Although the overall sound of “Bloodstained
Endurance” is an absolute pleasure to listen to, it is the songs themselves that make the 2009 release by symphonic/gothic metal band Trail of Tears an unsatisfying effort. Both
in songwriting and band direction, there is a sense that variation is placed for variation sake, rather than because the piece calls for it. With the exception of “Faith
Comes Knocking” and “A Storm
”, the decisions as to why what happens and where and when seems baseless and self insisting. The easiest area to identify this point comes from the vocal lines. Between the two vocalists, they both sing either the verse, introduction, chorus, or bridge. Whatever line up is drawn up on one song, it changes on the other. Include this with the lyrical content, and the whole becomes nonsensical. By itself, this is just one small aspect, but it appears everywhere and it does add up, and the results are a series of songs that no longer retain its connection with the audience.
The best track on the record, “Faith
Comes Knocking” is really the only song that not just maximizes the band’s abilities without over-producing it, but creates a perfect match between its lyrical content and the song’s many tones and overall vibe. It has an epic sound coupled with a sharp, metallic riff and the lyrics paint a religious theme of which both angelic and devilish auras are presented. The song’s highlight comes from the eerie second movement complete with a very high piano track and some background screaming. The song ends with an ominous series of low pitched long notes that complete this highly emotive work. Unfortunately, most of the other tracks don’t deliver with that kind of power.
One thing is for sure, the sound of Trail of Tears is immaculate. There are two vocalists that play off each other in the style of most gothic metal bands (the male vocalist is guttural, while the female vocalist is clean with a register near angelic. Cathrine Paulsen is a little deeper with a more rich tone than pristine. Her performance on the soft “A Storm
” reveals her at her most operatic.) Although guitar oriented (and with two guitarists, it should be), there is a guest keyboardist that does contribute some significant playing time. Audun Gronnestad’s additions are sometimes as simple as a wash or background track (“The Desperation Corridors” and “Farewell
to Sanity”), while on others he is more prominent if not more purposeful (the ballad “A Storm
” and the piano line on “Faith
Comes Knocking” and “Dead End
Gaze”). Finally, the rhythm section is faultless with only “The Desperation Corridors” (bass) and “Farewell
to Sanity” (drums) as their featured tracks.
Still, the problem that does come up appears to be the sheer amount of post production work on the whole, especially when you consider the simplicity of most of the main themes of each song. Most main rhythm riffs are more closely related to hard, edgy rock than metal (“The Feverish
Alliance” and “In The Valley Of Ashes
”) which comes off as less cerebral. Secondly, the vocal lines, which is the main driving force of every song, are often overdubbed, multi-tracked, and effected (“Dead End
Gaze“ and the title track “Bloodstained
Endurance“). The soloing contributions, although sweet (“Triumphant
Gleam”, “A Storm
”, and “Take Aim
. Reclaim. Prevail.”), are also simple, confining, and most of all - rare. Add the keys and the result only appears loud and bombastic but in reality is a lot less. “Bloodstained
Endurance” is therefore not an over produced album, but it definitely is a studio creation, one that seems predicated on masking than showcasing the talent.
With less magic, more substance, and better direction, Trail of Tears has the sound to create great music. Their 2009 effort “Bloodstained
Endurance” is not the destination, but it is on the right path.