When you listen to the band’s first demo and compare it to the new album, “Vessel” set to be released in January, it’s easy to hear that the band has improved massively over the course of four or five years. The band has a much stronger identity these days, and the songwriting is so improved that I sometimes have a hard time understanding we’re talking about the same band. Even though 2015 hasn’t started yet, I am pretty sure “Vessel” will end up in my top 15 when it’s time to make that list again in a year’s time.
I caught up with one of the guitarists of the band, Andreas Johnsson to get all the necessary information about the forthcoming album. I remember you sending me a copy of your first demo when it was released for a review in Scream magazine. I know you have been in bands before, but what clicked between the five of you in Trial?
– It’s hard to say really, but we all kind of knew each other from growing up, going to the same school and stuff like that. In fact, we knew each other from before we even thought about playing music together. At some point we just felt like it was natural progression for us to eventually play together. We got ourselves a rehearsal place and things went on from there.
Did you record the 2010-demo to get a deal, or did you have other intentions with it?
– We never really thought the demo would get any intention at all. We just wanted to record and see what happened. At least, we never thought about the possibility of landing a record deal. Of course we are very glad it happened, but we never expected it.
Was it more a case of wanting to have your music recorded as you had just found, Linus, the vocalist back then?
– Yeah, exactly! We wanted to see how things felt with him as well because those songs weren’t actually written with any specific singer in mind. We tried it out and everything fell into place.
Apart from the singer, you have had the same core of musicians for quite a while now. How important has the stability been for the evolvement of the band?
– Extremely important, I would say. As I said, we all knew each other from before and I don’t think we could have done this without that connection. It’s important for the future too, to stay in this formation. Alexander, the other guitar player, was more or less the one that got me into playing guitar in the first place.
I’ve always viewed the material on the first full length “The Primordial Temple” as more mature compared to the song on the demo, but it appears that most of the songs on the former where already written when the demo was released? Does this mean, that the songs on the demo, were even older?
– No, they all kind of stem from the same period of time. Directly when we started rehearsing together, we wrote some of the earlier songs, like “Witches” for instance. It has been with us forever, and is a very early song.
For the first album you used two of the demos songs, one of them was “Witches”, the other was “Opener Of The Way”. Did you consider using the other two for “Vessel”?
– No, not really. The material we started to write for “Vessel” feels more…I don’t know… the songs have a different feel to them , and I am not sure that mixing the two phases would give a tremendous result. We wanted to create something entirely new this time.
People are always mentioning Mercyful Fate, King Diamond and Iron Maiden when they speak about your music. I’ve always thought of US metal too when I listen to your material.
– It’s tough to say, for to be honest I don’t listen to a lot of American metal. I am not sure I disagree, but I am not sure I agree either. Some people have told us they can hear that type of influence in our sound, but I might be too involved with what I am doing to hear it.
Why do you think we have experienced this resurgence of bands playing Mercyful Fate-inspired heavy metal during the last few years? I am talking about bands like early In Solitude, Portrait and yourself.
– I am not sure why it happens, but for us we grew up with bands like Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate and King Diamond. I can see that our earlier material sounds more like classical heavy metal stuff, but on “Vessel” I don’t think it’s that obvious. We have taken a step away from being a resurgence band, if you know what I mean. That is not how we like to portray ourselves either.
Do you aim to be considered as a band with an original sound then?
– I wouldn’t say we try to sound original, we just write the kind of music that we want to hear ourselves. And this is what came out this time. It’s not a conscious decision, like we sat down and said to each other that we need to sound original. I don’t know, but it just sounds like Trial when we play together.
I really enjoyed the “Malicious Arts”-single you released during the summer of 2013. Where these two tracks leftovers from “The Primordial Temple” or newer songs you felt were not album material?
– We wrote them after “The Primordial Temple”, but at that point, it was too early to even think about another full length. We felt those songs were special and when the opportunity arose to release a 7’’, we booked the studio and went for it. I’m very pleased with the outcome.
Listening to the new album, there is lot of different influences. For instance some stuff is almost doom metal, while there is this Mercyful Fate-thing going on as well. Is it as easy as having most members contributing to the songwriting also bring lots of different influences into the sound?
– Yeah, I think so. We have all been very involved with these songs. We all listen to the same core of bands that we started out listening to in our youth, the likes of Kiss and Judas Priest, but apart from that, we all listen to different music really, within in the band. Maybe it’s showing in the music, and I think it can bring out some rather interesting material.
Do you have some kind of songwriting formula within the band, or does the material come to life in different ways?
– It comes to life in very different ways, I would say. The songs usually start with a simple idea from one of us, and then we work on it together. It can just be something as simple as a riff, and the song takes form from there. It’s a shared thing, but because me and Alexander are the guitarists, it’s usually one of us that comes up with the basic structures of the songs, but then everybody is free to bring their opinion to the table, and to suggest changes. It’s a very “open” situation.
