Etienne Pelosoff - Trve Brutal Black Jazz (EP)
Self-released
Jazz, Black Metal
6 songs (28:14)
Release year: 2018
Etienne Pelosoff
Reviewed by Goat

Trailed as an imagined collaboration between Miles Davis and Mayhem, this nine-man project is designed to appeal to a small but potent section of music fans; those who appreciate both black metal and jazz. Pioneers such as Ephel Duath, the Norwegian Shining, and Imperial Triumphant have experimented with mixing extreme metal and jazz influences, yet none has quite managed to merge the aggression and darkness of black metal with the spirituality and fluidity of jazz to make a straight combination. This project is definitely the closest yet, although it's not quite as straightforward as Miles Davis plus Mayhem! The music is far more serious than the EP's title may suggest, closer to extreme metal as played by jazz musicians than the other way around, as opener So What shows. A brief flute introduction soon turns to blasts and screams, saxophone interposed with riffs and screams that later turn into snarls, some of Peste Noire's folkier moments coming to mind. It's overall much closer to jazz than metal, borrowing elements from black metal such as harsh vocals and dark atmosphere but missing the guitar riffs that define the genre, allowing the saxophone to dominate instead.

Which is fine and makes for some very interesting music. Tritone Labyrinth has a suitably dark vibe and is close to the jazziness of later King Crimson, even with the screams and blasting drums topped by saxophone. The promotional materials talk about breaking the respective genres' rules, and the band certainly achieve that. See-Line Satan moves from growls to near-ambience, operatic vocals and whispers atop spookily tinkering piano, both trumpet and saxophone making themselves known. James Brown cover Soul Power opens with vocal violence and churning guitars, but is soon enjoyably funked up with horns and a clever dual drum solo in stereo, each taking a channel so each ear hears something different, the track ending in blastbeats and groovy riffing. The second cover on the EP, Marcus Miller's controversial Tutu which annoyed jazz fans in the eighties by putting Miles Davis' trumpet atop drum machines and synths (the original) is here more of a reinterpretation, keeping the central smoothness of the melody but throwing nearly everything else out, blastbeating drums and riffs along with a hefty dose of improvisation and some sampled speech making it nearly unrecognisable but just as fascinating.

The closest thing to black metal here is on the closing title track, a snarling burst of chaos at the start soon joined by squalling saxophone and almost overwhelming drums (programmed and acoustic) a la earlier Anaal Nathrakh, mixed up with backing choirs and spiritual jazz melodies, heavy grooving guitars (clearly influenced by Robert Fripp's style). Structurally it's jazz, the heavier moments used for impact and broken up with samples, and it's a disappointment when it ends abruptly with a scratched record rather than allowing the heaviness and blasting drums to underscore the melody. I'd like to hear music that rather than using black metal's brutality as a counterpoint to the jazz elements, combined the two so we'd hear something like Drudkh's shimmering soundscapes merged with John Coltrane-like melody and reverence. You could make many dream collaborations (Emperor and Mahavishnu Orchestra?) but of course it's unfair of me to criticise Etienne and his band for what Trve Brutal Black Jazz isn't, and without a doubt I loved this EP for its uniqueness and respect and love of both genres. I hope this isn't a one-off and the project continues - hearing a jazz ensemble covering, say, Mayhem's Freezing Moon would be amazing, but the interpretations here are excellent and it's fascinating to see 'blackjazz' as a concept continuing to spark so much creativity. Hear and buy this EP at Bandcamp.

Killing Songs :
Tritone Labyrinth, Soul Power, Tutu
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