Trappist / Connoisseur – Cross Faded


Trappist and Connoisseur are two of California’s strangest hardcore acts, so it makes sense for them to come together for a split album. The former draw upon their love of craft beer for their lyrical inspiration while the latter make no bones about their love for marijuana (and their addiction to it). It seems the beer-guzzlers and stoners are on the same page for once, but which of them will intoxicate you the most?

Trappist have all the hallmarks of a cult band, not least because one of their members is Chris Dodge, the godfather of the powerviolence genre and veteran of legendary acts such as Spazz and Infest. Like his former bands, all three of Trappist contribute vocals and none of them are familiar with digital equipment or recording gear. Opener, ‘Cross Faded,’ starts with the sound of someone flipping a beer bottle lid and fires into a feedback drenched extravaganza of crusty d-beat hardcore before you can dwell on the prospect of a cold one from the fridge. The brief doom metal dirge in the middle eight hits the spot like a Newcastle Brown Ale served at minus seven degrees. Trappist deliver exactly what you want – the music is violent, it’s rough, it rocks, and it borders on comedy genius. You can’t help but smirk at the story to ‘The One Thing that Still Holds Brew’ about the sentimental fondness our narrator has for an old drinking buddy who turned his back on life and embraced sobriety. “For so many years we supped together/ I thought those days would last forever/ But the real you is finally here/ My former friend walked away from beer,” is like a powerviolence equivalent of Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of 69’ but with a better reason to be nostalgic.

Some of the cuts are short enough to outlive the time it takes for you to bite your nails as the band gear up towards a climax that never arrives. ‘Number of the Yeast’ is thirty-six seconds of raging against the drudgery of mainstream beer, while ‘I Don’t Need Sobriety’ starts with the awesome fade in of a Black Sabbath ‘Children of the Grave’ riff and transitions into a hardcore assault of rapid-fire vocal outcries. By the time we get to ‘Amateur Hour,’ Trappist have us in the grip of their beer mugs with a monstrous blast of late-90s’ metallic hardcore, like Vision of Disorder but with sonic-doomed guitar chugs coated in fuzz. Play it back a couple of times and you realise they’re taunting the weed-hungry members of Connoisseur for their love of milkshakes and popsicles at the expense of cold beer. Pure genius!

The resident dope-smokers in Connoisseur are anything but chilled when they get going. Vocalist, Carlos Saldana, is a serious death metal bewitcher with a lion’s roar and a torturer’s perverse gratification for all things gruesome. ‘The Prize’ contains no traces of punk but goes heavy on the self-loathing guitar drones and even wanders into noise rock territory towards the end. Not that you’ll notice the last modulation – Saldana’s harsh voice is the main focal point of the music and too powerful to ignore. He finds some righteous enemies to channel his rage against on ‘Your Ass is Grass’, but they’re not the fascist sort. Instead, his black metal shrieks excoriate those that keep stealing his drugs. “God damn it!/ Where’s my fuckin’ weed?/ My fucking roommates/ Who else could it be?” It’s even more alarming when he belts with the same intensity as the latest Gulch record.

With a fewer number of songs on their side of the split, Connoisseur were perhaps too stoned to write as many as Trappist. ‘Life (aka How to Dull the Pain from the Crushing Weight of Daily Existence)’ takes longer to read back than the entirety of its nine-second duration – we get the joke, boys. ‘Stay High’ is far better as a grindcore homage. This one is how Naked City would sound if they removed John Zorn’s saxophone from the mix. Powerviolence seldom exudes such sinister menace.

Album closer, ‘Double Barrel Shotgun’, is the perfect way to end the record. Connoisseur show what death metal sounds like when played by punks. It’s sludgy, and it feasts on blood-thirsty vocals and distorted bass lines. Yes, the humour is tongue-in-cheek, but it’s scary as hell.

Trappist and Connoisseur are not party animals. The former are auto-didacts of the craft beer trade and the latter are too paranoid to deliver a stress-free good time. Cross Faded is a celebration of the mind-altering substances in life that can deliver us from the evils of sobriety and normality. You know you want some.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 10/09/2021

Record Label: Tankcrimes Records

Standout tracks: Trappist – Cross faded; Trappist – The One Thing that Still Holds Brew; Connoisseur – Your Ass is Grass; Connoisseur – Stay High

Suggested Further Listening: Gatecreeper – An Unexpected Reality EP (2021), Bas Rotten – The Surge (2021), Filth is Eternal – Love is a Lie, Filth is Eternal (2021)