When you compare the basic structures to the final result, is there a song or two on the album that surprised you with the way it turned out in the end?
– It’s funny that you mentioned that, because we have been asked why we suddenly write 13 mintues songs like with “Restless Blood” for instance. We never really know how the result will be, we kind of go with the flow and see what happens. It’s how we work, just building on a certain emotion or riff, and see where we end up. It’s a very strange experience writing songs, we’re not sure where everything comes from or why it ends up the way it does. For “Restless Blood” we had so many ideas, and worked a lot on melting them together. It turned out to be a lengthy track. The song wasn’t one of the hardest ones to write though, it kind of wrote itself. As strange as it sounds, it’s actually one of the songs which took the least time to write. It all felt kind of natural and things fell into place quite easily.
So if the longest song took the shortest time to write, I guess you spent most time on the shortest one, which is the title track?
– Haha! I wouldn’t say that, but probably the same amount of time.
Were there one or more songs you had to struggle with more than the others?
– We never really had to struggle with any of them, but the single, “Where Man Becomes All” was the one we probably spent the longest period of time working on. It is also the first one that we wrote to be a part of the full length album.
I have the single here in front of me, but I am yet to listen to it. What can I expect from the song, “Introspection” on the B-side, which is a track that is exclusive for the single?
– The track is from the same session at the same studio, but it was the last song we wrote during the writing period for “Vessel”. In the beginning we thought of having it on the album, but in the end the album became too long. We felt that we didn’t want to leave it behind, and came up with the idea to have it as the B-side on the single. I really enjoy the track myself, and it kind of sticks out from the rest, I think.
Did you think a lot about which song to put as the A-side of the single?
– Yeah, we kind of did. It was a hard choice to be honest. But “Where Man Becomes All” was the first one to be written for the album, and it is also the one song that has been played live prior to the release of “Vessel”. Therefore it felt like a natural choice to make.
Is Trial a band that like, for instance In Solitude, can move away from the sound you have now, or will you try perfect the style you are doing at the moment?
– That’s an interesting question actually. As a band, we don’t want to limit ourselves in any way. Obviously we will not start playing jazz, I don’t see that happening. We will probably stay within the frames of metal and rock music, because honestly, there are still things to be done within these genres.
I guess it’s not easy to try to predict the future, because you don’t have full control over the evolvement in the band?
– Yeah, that’s very true. It’s not easy to say what will happen next. We have full control over the things that we can have control over, but in the end, that’s nothing.
You have changed studio this time, and worked with Andy Larocque in his studio. Was it because of his great reputation?
– It was a combination of things, I think. Linus, our singer, lives in the same city where Andy has his studio, in Varberg. We knew that the studio existed and that it was a high quality one. Of course, growing up with albums that Andy has been a part of creating didn’t make the choice any harder. Another contributing factor for us changing the studio were of course our collaboration with High Roller Records. Without them we probably wouldn’t have made it.
Was there something about the recording of “The Primordial Temple” that you weren’t completely satisfied with?
– I don’t know really. Fredrik Forsberg, who owns the studio we used for “The Primordial Temple”, has been a friend of us for a long time. He is rehearsing in the same building as we are. And basically his studio is one stair above our rehearsal place. He is great at what he does with the equipment that he has, but we felt the need to try something new and go into a studio that is a little bit more professional this time around. Both Andy and Olof did a tremendous work on it and knew what kind of album we were aiming to do.
A lot of bands recording with Andy ask him to do a solo, but he is not doing anything on “Vessel”, is he?
– No, he isn’t. It just never occured to us to ask him to play anything. It might have to do with the fact that we had the material really mapped out at the time, and wanted it to sound like it did in our heads. I don’t think it was natural for us to let him do anything.
The song “To New Ends” was the first taster from “Vessel” that you made available for the public. Do you feel it represents the album in a good way?
– Yeah, I believe so. It’s a fast paced song but also has the classic structure changes. It kind of has everything from the album in one song.
I kind of expected this one to be the opening track, and not the title track which is a more mid tempo oriented song. But when I heard the album in its entirety, it makes sense to open the album with “Vessel” as well…
– I believe so, and they kind of flow into each other. At one point we also thought about opening with “To New Ends”, but as we wrote the title track it felt natural for it to open and to let it pour into “To New Ends”.
The last album was like 40 minutes long, while this new one is a lot longer, over 50 minutes. How did you work to ensure that there is quality even with the added quantity.
– As I said earlier, the songs kind of took a life on their own when we created them. If we had thoughts like: “This isn’t as good as the previous or the next song”, then we would never had recorded it. We feel very confident about the quality with the songs on the album. With tracks getting longer, and the albums along with them, it’s important not to repeat yourself. We wanted to create something really wide, and with over 50 minutes, you can achieve a lot and the range of emotions within that timeframe is huge.
On the last album you shared writing the lyrics between you. Have you done the same this time around?
