The Inner Wind
On Trysth’s Soulchambers
Trysth, Soulchambers, Serpent Eve Records, Bulgaria, 2014.
There has been a considerable commotion in the Bulgarian metal scene for the past year. A creeping wind of difference blows against Sofia’s alternative and rather unpresumptuous stages. I have already written on Upyr’s demo, which all but instantaneously created a fandom of unseen and loyal proportion. Now it is Trysth who follow the direction of this strange, novel meteorological anomaly, this new wind. Indeed, I would not call these developments a new wave, but a new wind.
In the whirlwind of WWII, Georges Bataille worked out his notion of the ‘inner experience’ for which he was gravely attacked. The criticism went as far as suggesting that he conceptually established a specific form of quietism that justified France’s occupation politically. Bataille’s critics erroneously dismissed his thought to justify their politics; they claimed he drafted an apology of pessimistic realism, since his ‘inner experience’ demanded a radical adieu to the kernel of rationalism. The notion was so difficult because of its manichean quality: it manifestly transcended philosophy, but refused to recede in mystical theology. And so the train of his thought ran against the wind of the times: ‘The difference between inner experience and philosophy resides principally in this: that in experience…what counts is no longer the statement of wind, but the wind’.
As he defined the inner experience as akin to—but not identical with—the mystical (it is like a ‘rapture’, an ‘ecstasy’), Bataille demystified a region of the experiential and the lived which is today so central to the metal scene. For the metal underground’s sensitivity and world-outlook, the importance of being in (often brutal) contact with the real is a sine qua non; thus such nihil-bound sensitivity is reminiscent of what Bataille was doing with his notion. The project of the ‘inner experience’ was indeed a self-annihilating one: it was to discursively lay bare the ground for non-discursive experience. There is a fine register here between thought and experience that frees reality from the determinations of speculation. (This is why the terrain of art—music included—is central to the concept: reality is ever more brutal than art, but only art can capture such brutality.) This was a project for radical immersion into the unmediated terror of the real; this was the inner experience itself: ‘It is only from within, lived to the point of terror, that [inner experience] appears to unify that which discursive thought must separate’.
Music is one particular milieu where the human could cause a scission of the real and open to that unifying terror. Our broader understanding of ‘metal’ today (whatever this might or might not mean to projects like Trysth) is engaged with exposing—and even deliberately causing—those scissions. This is why it makes sense to search for the trials of the inner experience in the metal world; and we should provide a distinction between desiring and exposing our fretting with the world and its terrors upon us. For Bataille became a particular victim of this inelaborate distinction.
The emotional archive produced by the more dystopian regions of the metal scenes (particularly sludge and doom) can easily fall in the no-man’s land between desiring and exposing. The inner experience of musicians who dive into the obscurity of territories that are socially abject is bound to describe by all means available the lived impropriety of the human in this world. And what happens with specific instances like Soulchambers is that they serve as the sonorous metal-boxes of containing, for a precious little while, not the statements of, but the raging inner wind of the self.
In Soulchambers, the incessant force of the inner wind is lived and felt with no restraints. As Trysth themselves state, their music is an uncompromising l’art pour l’art, but this self-sufficient quality of art (at least in this tradition) is also precisely what qualifies the inner experience. It is its own ‘authority’, just as art for its own sake knows no external authority. Both trust their own precarious autonomies to produce a virulent and unrelenting hailstorm as to cut reality; we cut it, it touches us, it hurts; we are terrorized (and enchanted) by the real that leaks from reality’s wounds. I cannot say if Trysth desire this, but I can say they have felt it through something very similar to Bataille’s inner experience, and have exposed it. The winds of Soulchambers veer in Bataille’s direction.
You will hear Trysth’s inner winds in the whole compositional majesty of the album. The winds have their degree of force and effect. The wind first seeps in the theatrically short ‘Descend’ to openly ascend to the apotheosis of ‘Ordeal Visions’—the album’s pulsing organ—and obliterate what is left of your affective spectrum in the closing ‘The Undying’. The winds blow you away to feel the gradual developmental riffs of Cult of Luna‘s tradition (‘Spine of Snakes’). Surrounded by them you will recognize the magisterial potential of Ulver as well (especially in the opening of ‘Ordeal Visions’ as well as in ‘Sever the Stars’ through and through). No one will be surprised if (hopefully) Trysth’s future is as unpredictable as Ulver’s, but since the future is unwritten, we should stay in the dark until the inner wind of Trysth befalls us as an external, unpredictable force—which it is.
I assume the unfathomable strengths of Trysth’s captivating sound originate in the utter conundrum they pose with regard to genre. This is partly what has led me to excite about the state of metal today: perhaps we should respect their own definition as ‘atmospheric sludge metal’ but it would not be disrespectful to describe them as a non-genre metal gig (see for instance the ‘new weird’ in fiction, often called ‘non-genre writing’). The moving thing about Soulchambers is that this liminal quality traverses in continuity throughout the entire album, and yet the definitional impossibility does not impede their compositional trajectory. I guess this is a rather twisted way of saying someone has a recognizable style, but at the same time it is important to outline the power of the cross-genre or even anti-genre quality and that terrain of obscure musical liminality Trysth inhabit. This seems to give them the freedom to create a whole, which also has its theatricality—at the very least in the way the tracks are organized. The order has a inimitable trajectory. There is not a moment when the channeling of the wind, in the zero-sum of the trio’s inner experiences, is not felt. It stops, as in the sudden cacophonous organization of ‘The Undying’, but it either comes back or is discretely hovering behind, and is thus always present.
That discrete quality of the ‘inner wind’—meaning that in their sonic strategy, Trysth have thought and planned every single move accordingly—should dissuade you from the quotidian expectation that metal is imminently the music of desperation and inherent desolation. If you are looking for your weekly dose of transcendence, purifying hatred or cathartic simplicity, this is not your music. Trysth take you to a journey somewhere between the meditative and the raging. If you hope not to feel hope, Trysth are not for you. Instead of the impasse of desperation, there is the road to transformation, expressive of reality’s terror, an expression that makes us face not the speculations about the wind, but the wind with all of its sweeps. And this is precisely what Bataille’s inner experience meant: to be in contact with the real, you have to be open to disorderly transformations. The metal world’s sensitivity is too caught in the fetishisation of darkness (it desires it). I dare say that Trysth offer us expressions of our souls’ mystical meanderings (they express them). You cannot achieve this without a holistic approach, and Soulchambers is a singular experience of a totality captured, channeled through, and lived from A to Z.
If the story Asen Santev tells that initially the band was supposed to be a standard black metal project holds, then Trysth’s trinity seem to have gone through a six-year long transformation from which they have now gained all they need: the attention to tension-building, the sense of compositional complexity, and the dialectic between the whole and its parts. No wonder, then, if the transformative quality of Trysth’s Soulchambers reverberates in some other chambers, in some other souls, in some other experiences with the might of their inner winds. What matters at the end is not the composition of the wind, but to experience the wind itself. To let it blow inside you. For you are the wind.