Trial – Feed the Fire Review

Way back in 2015, when the world was young and AMG was still using the cursed and damned Excel Promo Sheet ov Doom, an album called Vessel by Swedish prog/power/trad act Trial graced my earholes. It was like a joyous fusion of Crimson Glory, early Fates Warning, In Solitude and NWoBHM and I really enjoyed it. I planned to review it but time conspired against me and Vessel never got the AMG treatment it deserved. 2017s Motherless did, however, and that album was a hot mess lacking the old timey charm and mystique of its predecessor. Fast forward to 2022 and Trial return with Feed the Fire and a brand new singer, and the awkwardness of Motherless is nowhere to be found. In its place is a more mature and captivating take on the style heard on Vessel and that’s a very good thing indeed. How good? Hold on to something.

After a mood-setting intro piece, “Sulphery” takes the stand with a fiery blend of NWoBHM and traditional metal thunder, sounding like a mash-up of Dark Forest, Lunar Shadow and Wolf. New voice Arthur W. Andersson (no relation to the accounting firm) immediately makes his larger-than-life presence felt with his powerful delivery and broad range. I don’t know where Trial found this cat, but he’s a juggernaut and brings a tremendous urgency to the material. The chorus sticks the landing and energetic harmonies fill the air. This is the shit. “Thrice Great Path” follows the same template but adds a sneaky blackened aesthetic just under the surface to spike up the intensity. The doors get fully blown off an album standout “In the Highest” where Mr. Andersson is set loose to fully flex his vocal chords, and an earworm of a chorus flies sky high, reminding me a lot of the criminally underappreciated Warlord. It’s an elegant piece of traditional metal that does everything right and imparts a regal grace and grandeur that can’t be resisted. I cannot and will not stop spinning this unless it’s for the main course.

And that would be “Snare of the Fowler,’ which is one of the best metal moments of 2022. At just under 7 minutes, this song takes you on a journey through the metal ages ranging from NWoBHM to speed, melodeath, and black metal, never feeling forced or disjointed. Every peak and valley is designed to keep you locked in and flying high. Mr. Andersson delivers a triumphant performance full of epical magic and At the Gates’ Thomas Lindberg stops by to offer restrained harsh vocals. The riffs and guitar harmonies borrow from Maiden as much as they do from In Flames and everything is perfectly balanced. Hear this thing. “The Faustus Hood” takes a different tack, exploring epic doom and sounding a whole like Atlantean Kodex with hints of Hammers of Misfortune along the way. Even 9-plus minutes closer “The Crystal Sea” hits the right notes and rings the proper bells as it slathers you in tasteful, decorous guitars and sweet flourishes with slight flashes of black metal to shake up the dignified proceedings. This is a tough album to find fault with musically and every song is a winner. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the production. The overall sound is hollow and somewhat muddled with Andersson’s tremendous vocals pushed way back in the mix. This is a weird choice given how integral he is to the material. The sound is almost enough of a trial in itself to force a score downgrade, but the material is just too damn stellar.

I cannot say enough good things about the performances by Alexander Ellström and Andreas Johnsson. Their stunning guitar work takes the listener many places and through many eras of metal. I hear traces of the 80s US power metal scene alongside the obvious nods to NWoBHM and the addition of faint black metal influences pays large dividends. This thing is a guitar player’s wet dream from start to finish. The addition of Arthur Andersson is the big story here, however. The man can sing his heart out without sounding forced or overwrought and he brings a ton of gravitas to the high-level material. Sometimes he reminds me of Crimson Glory’s Midnight (R.I.P.), sometimes John Arch, and other times Manimal’s Samuel Nyman. Though he can occasionally sound raw and overly sharp, he’s a real talent and I look forward to him growing into his voice with experience.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on Feed the Fire but I ended up finding some of my favorite music of 2022 here. This is an album full of epic atmospheres and majestic vistas, and Trial make sure there are enough balls to the wall to keep it heavy. If you’re looking for the next big traditional metal platter, you shouldn’t miss this one. Trial adjourned!

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 12 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 2nd, 2022

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