Today I shall be reviewing Motherless, the third album by the Swedish Trial. They are unfortunately unrelated to the sadly-defunct but happily–reincarnated, Chicago-based thrash outfit Trials. Upon consideration, I’ve come to regard Motherless as an album which my superiors will detest. It defies our American standards by featuring the correct1 spelling for “labour” in a track title, with another literally called “Juxtaposed:” a word which has been explicitly banned from use. I’m overjoyed by the furious twitching inevitably invoked in the editor reading this [DIE!! – Dr. A.N. Grier], but larger questions remain. Questions as to whether this delightful editor-trigger amounts to worthwhile music.
Trial essentially perform heavy metal but with a healthy progressive bent. Hammers of Misfortune spring to mind though their progression goes further than that of Trial. Maiden-y guitar harmonies are everywhere, as is a classic siren wail and hearty, rollicking drumming which is strong in the mix. The material is largely mid-fast in tempo and sheer energy is exuded effortlessly. Variety comes in the form of regular speed and melodic change but a few extra influences broaden the scope. These largely manifest in tracks’ openings. For example, a faux organ on “In Empyrean Labour,” acoustic delicacy on “Juxtaposed” and epic power chords on “Aligerous Architect.” But the record’s conclusion changes this a little as “Embodiment” features an ambient interlude to break apart its nine-minute length and “Rebirth” concludes with the most measured and brooding track. Trial here develop their atmosphere with wind instruments and an occasional tambourine.
The issue is therefore certainly not protracted consistency. Rather, the lack thereof. Everything goes into this riff salad, with little regard given to organic development. The guitars are constantly shifting and as a result, none really remain with you once Motherless‘s 48 minutes have passed. The energy and enthusiasm are faultless but repeated listens will not yield a distinct idea of what some tracks contribute to the overall experience. I considered what stuck after a song-by-song listen: the sad conclusion was very little beyond mere appreciation for technical ability. Describing the guitar-work exactly is difficult as much falls somewhere between riffs, solos, and transitions, such is their hyperactivity and noodling nature. Fragments of excellent ideas are detectable but they’re so buried it’s really not worth your time to find them.
Compounding this is a misguided structure. The relative moodiness of “Rebirth” is a high point but it isn’t quite right at the record’s conclusion. It would serve itself and its peer songs better by offering a breather around the middle. The penultimate track, “Embodiment,” would significantly benefit given its longer run-time which could have conferred a dramatic ending. Furthermore, most tracks seamlessly bleed into each other. While this isn’t necessarily an inherent problem, the dearth of individuality among the separate tracks is aggravated by it. Indeed, the most memorable tracks are those which actually follow a vague verse-chorus structure, namely “Juxtaposed” and “Birth.” Repeated parts can embed as they’re familiar, unlike the frenetic majority.
All this results in what feels like a wasted opportunity. I enjoyed the epic back half of Vessel, Trial‘s prior release, but this leaves me cold. There’s too much going on and the lack of focus denies personality and consigns Motherless to the heap of sub-par 2017 records. At least it will be seared into my editors’ memories for daring to challenge their linguistic hegemony.