldn’t have been half bad, considering the nature of the subject. But to say that they went above and beyond in their attempts at exploring their ideas and constructing an original sound doesn’t do this song justice. The opening few minutes on this one are absolutely killer. I dare any one of you to resist the urge to throw the horns up and thrash along to it. That is, until the the band pull a fast one on you during the middle course of the song, leaving you permanently broken and hunched over in mid-headbang, even as the song switches gears and focus on a more subdued, evil sounding passage. Trapped Within Burning Machinery capture a melancholy that permeates up until the colossal reprise of their trademark sludge assault. Accompanied by deep, guttural Death Metal inspired vocals, the song ends, leaving one teetering on the edge of a black void.
What really got to me after the course of a few good sit-downs with this record was the last track, “The Divine Light.” It’s pretty safe to assume that albums built like this one – meaning that it’s not just six random songs pasted together, but a story and piece of art being told via instruments and vocals – that the last song would be a heavy hitter. One composed of all the ideas put forth on previous tracks. A final statement for the album and the band itself. “The Divine Light” marks off all of these prerequisites for a last track, and then some. The song opens with a soft passage of down-played guitars and drums, creating an almost absinthe-induced, dream-like atmosphere that has been hinted at on previous tracks. Even as the song progresses into heavier territory, the overall emotion that was initially injected into it still lingers just beyond the scope of crashing drums and high-pitched shrieks. It’s a fitting close to the album, as it suits the concept of the album and the band’s intentions in properly displaying the concept of the movie – he overall triumph of an other-worldly force championing for life against an ancient, cosmic evil. Even as singer Esparza shrieks the title of the track across the end of the song and feedback echoes forth from the bands cabinets, I started reflecting on the nature of this album. It’s more than just a concept album based around a stand alone movie. The Filth Element stands as a well-thought out and executed take on what can often be a repetitive sound devoid of original ideas. Much like the movie this album was conceived upon, it swirls around a number of different nuanced concepts and tones, from beautiful passages that invoke rays of sunlight cutting through storm clouds to ash-covered worlds devoid of life.
At the end of the day, T.W.B.M. have put forth one hell of a sonic juggernaut. Rich in tone and complexity, The Filth Element should please even the most brain-fried, burnt out metal head. They’ve managed to straddle a fine line in the territory of Yob and similar Doom/Sludge acts, while also showcasing to a degree some rather progressive metal ideas that had me drawing the comparison to certain heavier works from the early catalog of Mastodon (and I stand by the statement to any naysayers). The band and album itself has no problem planting their collective fist firmly in your gut like an abusive spouse. After having this feral, rabid beast of an album for the last few weeks, my opinion is firmly cemented that these thrashers have only started to peek behind the curtain of their creativity. While the band itself has had a few other releases and line up additions, “The Filth Element” is the first release that they’ve done which has a proper identity in terms of what they sound like. The entire album has this amazing ebb and flow between all the songs and it’s a triumphant thing to see a band like this release such a high-caliber, well thought out record. I have a strong feeling that these brutish warlords are only getting started and for that, I am extremely thankful.
AUGUST 12 • COMPLEX / GLENDALE, CA
w/ BONGZILLA, PRIMITIVE MAN, & NORTHLESS
AUGUST 20 • the STARLITE LOUNGE / SACRAMENTO, CA w/ SORROWER, & BATTLE HAG
AUGUST 21 • SCOWLING HOUSE / PORTLAND, OR w/ FOLIVORE, OORTE CLOUD, & WHITE MASCARA
AUGUST 22 • the BLACK LODGE / SEATTLE, WA
W/ FOLIVORE, OORTE CLOUD, MOROSE, & HISSING