What does a progressive metalcore musician do with their down time? For most, the answer is to start another death metal band and continue making and playing their favorite style of music for as long as they can. Band-hopping and side-projects are not a new thing, nor a bad thing, and they aren't going away anytime soon. They don't often hold the kind of interest they should, because they rarely extend beyond being a continuation of the artists' main project. But then there are cases where musicians veer so wildly off the beaten path that we have to stop and contemplate what we've witnessed. Trioscapes is one of those occasions.
Bassist Dan Briggs of Between The Buried And Me steps out of his usual job and into a power trio that shares little context with his main band. Nary a guitar is to be found on “Separate Realities”, which while upsetting to the metal fans who would follow him to this new endeavor, is a fascinating experiment. “Separate Realities” is the answer to a question no one asked; namely, what would technical metal sound like if there were no guitars. This album is the answer, combining technical metal and jazz in a way that underlines an unseen connection between the two styles. Both live on involved and demanding rhythm sections, which Briggs and drummer Matt Lynch deliver with aplomb. The key is saxophonist Walter Fancourt, who uses his instrument to replicate the meandering guitar lines of atonal metal through the filter of post-fusion jazz.
Listening to the album, it's not readily apparent the intertwined nature of the dichotomy, but involved listens will reveal the hidden gems. As sax lines dart in and out, cutting through the music with blasts of melody-deprived screeching (often distorted for maximum effect), it's not hard to turn the sound into a buzz-saw guitar in the mind, rendering the composition not an example of free-form jazz, but the kind of metal the growing technical scene has embraced. Replace the brass with guitars, and the result would not be far off the instrumental madness provided by Blotted Science.
The trouble with this kind of music is that while it is impressive to listen to and figure out the intricacies of what is going on, not much room is left to remember the music once the effort of listening is complete. Though not the fault of the limited instrumentation, the difficulty capturing and expressing melody in such a rhythmic assault provides limited opportunity to hook the listener. The bits of tribal drumming, xylophone, and flute that appear for brief interludes are the moments that most stand out, a shame considering how short their stays are.
There's a common conception of jazz as staid and boring, which ultimately makes “Separate Realities” troublesome to judge. What might work in jazz circles doesn't in the metal world, and I would assume both sides will be disappointed in the result. Trioscapes has tried something different, and while it is a valiant attempt at broadening the horizons, I don't see much that will appeal to the metal fans who are sure to check “Separate Realities” out.