Thursday, April 6, 2017

Album Review: Trial - Motherless

When you think about original figures in metal, one of the first that jumps to mind is King Diamond. There is simply no one like him, other than the people who shamelessly rip him off... sorry, pay homage to him. It's hard to be original in any field, even more so when there are literally thousands of bands putting out thousands of records each and every year. It's inevitable that you are going to wind up sounding like someone else, no matter how hard you try not to. That's fine. As long as you aren't aiming to be a blatant copy, it can actually be helpful, since it is both familiar and a way of identifying where a band is coming from.

I bring this up because I get a heavy vibe of the King from Trial's new album. Unlike the band Them, this is not a case of copying for the sake of getting attention. This is an organic outgrowth of certain traits, and there is more than enough to separate Trial from that influence.

Trial's sound is a throwback to the early days of metal, for all that means. There are no guitars with unholy amounts of layered distortion, nor is there thundering drumming playing ridiculous double-bass patterns for the entirety of songs. This is more restrained, and more focused on writing songs. I appreciate that approach, but I don't think Trial is necessarily achieving what they want to here. Yes, they are trying to follow in the footsteps of the metal forefathers, but they don't have the songwriting skills to live up to that aim.

The guitar work throughout the album is easily the best part, with plenty of crunchy riffs and solid solos, capped off with a tone that sounds fresh. The vocals are all the cheesy 80s worship you could ask for, which is where that King Diamond influence comes in. The high shrieking is a descendant of his iconic vocals, but that's where the praise begins to fade. While the sound is wonderful, the actual songs are only ok. With a charismatic vocalist, I was expecting more from the vocal melodies, which are probably the weakest aspect of the album. There's nothing here that is either strongly hooky, or strangely memorable. The vocals sort of blend into the music, which is a missed opportunity.

There are lots of bands that try to make old-school metal, and believe me, Trial is better than a lot of them. But that on its own only makes them a good band. To be great, and to make me really care about their record, I need something more. I need the songs to live up to the standard of the old classics. That's where "Motherless" comes up short. Yes, it sounds great, and it sounds like the classics, but it's not as good as the classics. They haven't given me a good enough reason to stop spinning "Heaven & Hell", and put on their record instead.

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