Trail of Tears - _Existentia_
(Napalm Records, 2007)
by: Kostas Sarampalis (
In a scene littered with copycat, uninspired, bland and more often than not awful releases, it comes as a great surprise to find an atmospheric gothic / death / symphonic album that indeed burns the bridges (more like chains) to the genres that inspired it. I am not sure the label "gothic" fits the music found in _Existentia_, but this is how Napalm advertises it. It has the keyboards, the female vocals, the mood and the lyrics -- indeed everything that makes an album in the aforementioned styles; but for once, none of what breaks the recipe. Whatever tickles your fancy of course, but ever since The Gathering turned left and Green Carnation unplugged their instruments, they left me wanting for that particular style of atmospheric metal that excites, rather than bores the living hell out of me._Existentia_ is heavy. Really heavy. The guitars are crushing and the growling vocals are harsh. There are few quiet moments, and they only serve to dramatise the flow of the album. As the piano and female vocal interlude in opener "Deceptive Mirrors" gives way to the staccato riffs and the familiar voice of Kjetil Nordhus, hopes for something way above average start raising; and the whole album does not disappoint. If anything, it delivers more than a few surprises along the way. "Decadence Becomes Me" rocks from start to finish, and bizarrely reminds me at points of Candlemass's "Solitude". The dramatic opening of "She Weaves Shadows" flows into a song a lot like early Green Carnation. "The Closing Walls" plays with wonderfully constructed bridges and atmospheric passages. And it continues like that for the rest of the album, never offering a dull moment, never breaking down under its weight into mediocrity.As great as the music is, it is the diversity of vocals that makes this album reach the high standards it aims for. Harsh death growling, clean tenor vocals, and an astonishing female vocalist: the French singer Emmanuelle Zoldan truly shines in terms of individuality. _Existentia_ does not placate the listener with formulaic "soprano" female vocals, but rather Zoldan explores a whole array of styles. Her French accent is alluring and engrossing to say the least, elevating her efforts even more.I have not heard any of Trail of Tears' previous albums, and the last similar release I liked (and I really liked that one) was Slumber's _Fallout_. If you have lent your ear to that surprisingly fantastic album, and if of course you like Green Carnation, then you will most likely love _Existentia_. It is unfortunate that after the album's release the rest of the members except for leader Ronny Thorsen have left the band. I have no idea what the future holds for Trail of Tears, but this is a great album and although it offers nothing new really, it is so well done and addictive that I cannot stop listening to it.
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