Trial- Vessel (High Roller Records)

Hardly a trial to listen to.

There might just be something in the water in Sweden. How else can you explain the sheer number of quality metal acts emanating from the country? Perhaps the melt-water from ancient glaciers contains some wondrous properties that let you write a killer riff. Or it could just be that there’s an extremely strong metal culture over there. But I prefer my theory.

One particularly recent strain of Swedish metal are those throwback traditional bands that emulate The King (Diamond that is). Of this group that includes such standouts as Portrait and In Solitude, comes Trial. Trial could easily be considered to be the runt of the litter. They’re the least popular and as of 2015, have released only one other full length album, 2011’s The Primordial Temple. While that album contained plenty of King Diamond-isms, the writing was unremarkable and did little to distinguish Trial from the rest of the pack.

What’s immediately clear upon spinning Vessel is that Trial has grown by leaps and bounds in the preceding years. They’ve even taken the opportunity to (somewhat) step out of the shadows of their inspirations. 

Firstly, they’ve managed to take their influences and expand upon them, even expertly weaving some outside elements into their strictly traditional metal sound. For example, on To New Ends the band manages to take Maiden inflected arrangements and turn them absolutely icy. Or the thrilling 13 minute long Restless Blood which takes Mercyful Fate at their most progressive and ups the ante.

Then we have some of the stellar performances on this album, particularly from vocalist Linus Johansson and guitarist Andrew Ellström. Johansson’s striking falsetto really shines throughout the record, bearing obvious resemblance to King Diamond’s trademark wail but with a sense of weight behind it reminiscent of Euro power metal. Ellström peppers the album with some intricate and tasteful leads that manage to make Trial stand out from their peers.

With immaculate musicianship, strong, classy song-writing and a willingness to put a new coat of paint on an old style of music, Trial shows that traditional metal is still a force to be reckoned with. 

Vessel is out now.