REVIEW: Trocaria – The Dark Nears

Band: Trocaria
Album: The Dark Nears
Release: 2012
Label: Humid Records
Genre: Symphonic dark metal

‘Dark metal’, while being more an umbrella term than a genre itself, gives a strong indication of the gloomier side that metal has to offer, and Trocaria offers this on their début album The Dark Nears. Blending elements of symphonic, gothic and doom-death metal, the duo of Joan Palmer on instrumentation and Jon Slough on harsh vocals aim for a minimalist approach, dominated by orchestration and dialed-back guitars, with the vocals and piano often left to carry the album.

“Gates Of Hell” is a slightly mediocre start, the atmosphere marred by jarring cymbal taps in otherwise perfunctory drum programming. It is clear that Palmer is a keyboardist over a guitarist, as the main focus is on the symphonic feel, leaving the guitar to chug along in the background. A few odd melodic lines are, however, slipped through, such as on “Is It Just A Shadow”, which is a welcome change. “Cursed” confirms my thoughts on Palmer’s key-skills, as the piano ‘sings’ Slough’s vocal melodies through verse and chorus. The album cruises through several more tracks of varying quality, most of the differences discernible by vocals and piano melodies on top of the unflinching mid-paced plod.

The high points of the album culminate around the midpoint: “Is It Just A Shadow”, “The Burning Man” and “Suicide” are catchier in the riff department, the middle on also sporting a synth-based melody, and the latter a solid guitar solo. The aforementioned floating melodies are enjoyable if fleeting, and those who like piano prominence in their doom metal releases will also appreciate that aspect. Finally, Slough’s vocals suit the music in an odd fashion; while he sticks to Limbonic Art-style grunts and shrieks, they add to the darkened atmosphere, although some cleans of either gender would not have gone amiss.

The Dark Nears suffers from several issues, most culminating around the same point: the songwriting is self-referential, resulting in a difficulty of recognizing individual tracks. This is not aided by the fact that several tracks take a while to start or end (“Is It Just A Shadow”, “Suicide”), which makes the album’s 42 minutes drag somewhat, while the title track remains unsatisfying as a closer. The production is also flat, achieving an almost demo-like quality, especially considering the drums and guitars.

All of these drawbacks result in an album which explains its good intentions clearly, but ultimately fails to achieve them this time round. With more diversity and planning, Trocaria can produce a dark atmospheric record to match those of their influences such as Limbonic Art and Theatre Of Tragedy, but The Dark Nears is not that record.

Rating: 5/10

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