Friday, February 20, 2015

Trial - Vessel [2015]

Trial's criminally underrated debut offering ''The Primordial Temple'' became one of my favorite records of 2012, being merely a few slivers away from perfection, yet raging against widespread indifference the album is also one of the prime products of what traditional heavy metal dichotomy has brought upon the 21st century. While the split between NWOBHM- and King Diamond/Mercyful Fate-worship appears to be very blunt, forming the essential compounds of traditional metal revisited, Trial's sophomore effort took as such a versatile and off-bouncing record that it feels like an almost immediate departure from the occult, doom-laden fanaticism of the debut: it's clear that the band is pulling off an In Solitude here - who grabbed traditionalists by the throat and bludgeoned them to aesthetic submission with ''Sister'' in 2013 - or, to move away from one genre, basically what newish, cult death metal bands Morbus Chron and Tribulation are doing. And the fact that this weird new trend of tarnishing customs is confined mostly to Sweden doesn't surprise me one bit...

Long story short, ''Vessel'' is a vastly different experience than the marvelous debut. The 2013 ''Malicious Arts'' Ep was merely a taste of things to come, as even that couldn't fully prepare me for the technical heavy metal extravaganza of this laborious titan. To be sure, ''Vessel'' was not an easy album for me to get into, especially when I realized most of the swerving, melodious double-guitar leads and accessible choruses were swapped for intricate chord patterns and full on emotional catharsis. From the moment the album commences with the huge looming tides of mournful melody and the ebbing chord dispersion on the brief title track, ''Vessel'' is narrated with brooding assemblage and desolate earthen pipes running through the marrows of a haunted human. The guitars have an unmistakable black metal feel to them, occasionally churning with dark lead tremolo segments redolent of early Fates Warning. The amount of diversity the they retain is immense, even if not necessarily 100% of them are compelling, blending the realms of speed, heavy, thrash, progressive and black metal almost seamlessly, moving back and forth through emotional discharge. Quite obviously, the new sonic realization is still nothing too south of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate (although it certainly does deny any craving of Maiden, Priest, Angel Witch and the like) but the compositions feel fresh enough to suck any avid guitar nerd within seconds.

At which point, I must agree, that the riffing does not equate to the blatantly harmony hooks of the debut. Trial's atmospheric cognizance unfortunately drowns some of the rather cheap, catchy thrill of simplistic yet furious riffing. ''Ecstasy Waltz'' is a monolithic tune that scales both the upper and lower ends of the frets with freakish progressive melodicism and grandiose, mid-paced choral sequences, even with an odd interlude of spacey bass lines entailing the finale, but it doesn't necessarily feel like the song you'd blast out on your stereo. That said, Linus Johansson's translucent vocals easily forefront the guitars when they're around (it's hard to be on constant display with most of the songs ranging at 6-8 minutes) but far from being a cheap Bruce Dickinson trill he literally stretches the sonic size of the record. Songs like ''To New Ends'' or ''A Ruined World'' are glazing gems thanks to his soaring lines; indeed, the dude sounds like a howling occult priest delivering his sermons by a smoldering pyre, more often than not.

So it clearly the ante is upped. ''Vessel'' is bizarrely complex, with more emotional depth than a pocketful of samey traditional heavy metal lookalikes hooked on the same recycled riffs from the heydays of the genre. It's certainly a lot to take in: the mercurial riffs, the vocals lines, the thundering drums which haven't fallen one snippet short of brilliance,  and even the bass lines which I usually don't care much for - they're all spot fucking on. My one big gripe was that I felt utterly alienated during my first spins, because the songs were simply too long for casual listens, and certain instances still haven't grown legs on me. Despite the fantastic variation, there can be dull moments within, when they're too involved with the 'black metal effort' to be actually producing something more memorable; naturally, I usually opted for some of the shorter songs when it came to revaluation, but even so every song here is uniquely enjoyable. The riffs are a compendium where you'll lose yourself as though in a maze. It didn't resonate with me as much as ''The Primordial Temple'' but so what? It's so much better than a potential 'Temple Vol.II' and has earned its accolades, and easily destroys anything released by In Solitude, Portrait or any other advocate of the occult heavy metal niche, except ''Sister''. We owe it to guys like these. Defenders of the faith. Thinking man's heavy metal. The cross is burning for your acquisition.

Where Man Becomes All
A Ruined World
To New Ends

Rating: 88%

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