Three Trapped Tigers have been Drowned in Sound favourites for some time now, so for some of you Route One or Die, their debut album, will no doubt be met with eager anticipation. Preceded by three excellent untitled EPs, which elegantly managed to convey alternating senses of beauty, emotion and menace in a mostly instrumental set-up, they have already left themselves a very impressive legacy for this record to live up to.
Recorded mostly live by the three-piece, who are proudly averse to overdubs, backing tracks and studio fix-ups, the album is a textured, varied affair that, when listened to from start to finish, has the feel of one continuous piece with contrasting, schizophrenic movements. Despite the limited supply of limbs between them, the three make a surprising amount of noise, deftly switching between keys, drums, guitars and samples, supplemented by occasional, nonverbal vocals, although as far as I can tell these are entirely absent from Route One or Die.
Aside from this omission, this record is very much Three Trapped Tigers as usual. There’s none of the expected leap in production, songwriting or theme that many bands take when they make their debut LP. For the most part, Route One or Die seems simply like two Three Trapped Tigers EPs tacked together, albeit two EPs that flow seamlessly into one another. Admittedly for this release they’ve dropped the oblique, numbered titling system of yore, although with names such as ‘Zil’ ‘Drebin’ and ‘Cramm’ they still aren’t really giving that much away. Still, with no drop in quality from EP3, that isn’t going bother hardcore fans much, and for new fans, this full-length is as good an introduction to the band as anything they’ve released so far.
Still present is the intricate, complex songwriting that they have made their name with, and the focus on emotion is still very much present. Opening blast and prerelease download ‘Cramm’ is equal parts bone-crushing heaviness and soul-crushing melody, and by the time it bleeds into ‘Noise Trade’ the glittering ebb and flow of this record has you dragged under. Twinkling closer ‘Reset’ has its fair share of dissonance to begin with, but it builds up to be as complex and heart-swelling as anything in the band’s back catalogue. Such is the skill of the band that they can express such wildly disparate sentiments, often within the space of the same track. This emotional ping-pong is employed to its best effect, with waves of sadness, aggression and joy hitting you at just the right moments.
Route One or Die is a heavy, sometimes dizzyingly diverse listen. Despite this, the band’s emphasis on melody means these songs hook you in from the very first listen, while still having more wonders to reveal to you on repeated listens. For those expecting the Tigers introduce new elements to their sound at this stage, the record may come as a slight disappointment, but the band seem to have discovered a formula that works, and maybe it works too well to be tampered with just yet.
7Paul Stephen Gettings's Score