The concept of Jazz metal is a nebulous one to define. The spectrum of Jazz styles is as broad as its metal equivalent and so any cross pollination of the two cannot by its very nature be predictable. Indeed the fan-bases of both genres share a penchant for dichotomous argument; with different camps having either an unquenchable desire for advancement or an entrenched belief that divergence from traditional modes is somewhat akin to blasphemy.
On past releases Trepalium have mined the seam of 70's-fusion and the more searching aspects of Jazz to inform their particular brand of Techni-Groove Death Metal. Having done this with considerable success on three albums, they have sought to broaden their musical palate by venturing into the more populist era of the 30's: the true heyday of Jazz.
What they have created here is an amalgam of Big Band decadence and mid-90's mainstream groove metal. Syncopated swing metres via for the attention with deceptively complex riffs and the occasional blast from a (presumably) amused horn section. It comes across as almost a literal mixture of White Zombie and swing revivalists The Stray Cats.
Having been so full of progressive and technical intent on their previous releases, it is an intriguing decision to fall back on more direct and traditional formats, simultaneously in both spheres of their musical influence. On one hand it doesn't feel as satisfying as their previous output, shorn of the Necrophagist-after-a-big-bong-hit riffs which made them so distinctive. Yet it must make good business sense to try to increase their appeal to the metal mainstream and become the slightly weird band that Devil Driver fans can get into.
The tunes on this 5 track EP are toe tappers of the first order. They could hardly fail to be. The arrangements are as close to Cab Calloway as one is ever likely to hear on a metal record. Believe me, this is no bad thing. Indeed they do all they can to replicate the Devil-may-care vibe of post-prohibition parties; guitars imitating muted trumpets, breaks in 5/4 time and even a Harmonica solo.
So slavishly do they seek to conjure the atmosphere of a bygone time that they have ostensibly failed to create anything new. Not that this should be interpreted as a maligning insight. What they have synthesised on Voodoo Moonshine is a vibrant ode to a time when drinking and dancing with your sweetheart meant a real escape from workaday drudgery. Just their interpretation of it is for lovers of metal (and each other) to get down to.
Their high level of playing allows this pastiche to come across as genuine and heartfelt, with all the syncopated technicality that has kept Jazz influential for a century.
This is not the hard-bop-death-metal record I had anticipated, but it is a collection so steeped in the complicit criminality of the 20's and 30's that one can almost smell the bathtub Gin.
The morning after might be shit, but by thunder you'll be dancing all night.
– John Whitmore