Trail of Tears

02/04/2008

Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles, CA

by Travis Baumann

Trail of Tears has been a long time favorite band for me and so this was highly anticipated for around four months when I first saw they were touring. I even investigated their tour mates, Echoes of Eternity and grew to like them quite a bit as well.

Unfortunately, for Los Angeles, the lead singer of Echoes of Eternity got sick and was under doctor's orders to not perform lest she permanently damage her vocal chords. I did not find this out until one band before they were supposed to go on and only then, by asking the merchandise woman where their stuff was. It would not have changed my mind about going because I love Trail of Tears, but it would have been nice to know.

In Echoes of Eternity's spot was a French Canadian band called, Unexpect. Please check out their review on our website with photos as well for more about them but now on with the final event! After seven, yes, seven opening acts, six of which were local starter bands, all but Unexpect were amatuer outfits and had a big part of wearing down the audience to the point that when, Trail of Tears finally went on, and the minor upset to the Echoes of Eternity fans was over, the crowd had thinned to nearly a third of its populace.

Trail of Tears did an amazing job. I have been a huge supporter of theirs since I found out about the band. I actually missed their first album, "Profoundemonium" and learned about them when they released, "A New Dimension of Might" in 2002. Being a huge Tristania fan I was interested in any of the member's projects and had learned that Ronny Thorsen, one of the cheif contributors to, "World of Glass" had departed and started his own band, Trail of Tears. Well, with that association, his own project became a must find and was well worth hunting it down. He took with him the same awesome mentality of heavy rhythmic guitars and pounding drums and combined it with epic keyboard orchestrations and added the mixture of male vocals not only in harsh darkness but in surprisingly melodic sections as well that uplift the songs and add gothic melancholy where needed. To then add a special artistic flourish, that connects me and others to this type of music all the more, of lush female operatic vocals reinforcing Ronny, himself and adding epic power to the songs.

The mixture of voices adds character and story telling to the music and makes each piece quite drastically different in vocal qualities alone. The follow up album, "Free Fall into Fear" was just as powerful and cemented them into a favorite band.

Just recently they released, "Existentia". Their newest album maintained all the strengths from their previous work but definitely refining the skill and sound. I noticed the male clean vocals had a stronger presence on the first couple of songs and I liked it.

On their second album they had a bonus track which was a cover of Faith No More's, "Caffeine". It was sang so well, that now I hear a bit of Mike Patton in the clean vocalist's more mellow moments.

The vocal can just as quickly become a roaring monster in the next verse and rip your head off, but Ronny does it with much more finess and ability than your average, extreme vocalist and this is what makes all the difference for me.

If truth be told I am not all that into the growly, death style vocals and if it is just Cookie Monster on the mic I am out of there. Unfortunately, some of the opening bands were exactly that and a lot of the audience did take off.

For those who stuck around, they got to see that Ronny knows how to do it with power and lyrical coherence, in other words you can actually understand what the hell he is singing about, and makes it cool and serious.

The live band consisted of Ronny for vocals, his female counterpart and then a small platoon of musicians including two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer. The keyboards were provided via computer backing. Several muscians have done all the studio work over the years and with a six person band already and then added crew, they probably couldn't deal with another musician on tour.

I was glad he brought a female vocalist though. Some bands try to put those on tape or computer and it just doesn't work. The power needs to be delivered in person and this woman did great. Some of the female parts are extremely demanding and hit the highest range of notes but of course these are my favorites.

Normally another guy handles the clean male vocals but instead of having another dude on stage, these parts went to the female vocalist as well, which added even more interplay between Ronny and her and gave her a lot more to do on each song.

Having never seen them before I was really pleased with the set list. We got some of the greats from each of the preceding albums, "Cold Hand of Retribution", "Obedience In the Absence of Logic" one of my all time favorites, and they ended the set with the awesome "Crashing Down" and also hit my favorite tracks from the new album too, "She Weaves Shadows" and "Deceptive Mirrors" stood out the most.

As I said, the crowd had thinned out and there was maybe fifty people in front of the stage with a few more up on the balcony. Ronny commented on how the crowd was small but excited and there were a lot of fans who were singing along with the songs.

At one point Ronny called for a toast with beers. No one in the audience seemed to be drinking anymore and he responded, "Ahwww, you guys are sober?!? Come on, lets party!" Each of the band members,except the female singer, I am not sure if she drinks or not, downed a full glass of beer in about thirty seconds and then they continued with the set.

Ronny was extremely animated and moved around the limited stage space continuously. Everyone was smiling on stage and seemed to be enjoying their spotlight at the famous Whisky. European and Scandanavian bands from all genres hold the Whisky A-Go-Go in legendary regard, as I am sure many bands from around the world do.

The bassist and one of the guitarists seemed to be brothers in their facial similarities but they had opposite hair styles. All the musicians were technically sound, bringing the songs from the albums without compromise.

From looking through the band roster over their four albums, all the current members seem to be fairly recent additions. I go to Trail of Tears official website and Myspace pages occasionally, look for links at the end of this review and read that just after "Existentia" came out, they had a very difficult South American tour and many, if not all the band members left the band.

Ronny swore the band would continue and it seems that he found some great musicians to take over the torch and continue because the band operated as a tight cohesive unit and as I said they smiled and enjoyed their communal experience. Technically you could not tell that these were not the musicians who initially recorded these fan favorites, so all in all, it was a really fantastic experience.

Ronny said they would be back again on a future tour and I look forward to it. As you will see, a huge portion of our Virtual Night Angel website is composed of shows we saw in Europe. I hope someday to see these guys there at a festival like the Wave Gotik Treffen as he may be able to assemble an even larger stage presence without an ocean to span.

Next time they come through, I hope they can get a more exclusive lineup and that their main tour-mates can make the show.