A hooded arachnid humanoid standing before a skull-adorned lectern in front of a swirling mustard-gas background graces the cover of Denver metal quintet Tricoma’s self-titled album. The apocalyptic mood of the artwork, by Brad Miller, is metal to the nth degree, and the creature, possibly delivering a woeful sermon to a crowd of equally hideous beings, wouldn’t seem out of place in a segment of Heavy Metal.
It’s also the perfect image for the doom-laden mood of this moment.
“I basically just sent [Miller] the music,” bass player Matthew Ross says. “That was just what came out of his head pretty much. We wound up loving it so much, and it worked perfectly for the album cover.”
Of course, metal bands always have the best album covers. That’s an indisputable fact, so don’t bother looking it up.
“Metal is more of an expression of the extreme,” says lead guitarist Riley Rukavina. “You don’t want to look at album art that’s a fork and a dinner plate. You want to look at something that is extreme and at the edges of the realm of possibility.”
Rhythm guitarist Tyler Koelmel offers a more pragmatic take on the subject.
“Back in the day, before there was streaming and the Internet and what have you, there’s countless interviews of people choosing Iron Maiden’s Killers album just based on the artwork,” Koelmel says.
Tricoma, which drops on April 17, offers nine tracks of heavy, heavy music and includes uplifting song titles like “Furnace,” “Grindstone” and “Knife Fight,” as well as the head scratcher “Quandary of Paarthurnax Part II.”
It’s a perfect soundtrack for anyone feeling gloomy and in need of a sensory shock. Which, let's be honest, is probably most of us these days.
“I would like [listeners] to be anywhere from confused, even angry,” vocalist Devin Trotter says. “Every song has its own heartbeat, so to speak, from the first couple of of thrash songs we came out with that we decided to put on this album to our older songs, like "Permafrost" and “Formation," which are slower and not as fast, but the lyrical content is also different.”
Bandmembers say the album doesn’t follow one concept, but is more of a collage of sounds and themes. The songs themselves draw from a variety of influences, and it’s a bit of a sonic digression from their more bluesy, sludgy first release Spore Wars. The band leaned into its speed- and thrash-metal influences for the new record, which is about five years in the making.
“It made a huge impact,” Rukavina says. “For a while, I think we left the fast stuff behind. We kind of brought it back to life with the punk and hardcore thrash-metal influences.”
Trotter says that he's a big fan of black metal and death metal, and he models his singing somewhat on the shrieking of Jon Nödtveidt of Dissection and the growling of Randy Blythe of Lamb of God, both of whom he describes as “incredible powerhouses.”
“They are both incredible people that I look up to, and hopefully I can yell as long as they can,” Trotter says. “Those guys are definitely, lyrically, also very big influences as far as how poetic they are.”
Trotter says that he solicits input on the lyrics from other members in the band. It’s not exactly a normal manner by which lyrics are penned, but he says it works. Other members also contribute lyrics, and the band’s approach to songwriting is highly collaborative, in part because they’ve been friends for years.
“I like to write anything and just put it in front of them,” he says. “I let everybody read it and say, ‘Tell me how shitty I’m writing. Tell me what you guys like, what’s bad, what’s good, be super-critical' — so I’m not just being one single person or opinion on whatever we are trying to put out.”
Tricoma, like every other band in the United States — at least ones without a death wish — is currently unable to perform live because of the coronavirus pandemic. The group gathered at its practice space for this phone interview and noted that, while the space is usually packed with at least two or three other bands, it was eerily vacant on a Sunday morning.
The bandmembers don’t know when they will get to play for an audience again, but they have new songs in the works.
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Weird songs. Like Dead Kennedys-inspired surf music. They are even expanding into Rush territory. They also aren’t sure when they will get to record again, but they want to start as soon as Tricoma drops, if possible.
“A lot of the newer songs have strayed even further from the metal genre,” Ross says. “It all still maintains that heavy sound.”
Trotter adds that listeners should never expect Tricoma to put anything in a box in terms of the band's sound.
“Never expect the same thing twice,” he says. “We are always coming out with something crazy, something that is true to us.”