The largely predictable laws of individual taste dictate that great success frequently comes to bands that do the basics really well and that mavericks and oddballs are inevitably doomed to appeal to a discerning minority, and yet there is something so ridiculously infectious about French groove-metal eccentrics Trepalium that it’s not hard to imagine them winning over much bigger audiences than the one crammed into the upstairs room of this notable Brighton boozer tonight.
The quintet’s latest EP, Voodoo Moonshine, is a thing of gleefully subversive insanity, as the polyrhythmic riffs and sledgehammer precision of the band’s earlier material arrive embellished with the swivel-eyed parping and shrieking of New Orleans jazz, and while the addition of an actual brass section would have made this performance more of a bona fide spectacle, the syncopated inflections and wonky funkiness of new songs like Moonshine Limbo and Possessed By The Nightlife are still brought vividly to life, inciting an outbreak of euphoric dancing in the process. And therein lies the true charm of this band: yes, Trepalium are seriously fucking heavy and imbued with the perverse spirit of the post-Meshuggah set, but few of their contemporaries come remotely close to the joyfulness and vitality that this lot channel through their unhinged tunes. Even older songs like the maniacal boom-bap whirlwind of Insane Architect and the thunderous, lurching Sick Boogie Murder sound newly imbued with a touch of voodoo spirit, and what could have been a damp squib on a wet and windy Wednesday night steadily erupts into a unabashed knees-up.
Vocalist Kéké rarely strays from his trademark monotone rasp, and yet he exudes the disarming charm and authority of an expert circus ringmaster; a charismatic focal point blazing mischievously away amid the restless melee of his bouncing bandmates, all of whom seem enslaved and driven by some malevolent, spectral groove overlord, willingly synchronising with one another and dragging the rest of us along with them. Closing with the stuttering slam of Usual Crap, the Frenchmen could be forgiven for regarding this low-key tour as only one tiny, incremental step along the road to overseas acceptance, but it’s the sweaty, elated faces of all those present that suggest that much bigger things can and will be possible in future. All this band need to do is keep making metalheads dance and the world could be theirs for the taking. Trepalium are one of the most stupidly entertaining bands in the metal underground right now. Check them out at the earliest opportunity and don’t forget your dancing shoes.