– Yeah exactly, me, Alexander and Martin (drums) wrote the lyrics for “Vessel”. For me personally it’s a great thing to have as many of us contributing as possible. We don’t write in the same way, and having more writers brings it to new depths and different perspectives which I enjoy. We all think in the same kind of manners when it comes to writing lyrics even though our styles of writing them are different. I trust Alexander and Martin as much as I trust myself when it comes to writing stuff.
I remember reading an interview around the release of the first album where you pointed at an improvement in the lyrics compared to the demo. Do you think you have raised the level even further on “Vessel”?
– Yeah, I believe so. The more you write, the more confident you get with expressing yourself, trying new ideas out, playing with words in a different way and generally digging deeper. So yes, I think I can say that the lyrics on “Vessel” are more perfected than the ones on “The Primordial Temple”. As an artist or writer or whatever you want to call yourself, that is something very important. You should never settle for less and you should always push yourself, if you’re not, it’s not worth it.
Do you prefer for people to read the lyrics and do their own interpretation?
– It’s a very important for people to interpret the lyrics in their own way, because if we were to explain the lyrics for every song, the magic would be lost, I think. Some of the lyrics that I enjoy the most, written by others, have never been explained to me. I know what they mean to me and that’s enough.
In the information that came with the digital promo, I read something like this: “Our lyrics are about life and death, what once was, what is to come and what is beyond. That is the complete definition of it all”. That’s a broad definition, and I guess most bands can relate to, because most lyrics can be placed within this context. What makes your lyrics different from others?
– That’s a tough one to answer. We always write from the heart and about things that are important to us. As a band, we always try to explore things on our own without caring too much about what people would think about it. It gets very personal that way, and I hope you can feel that the lyrics serves a purpose when you read them and listen to them.
Also in the information from High Roller, there is a sentence when you say that “We have all grown into our roles now”. Can you explain this a little closer?
– We just feel that it’s a strength to have played together for such a long time, and done this together from the start, the same guys. We feel that we have evolved into something greater than we were before, both lyrical wise and musical wise. We know how to work to bring out the best in everyone of us, and this is something that takes time.
This occult heavy metal thing that was frequently used in the start of your career seems to be toned a bit down now. Is that right?
– I never really wanted to connect something like that to the name Trial, because I feel it only limits the expression and the art itself. I know that a lot of bands are using terms like “occult heavy metal” or “satanic rock”, or whatever, but we never felt the need to use something like that, as we want the music to speak for itself. We never chose to call our music “occult heavy metal”, that term was invented by others who felt the need to categorize music. A need we never felt ourselves.
I was very impressed by the cover art, and Costin Chioreanu who made it seems like he you’re your music as inspiration for his work…
– Yeah, that’s right. We sent him some of the rough tracks from the studio along with the lyrics and told him to draw what he felt when listening to the album. It ended up looking extremely surreal and the atmosphere of it fits the album perfectly. We felt that right away, we couldn’t see anything else as a cover for the album. We are very pleased with the result, he is a very talented artist.
After having your previous releases on many different labels, you are on High Roller now. Do you see this as a long term cooperation?
– Yeah, of course it’s better to stick with one label for some time. If we could continue to release on High Roller, that would be great. They have a professional attitude towards us as a band, and know what we need and what needs to be done. I really enjoy working with them.
And they have a lot of Swedish bands under their wings as well?
– Yeah, but I am not sure how many of them are left. But the label has released many good albums.
Do you listen to a lot of the new heavy metal bands coming out, or do you listen to the classic stuff from the eighties?
– First of all, I listen to a lot of different stuff in many different genres. But I listen to some of the new heavy metal bands like RAM and Portrait. I heard In Solitude’s “Sister” kind of late, I think. It took a while before I managed to listen to it. I’m not entirely sure about what’s going on in the “scene” right now, but if it’s any good it usually comes to me in one way or another. You never miss the truly great stuff.
Did you like “Sister”?
– Yeah, I did. It was a bold move, but they pulled it off. It’s a cool record!
Have you performed enough live now to feel comfortable going on stage?
– We haven’t done that many shows, but we for sure feel confident enough. There is a lot of progress to be seen. Playing live for the first time is a weird experience, and we have taken many steps to where we are now. Then again, you always learn from every experience.
You have already performed at festival like Metal Assault, Metal Magic and Up The Hammers. What more is there to achieve for Trial?
– We have a lot to achieve, but those were important steps to take. We are planning some stuff as of now, but I can’t really tell you anything at the moment. Those who live shall see!
Do you see yourself continuing to release both singles and albums, or will you focus more on the albums, releasing one perhaps every second year or so?
– I am not sure. We will have to see. Of course it’s always great to release full lengths, because you can do so much with them. You have a longer period of time compared to a single, but it’s too early to think about it at the moment. We have some ideas for the next album, but they’re all in the very early stages.