Trial (Swe) – Stoke the Flames of MetalTuesday, 28th February 2023
Conjuring up the legacy of the 1980’s heavy metal scene with striking riffs, soaring vocals, and steady, pounding rhythm section mechanics, Trial (Swe) from Sweden have been steadily gaining ground through a fervent fanbase longing for more quality acts in the scene. Their latest album Feed the Fire features a cavalcade of anthems, moody and dynamic that leave listeners energized in adrenalized proportions. We sought out more thoughts regarding the new record, lyrical inspiration, moving up to Metal Blade from High Roller Records, important albums/shows, thoughts on the state of the world, and more with guitarist Alexander Ellström.
Dead Rhetoric: Feed the Fire is the fourth album from Trial (Swe), and your first in five years. Outside of the obvious vocalist change where you gained ex-Air Raid singer Arthur W. Andersson, where do you see this set of material sitting in the discography of the band? Were there any specific elements or aspects you wanted to showcase this time around?
Alexander Ellström: After Motherless, we struggled a bit to figure out what we wanted to do on our next record. During that period, we parted with Linus so we had no idea how our upcoming singer would fit into the style of Trial. When Arthur joined, we started off by rehearsing old songs. After a while we started to work on new songs, putting down pre-production demos. We had written a couple of songs during this time that would mostly feel like a continuation of Motherless. When the pandemic broke out, we halted our process because we had the feeling we wouldn’t be able to tour during those months. That’s when we decided to record our cover EP Sisters Of The Moon. After the EP we picked up the pieces from before the pandemic, only to realize that 2-3 songs didn’t feel right anymore. There was something lacking. We tried to rearrange some of them but to no avail. That’s when we started to write songs that would define what would become Feed The Fire. Me together with the rest of the band, felt for a long time that we wanted to do something with speed, twin guitars and strong melodies on guitars and vocals. That’s the path we headed in, and the songs came somewhat naturally after this decision. We grew tired of the complexities of Motherless. We wanted to excite ourselves.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve admitted that your lyrical content and themes have expanded over the years, especially through the discovery of obscure/occult books and authors who have inspired different topics. Can you elaborate on this aspect of Trial (swe) and how you feel these themes go hand in hand with the musical output present in terms of serving up different emotions, moods, and atmosphere?
Ellström: Yes, it’s always been a part of Trial. When we started out in 2007, we were obsessed with creating an atmosphere in our music. By doing that we turned our inspiration to the tales of H.P. Lovecraft. Plenty of songs on our first record are a tribute to him. During this period, we found it difficult because none of us were good lyricists. Me, Andy and Martin mostly shared the duties between us during this time, but the inspiration was the same for all of us. By the end of finalizing The Primordial Temple, we had gotten into more serious matters. Books like Liber Falxifer, Quimbanda and Liber Azerate started to find their way into our material as well. The way of thinking opened up new horizons for us which resulted in “Phosphoros” which is a praise to the goddess Hecate. When working on Vessel our biggest inspiration was most definitely Thomas Karlsson’s Qabalah, Qliphoth and the Goetic Magic. Lyrically, you find it all over the record, and it made its mark on the music as well. By this time, I’d become the main lyricist of Trial. When working on Motherless, I had fallen into deep depression, so in the context of occultism being the main focus of the lyrics, it wasn’t anymore. Rather, every lyric of mine on the record is about my life right there and then, clothed in occult terminology. Ever since, that’s how I’ve been writing lyrics. But during these last years, it’s been a mix of me going back to read the already mentioned books, along with books like Panparadox, The Book of Sitra Ahra, Fosforos and The Fall Of Lucifer.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the video shoots for “Sulphery” and “In the Highest” – did you feel these were easy choices to make when premiering songs before the album’s release, and do you enjoy the art of presenting yourselves in this medium which can give people a visual preview of what to expect from Trial (swe) when seeing the band live?
Ellström: We shot both of them in one day. “Sulphery” in the morning and “In the Highest” in the afternoon/evening. After shooting those videos, we realized it wasn’t as bad as we thought beforehand. Mostly because of our director Christoffer Tönnäng who made it possible for the whole process to run smoothly. Choosing the songs was quite easy and became obvious as we were recording Feed the Fire. “Sulphery” is a good single because it’s straight forward, and “In the Highest” has such a strong chorus and has altogether a different vibe to it. For “Sulphery” we wanted it to look as if we were playing on stage. It was shot at a local music center, and we put up black drapes for a more undefined scenery. “In the Highest” was shot at Askerödgården which is a preserved old farm with a very interesting interior. We planned for it to have a story, and extra shots of Arthur. Both videos turned out great so in the future we will continue to explore this medium more.
Dead Rhetoric: How does it feel now to be on Metal Blade for a couple of albums? Do you believe their staff and experience for over forty years promoting and pushing heavy metal helps the band expand their following globally in the right way, in tandem with what you as a band can do to push your material?
