Reviewed: May 2019
Released: 2019, Century Media Records
“For years, whenever we were together on the road, or in the studio, we often had late night conversations about making music that was dark and apocalyptic but also contrastingly fragile and ambient, encompassing the different moods of music that we both love…”
This is Tronos‘ explanation of the origins of a collaboration that has been years in the making.
Shane Embury and Russ Russell are the two key contributors for this project. A pair of gentlemen whose ironclad credentials are built on an extensive and impressive contribution to heavy music.
If your record collection contains albums by Lock Up, Napalm Death, At The Gates, Brujeria, Dimmu Borgir and The Berzerker (to name just a few) then you will have already experienced the sheer aural weight that these men are capable of.
Factor in the involvement of Dan Lilker, Troy Sanders, Billy Gould and Voivod‘s Denis ‘Snake’ Belange, and you have a release that carries the potential to impress.
If you are still in doubt, then knowing legendary drummer and current Megadeth sticksman Dirk Verbeuren is behind the kit should solidify your expectations.
“The concept was born way before we even hit the first note,” recalls Russ. “We talked of the end of the human race, the quest to explore outer and inner space, the extension of life and consciousness through space travel, energy transference through meditation and ultimately through death… how would the human race live on? In some far-reaching space craft or just by leaving our bodies behind?”
If all of this sounds too high concept and ethereal for a heavy metal record, then you would do well to widen your expectations because Celestial Mechanics is as much of an atmospheric exploration of the far reaches of space as it is a churning collection of hard and heavy riffs.
Initially, the two elements are weaved tightly into each other. Walk Among The Dead Things is built on an undulating, mid-paced advance towards a choir of harmonised voices.
Similarly, Judas Cradle sets out on a riff could easily have come from the hands of the grand master himself – Mr. Tony Iommi. The song’s weighty, Sabbath tempo shifts gears into an affirming gallop that charges towards a climactic final third, complete with droning organs and a haunting female vocal to emphasise the doom.
Sabbath is a reference that comes up often. Indeed, anyone who has glanced at the track list will notice the inclusion of Johnny Blade, a track lifted from the legend’s Never Say Die album. We will come to that later, but for now there are more subtle touch-points to highlight – of particular note, the production style is actually very reminiscent of Geezer Butler’s 1995 Plastic Planet album.
From here, there is a greater distinction between the heavier tracks and the more atmospheric moments. This is clear on The Ancient Deceit; a punchy, effective headbanger, but one that is ultimately less inspired than the preceding songs.
Celestial Mechanics works less well when the band are playing to convention. To my ears this album is better defined by the moments where it cuts itself from the shackles of the genre.
The Past Will Never Die is the moment where the record achieves enough thrust to exit the earth’s orbit and really drift off into unexplored galaxies. Occasionally propelled by the momentum of a solid riff but often just sailing through the expanse. It does this most effectively on Voyeurs Of Nature’s Tragedies. A song that hangs on an atmospheric, ethereal violin (courtesy of The Wonderstuff’s Erica Nockalls). It is a genuinely beautiful highlight on the record, emphasising Tronos’ intention to “look at the universe from a few different angles.”
By contrast, Birth Womb and Premonition both feel more rooted to terra firma. The former is a driving double bass drum attack that propels itself towards the more introspective, churning pace of the latter, which builds towards an impressive, heaving conclusion and marks itself as another album highlight.
Beyond The Stream Of Consciousness is the last original composition on Celestial Mechanics. It serves as a final glimpse of the cosmos before the existential influences are swept away and we are given a spirited blast through the aforementioned Black Sabbath cover.
Personally, it’s a treat to hear a lesser known Sabbath track given an airing and I’ve never really understood the less-than-favourable reviews given to Never Say Die (from which Johnny Blade is taken). With this in mind, I’m completely behind any effort to celebrate an under-appreciated song. Tronos’ version is a largely faithful rendition that plays for kicks. Opinions on how necessary it is will vary but I’m giving it the thumbs up and I appreciate it as a light touch that concludes a dense and varied record.
Ultimately, Celestial Mechanics is a worthy addition to an extensive body of work from all involved, and although initially conceived as a studio project, Russ and Shane are sufficiently enthused by the whole experience to already be making tentative plans to unleash Tronos on stage.
“We hope at some point to be able to play a show here and there,” avows Shane. “It has to be a visual experience with projections, so we won’t be playing whole tours. It has to be a special thing that comes together every so often. As we continue to write more music, we hope it will continue to expand beyond just live performances into experimentation and collaborations through other mediums, too.”
I for one, will be watching the skies.