Friday, September 9, 2011

Trials - Witness To The Downfall

Witness To The Downfall
Independent Release

In today’s music scene, you have to really make a bold statement with your debut album. Because if you don’t, you’ll simply get lost amongst the thousands of other act’s vying for the same piece of the action. That’s a simple piece of advice that Chicago (Illinois, U.S.) based outfit Trials have obviously tried their hardest to adhere to on their debut full-length effort ‘Witness To The Downfall’.
Described as an ‘album of brawny modern thrash and muscular melodic metal’, I pictured in my mind an image of what Trials’ music would sound like before I had heard a note. And as is almost always the case, the four piece act (Comprising of vocalist/guitarist Mark Sugar, ex-Malstrom guitarist Remy Walle, bassist Usha Rajbandari and Novembers Doom/These Are They drummer Sasha Horn – Who has since been replaced by Adam Kopecky) offered up something completely different. But while it did take a few listens to get my head completely around what the band were trying to achieve, I can honestly say that Trials have managed to produce a worthwhile debut with ‘Witness To The Downfall’.
In terms of strengths, Trials get the album off to a crushing start with the opening track ‘Praise’. Granted, the band’s mix of thrash and groove metal isn’t too dissimilar to what Machine Head and Skinlab have produced in the past, and the clean vocals from Sugar aren’t anywhere near as strong as his melodic growls, the well executed riffing, the overall structure of the choruses and the relentless drumming from Horn throughout definitely elevates what could have otherwise been a fairly unmemorable track.
Traces of Pantera can be heard within ‘Powerless’, which showcases the guitarist’s ability to keep things groovy and heavy at the same time, while on ‘This Is Starvation’, the band push their sound more into modern thrash realms, all the while incorporating in places some clean vocals amongst the predominately aggressive driven screams. It all sounds a little mixed and unfocussed, but surprisingly, Trials make it all sound remarkable well thought out, and expertly executed.
‘Hammer’ is another highlight on the album with its fast thrashing pace and clever mix of clean and melodically growled vocals (The chorus is an absolute killer!), while on ‘And Still I Breathe’ and ‘Shadows & Traps’, the guitarists definitely stand out for all the right reasons, with some memorable riff structures (The black metal influences on the latter was unexpected) and lead work (Some electric, some acoustics) on show within both tracks.
Despite some really impressive songs, Trials’ debut does have some tracks that don’t quite hit their mark, with ‘Declaration’ and ‘Kingdom’ getting a little lost amongst the album with their unremarkable moments, and the closer ‘Take This From Me’ that simply overstays its welcome.
It took me a while to fully understand what Trials was trying to achieve with ‘Witness To The Downfall’. But once I figured it out, I could appreciate what the band delivered.
Sure, ‘Witness To The Downfall’ isn’t a classic, and the band still hasn’t completely found their own sound. But if there’s one thing I can attest is that Trials have put together a pretty impressive debut, and one that does stand out from the masses.

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© Justin Donnelly