Sunday 2 June 2013

Trials Interview

Chicago groove metallers Trials have recently released their new album - In The Shadow of Swords. They've been going since 2007, releasing their debut Witness To The Downfall in 2011. They've just announced a July show in support of Prosthetic Records band Holy Grail ands are in the process of writing more new material!

Earlier in the week, I caught up with Vocalist/Guitarist Mark Sugar and Bassist Usha Rajbandari to ask them about In The Shadow of Swords and about music in Chicago:- 

First of all, thanks very much for doing this interview. Can you give us a bit of history about Trials and about how you formed?

MARK SUGAR (vocals/guitar): Anytime, thanks for having us! Myself and our first drummer Sasha Horn formed the initial version of Trials, sometime around 2008. Our original plan was to record a 3-song demo and not ever play live. Luckily, people seemed to like the demo, so we decided to fill out the line-up and become a "real" band. Usha joined on bass at that point, and we wrote and recorded the songs that became our first album "Witness to the Downfall."

USHA RAJBHANDARI (bass): Again, thanks for having us. I'll just add that the line up on the new record is Mark and I, Adam Kopecky on drums, and Ryan Bruchert on guitar. Adam has been with us since 2009, and Ryan joined about a year ago.

You've recently released your new album "In The Shadow of Swords". Listening to the album, it's very musical and progressive. What were your main goals when recording it and what messages did you want to convey with the lyrics?

U: Initially I think we were just looking to push the boundaries of the first album and make a really heavy, aggressive record. Later in the process, we focused on making the album a cohesive effort and a collaborative one as well. We also wanted to keep the sound authentic, so we went with a production style that is a bit more organic.

M: As far as the lyrics, I was trying to write something a little more universal. The lyrics on "Witness" were pretty personal and maybe a little too specific to be relatable. For the songs on "Shadows", I wanted to clearly convey my feelings and my worldview in a way that could be easily understood. It's less about me and more about the world, but it's still the world as seen through my eyes.

How have people reacted to the new album?

M: From what I can tell, the reactions seem to be really positive. I don't think our music is for everyone, but the new record seems to have connected with the people it was supposed to connect with.

U: I agree with that. The level of enthusiasm from people has been pleasantly surprising, and I'm glad people are into it.

How do you think "In The Shadow of Swords" differs from your previous album "Witness To The Downfall"?

M: This is a whole new ballgame compared to the last record. It's been a couple years, we have a new guitarist, Ryan Bruchert, and we have a renewed commitment to making heavy, difficult music (for lack of a better word). We went into this with something to prove, and we took what we do to the next level.

U: That's definitely true. I also think this album is more unified. The first album has a lot of unexpected elements, but sometimes the combination of those elements was a little disjointed. For this record, the four of us still wanted to challenge ourselves individually, but there is more emphasis on writing better as a group. We're on the same page musically and philosophically now, which I think has benefited this record tremendously.

As individuals, what influenced you to get into music and more specifically, metal?

M: I've always been interested in music. My family has a lot of musicians in it -- choir members, orchestra players, songwriters, etc -- and that influence was always there.

I was attracted to metal because of the rebelliousness and aggression of it. As a kid, I was pretty angry and was in trouble constantly, so bands like Pantera, Megadeth, Slayer, etc. became the soundtrack for how I felt at the time. Contrary to what public officials believe, being a delinquent leads to heavy metal, not the other way around! As I got older, I started to appreciate the musical side of metal as well, the complexity and compositional abilities of those bands. I've been into this since I was about 10 years old and have never looked back.

U: When you're an awkward or antisocial kid I think you end up listening to metal or punk rock by default. Metal is so varied in style, technicality, emotional content, etc. that it has kept me interested and excited over the years. That's especially relevant as a musician, since metal is a good genre for those looking to challenge themselves. I've been playing in metal bands for over a decade, and playing music for over 20 years so it's great to work in a genre favours diversity, progression and innovation.

What are you thoughts on the state of metal in general at the moment?

M: Overall, I guess it's doing pretty well these days. There seems to be a fixation on technicality and playing ability that I don't personally share. I've always seen metal as a means for writing good songs and for self-expression, and the current "scene" seems kind of disconnected from those qualities. Having said that, I still think there's a lot of really good heavy music coming out lately.

U: I'll somewhat agree with that, although obviously technicality and good songwriting aren't mutually exclusive. One criticism I have is that metal seems to have gotten really esoteric. It's kind of ironic, because I always thought of metal as music for social misfits, but there's a segment of metalheads that are absolute elitist pricks.

On the positive side, I think there are a lot of good bands lately, especially bands that evoke some older influences. Also, here in Chicago, the scene is much more inclusive than it used to be -- which is great because I would much rather go see four good bands that sound different from each other, than four bands in the same sub-genre that are mediocre at best.

What touring plans have got to help you support the release of "In The Shadow of Swords”?

U: We are setting up some tour dates for the Midwest and possibly the east coast later this summer.

What bands/albums are you all listening to at the moment?

M: I'm currently enjoying the new albums by Arsis and Alice in Chains. The last Voivod record "Target Earth" completely kicked my ass as well.

U: I don't have the new Chains record yet, but I will definitely be giving that a spin soon. The new Maggot Twat record is pretty sweet. The last Faceless and Wintersun records are good too. However, when I get home from work I'm probably going to throw on Peter Gabriel's "Passion".

Chicago has a rich metal history. Which current local bands should people be checking out?

M: I strongly recommend Czar, Without Waves, Bones, and Superchrist. Chicago has a reputation for a certain kind of metal these days, but there are other, better things going on here.

U: I'll second those recommendations and add Maggot Twat, Wounds and Air Raid. Those guys are all great musicians, but don't take themselves too seriously.

Make sure that you check out the album trailer below and stay tuned for a full review of  In The Shadow of Swords later next week.

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