Review Summary: Multi-dimensional, beautiful, and frightening, Trist's "Hin-Fort" sees Aran's metaphysically dark ambitions reach full fruition.
Black metal is a tricky genre. From humble beginnings to intense amounts of controversy, involving church burnings, murder, and all kinds of Mayhem (see what I did there"), black metal has always been given a bad name. Somewhere in the mid 1990s, a black metal band from Rosenheim, Germany came around by the name of Lunar Aurora. These guys made a name for themselves, making a more arcane brand of black metal. They focused more on the mystical and metaphysical darkness in lyrical content, also manifesting itself in their darker, more ambient, sound. In 2000, following their acclaimed release "Of Stargates and Bloodstained Celestial Spheres", the vocalist and guitarist "Aran" (Benjamin König) created a black metal/dark ambient side project called Trist. "Hin-Fort" is Aran's sophomore effort. And it's huge.
"Hin-Fort" is divided into two discs, exactly two hours long. The first disc is composed of one song, exactly one hour long, entitled "Hin," which focuses more on black metal, while retaining an atmospheric edge. The second disc, entitled "Fort", is also an hour long, but is broken up into 7 tracks, focusing almost exclusively on dark ambience.
"Hin" begins with an ambient soundscape that extends for about 12 minutes. This leads up to a film sample at that point, which sets the stage for the rest of the tracks on disc two: horror. The ambience behind the man's speech twists and turns, morphing its way into a wall of sound at the 15 minute mark. The intensely distorted, blazing tremolo-picking guitars and blastbeating drums set the stage while the main attraction is the atmospheric melodies, weaving its subtle way around the stage, creating a paradoxically immensely claustrophobic yet delicately beautiful atmosphere. This atmosphere is reminiscent of Australian black/death metal band Portal's sound, yet set apart in its own right. Soon after the 19 minute mark, the vocals come in, which sound more to me like an aboriginal didgeridoo than actual vocals, due to the intensity of the atmosphere; the croaks and screams are simply drowned in the mix, adding overall to the atmosphere.
This sound ultimately dominates the remaining forty minutes of run-time, but it never really seems to overstay its welcome, much to my surprise. Granted, it is quite a feat to sit and listen to an album of this length in one sitting, but the subtle atmosphere and restrained melody take their time, and the result is surprisingly entrancing. At about the 37-minute mark, another sample is displayed, but it surprises me with its sanguinity, with the major, almost choir-like, chords slowly diminishing as the man begins talking about the overall connectedness of the universe. It rather reminds me of the monologue in Godspeed You! Black Emperor's song "Static" from "Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven" due to its mystic nature. Side note: a potential pet peeve that may arise is the man's voice; it's rather nasally and took a bit of getting used to. However, his final line hits, "It's a real art how to drop yourself perfectly", and the song climaxes: suddenly the former black metal bliss returns, even more intensely than before, as the keyboards seem to take a more prominent position, and this lasts until it fades away at the 54 minute mark, and the song fades into a dark ambient outro.
Where "Hin" was almost uplifting (as uplifting as black metal/dark ambient music can be), "Fort" takes a darker approach, utilizing much more disturbing samples and a grimmer atmosphere. The black metal is virtually gone in this disk, and dark ambience dominates the soundscape. The first track "(Keine) Angst" is very dissonant and minor, and showcases a sample of a magician (presumably) asking for a volunteer from the audience, someone "unafraid of death." The dark sound increases intensely as the woman who volunteers starts counting from 1 to 60, while screams and supremely eerie sounds echo around her as she becomes more and more frightened. And thus describes the disc of "Fort" pretty darn well, as horror-esque sounds, dark ambience, and disturbing samples echo through the eardrums. The next five tracks pretty much can be described as one track, as they all carry the grim atmosphere.
The next sign of life can be seen in "Licht Aus!", which sees a return of the didgeridoo-like sound, although not vocals this time, and used for a completely darker sound. The beginning also showcases another creepy sample of a whispered conversation between a young boy and an older lady, which morphs into the darker aforementioned synth. The end of the 16-minute dark epic shows a return of guitar as well, not in a black metal sense, but something that powerfully adds to the atmosphere, bringing to mind Lustmord's 2007 release "Juggernaut."
Closer "Fort", the shortest track here, clocking in at just over four minutes, concludes the double-disk album with beautiful and melancholy piano and atmosphere, abruptly and often frighteningly interrupted by overtones of grim atmosphere, groans, and screams. This then fades into ambience and the sound of water which closes the track.
One thing that struck me about Trist's sound is its overall cohesion, as Aran clearly knew what he wanted in the discs and he succeeds amazingly, creating a very rich and textured musical soundscape. My only real problem with "Hin-Fort" is its inconsistency among discs. Yes, the first track is very consistent, and also yes, the second disc's tracks are also very consistent with one another. However, putting them in the same album is arduous, as it may prove problematic that the differences in tone and theme may leave the listener wondering. It's not so much an illogical placement, but it could be benefited by a more tone-friendly intermission, which could acknowledge the tone of "Hin" then proceed to introduce the new sound of "Fort."
Overall, however, Trist has succeeded in making a monolithic black metal/dark ambient album. The music is powerful, the samples are well-placed, the dynamic is subtle yet forceful, and the complete product is able to keep the listener's attention, even for two hours. Besides tonal inconsistencies, "Hin-Fort" is a powerful ambient black metal album worth a complete listen.