Ellström: They have done massive work for us for which we are eternally grateful. To be a part of Metal Blade is something you didn’t think was possible starting out. We know our crowd and that it’s not the most popular music out there. We come from the underground scene, and we will continue to be true to that. Metal Blade is supporting old school heavy metal, just look at our fellow labelmates in RAM and Portrait. Our experience with Metal Blade has been great since day one. The staff makes it so easy for us as a band. Big ups to all of them!
Dead Rhetoric: How do you assess the evolution of Trial (swe) over the years? What would you consider some of the important moments in your career – be it specific albums, live shows, tours, festival appearances, video shoots, or other events where you knew you may be moving up the ranks and making more of an impact with your work?
Ellström: Looking back, I have to say Vessel has played such an immense part for us. When it got released, we didn’t realize how it would be viewed upon years later. Even though there is stuff we would want to have done differently on the album, we appreciate it for its flaws too. Vessel paved the way for us to be signed to Metal Blade, so I also want to extend my gratitude to High Roller Records for believing in us and releasing the record. Other milestones would probably include the Roadkill Tour with the already mentioned RAM and Portrait, and playing at Hell over Hammaburg was such a great experience for us.
Dead Rhetoric: What would be three of the most important albums in heavy metal that helped shape your outlook on the genre – and still inspire you to this day? Also, what is your favorite concert memory over the years for a show/festival you took in as a fan in the audience – plus what made that show/festival so special to you?
Ellström: I would probably give you different answers at different times. There are just so many great albums that inspire us. First, we wouldn’t exist without King Diamond and Mercyful Fate. So as of today, I would say that Don’t Break the Oath by MF has to be on that list. Another album that changed the way I view heavy metal was Metamorphose by Sortilege. The quality of the record is through the roof. Great production, great songwriting, and melodies. Great everything. The French version is the best one for sure. Lastly, I have to put Court In the Act by Satan in there. The song “Trial by Fire” is the reason we chose the name Trial. It will forever hold a special place in our hearts.
In 2010 I saw Jex Thoth in Gothenburg during what I believe was their first Sweden visit. I was completely moved by the atmosphere created there. Another memory is the best Iron Maiden concert I ever saw. It was in Stockholm 2008 and the crowd was going crazy. Me and Andy pushed ourselves all the way to the front and had the night of our lives. Another intense concert was in 2012 at Berg 211, Gothenburg when Bestial Mockery played their reunion gig. Chainsaws everywhere and a swine’s head passing around in the audience. I remember Vulcano played the same evening.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of heavy metal currently? What changes need to take place for the scene to thrive over the next few years?
Ellström: Unfortunately, I believe it is on decline. The latest resurgence was over ten years ago and luckily, we in Trial got to be a part of that, growing up as all of this was taking place. For the last couple of years there hasn’t been a groundbreaking album in the genre we are included in. Don’t get me wrong, there are still great albums released to this day, but the genre as a whole has grown a bit stale. I think bands are afraid of doing something else, or bands that are doing something else, doesn’t get the attention it deserves because they are not doing it in the ‘right time’. I’m sure though that the genre will be back with full force, but there has to be a younger generation kickstarting it. The time will come, I am not worried.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some hobbies, interests, and activities outside of music that you like to pursue in your free time? And how important is band chemistry/friendships when it comes to the outlook for Trial (swe)?
Ellström: I would say my biggest interest outside of music is sports, and football in particular. I occasionally watch some e-sports in my spare time too. I also enjoy long distance running (obvious Maiden reference) which I’ve been into for the last couple of years. Other than that, I mostly hang out with my two dogs and go somewhere.
Chemistry is very important. Aside from Arthur, the rest of us have been friends since forever, so having a new member in the band is a new thing for us to go through. We met with Arthur and rehearsed some songs from our catalogue and sat there talking for hours. He really fits into the band personality-wise but also musically. It feels like we’ve known him for years even though we haven’t. During all these years, we’ve always done everything together like going to concerts, traveling, or other non-music related stuff.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the biggest worries or fears you have with the current state of the world? Where do you think a bigger emphasis needs to be placed on the average human to beneficial to the overall health and well-being of the world?
Ellström: The world is in a fragile state right now, yes. I believe that the politics is what caused it and the hunger for more power. Every leader has their own agenda, which doesn’t serve the world necessarily but rather your own country. People throw their morals out of the window easily if it means gains for themselves. There is too much corruption going on for this to be easily fixed. People live different lives across the world, and I’ve come to terms with that everyone prioritizes (things) differently. It can be because of lack of education, ignorance, or apathy, I don’t know. In order to resolve these wars and other conflicts, there needs to be better understanding between countries and their foreign policies.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Trial (swe) over the next twelve months to support this new record?
Ellström: We have some gigs planned in Europe this spring/summer. We are constantly looking over our options on how to get out on the road with our new record. For sure it is something we are working on. Keep your eyes open to see if all of you can catch us somewhere out on the road.