Voodoo Moonshine is the latest EP from absolutely bonkers French metallers Trepalium. When an album’s promo material describes it as being “for fans of Meshuggah, Pantera, and jazz with attitude”, you know you’re in for a fun ride. Trepalium have taken the unusual step of infusing their brand of bone-crunching metal with 1930s New Orleans jazz. As someone who loves a bit of genre-shifting in his music, this was right up my alley.
The important question, though, is does it work? And, for the most part, yes it does actually. This isn’t simply a case of mixing some jazz motifs into some metal riffs and seeing what comes out. Trepalium do a great job of really meshing these two very different genres into something that sounds quite unique and fresh. The focus is primarily on the metal, but there is a huge amount groove and swing across the whole EP. The infusions aren’t just random jazz sections thrown in; they extend all the way in to make the music surprisingly coherent. Despite what the promo material says, the EP doesn’t sound like Meshuggah, it doesn’t sound like Pantera, and any jazz fans checking Trepalium out might be quite horrified. This doesn’t really sound like anything else I’ve heard.
The EP kicks off with its title track, Voodoo Moonshine, which very much sets the tone for the rest of the EP. It features crunching riffs that got me head-banging along right from the first listen, a serious amount of groove throughout, and of course some nice trad jazz. It’s tremendous fun, very slick, and utterly mad.
The thing with setting a tone like that is that, normally, you expect the music to change up a bit as the album progresses. That, unfortunately, is where Voodoo Moonshine falls a little flat for me. No doubt it’s unique, and no doubt the songs are damn enjoyable, but there isn’t really enough variety for me to really latch onto it. The six songs are perhaps not exactly the same, but they all come from the same place and do a similar sort of thing. After a while, the novelty starts to feel less fresh. On a short EP like this, it’s not really problematic, and of course not everyone would be bothered by it at all. But for me, it does reduce its replay value somewhat.
It feels like there are things the band could do to mix it up a bit, particularly in the vocal department. KK is a very good harsh vocalist who really gives some great edge to the sound, but he only really utilises that one vocal style throughout the EP. If they were to give him more varied things to do, perhaps introducing some melodic vocal sections (not clean, necessarily – see Tomi Joutsen of Amorphis for how to do brilliant harsh melodic singing), I think it would keep my attention much better.
Samey-ness aside, this is a highly enjoyable and unique EP. If you’re into groovy metal, then I am confident that you will enjoy this and you may even love it, so definitely check it out. And I will keep an eye out for what Trepalium do next, as if they do decide to vary things a bit more in future, they could be creating some really fantastic music.