Trials – Windy City Metal WarriorsMonday, 24th August 2015
Sometimes you hear a band that just seems primed to explode, if it was given the proper exposure. They do everything right, from songwriting to energy to you-name-it. Checking out Trials’ third full-length, This Ruined World, feels like the latest band that could make it big. Their sound masterfully embraces much of what makes thrash, death, and traditional metal so intoxicating and pools it all together in a way that feels fresh and energetic.
All of Trials albums have been self-released and are available on Bandcamp. They continue to push themselves to get better with each release and distribute their works on their own. This is a band that deserves your investigation. Being big fans of This Ruined World, we were able to shoot off some questions to guitarist Ryan Bruchert to discuss This Ruined World in all its facets (including the awesome artwork), changes in the band’s sound over the years, and their thoughts on the rest of Chicago’s metal scene.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you think that Trials has changed leading up to your current release, This Ruined World?
Ryan Bruchert: The most obvious is the change in the lineup from the Witness release. Adam came on board and then I followed later, just in time for the sophomore In the Shadow of Swords. This Ruined World is a step up in complexity from before, and I believe this is the most collectively taxing recording endeavor the band has been through to date. Trust me when I say that our change will likely not continue into the realm of complexity, but it was certainly true this time around. Musical execution aside, I feel we’ve grown more as a functional, collaborative unit.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel is the most important element in the Trials’ sound?
Bruchert: Obsessive compulsiveness. Sure, musical influences come through and help define the sound during the writing process, but a lot of focus is upon structure, flow, dynamics, pick squeals, tightness, tone, harmony, and etcetera. We are our own worst critics (that we are aware of) when it comes to getting a tune down right, and we’re not hesitant to point out mistakes or suggest improvements that can be made towards one another. Ego can potentially be your worst enemy when advancing as a musician.
Dead Rhetoric: You seem to have mastered the balance between keeping things heavy and melodic – how do these things manifest in your songwriting?
Bruchert: The purpose is to avoid boring ourselves, and in turn, hopefully avoid writing boring music. I can say each of us in Trials were raised by metal and at least one of us has had a mullet at some point. A few other influences came into play as well. Mark had taken piano lessons when he was younger and has a phenomenal intuition of melody and harmony. Usha is the only award winning musician in the group. Adam is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter with a Zappa-esque eclecticism. I simply had a hard-on for Dream Theater when I was a teenager. The natural inclination for us is to incorporate some melodicism into the music instead of just pressing random buttons on the fret board.
Dead Rhetoric: Is there a track on the new album that seems to exemplify what you were going for, sound-wise?
Bruchert: Nope. Sorry to crap on this question, but I don’t think there is. There were attempts at different tempos, tones, mood, and difficulty on each track. I feel the strength of this album lies in the diversity of each tune while remaining unmistakably identifiable as Trials. If I had to pick one song that would somewhat represent the Trials sound this time around, I’d go with the title track. It is appropriately miserable, at times technical, and then miserable. It helps sum up the album thematically, as well.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you go into the direction of the unique (and killer) artwork of This Ruined World?
Bruchert: That was the work of our excellent friend and artist Eva Bialecki for Black Coffee projects. The original concept for the cover artwork, in retrospect, was a little ambitious. Ideas were thrown around for a more literal take on the This Ruined World theme. We shelved the idea and started by first seeking out artists we liked for original work on canvas. While the cover idea wasn’t fully realized in our pursuit, it was important first to find someone whose work we admired in attempt to avoid the cliché, abrasive metal album cover. It turned out Eva was available, and we jumped on her for her services. I am pretty sure she snuck in Alabama, her pet bunny (R.I.P.), into the cover also.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve stayed independent for your three releases – do you intend to stay that way or has the “right” deal just not come along yet?
Bruchert: There are a few reasons that they have remained independent, so I’ll explain. One of the rubs of getting a record deal is the obligation to tour…..constantly. There are those of us in the band that are married (not to each other), have careers, and have mortgages that metal (to our dire misfortune) will not pay. Working in the band also will help to realize what control freaks we are, which may not be to a record company’s best interest. I won’t say a record deal is not a possibility in our future, but the terms of the agreement would have to be outlandishly one-sided in our favor. We don’t intend to make any money off this, but I would personally be satisfied if a record deal just meant getting our music a wider audience. That’s it.
Dead Rhetoric: Likewise, you utilize Bandcamp to help with your distribution, digitally and physically. Do you feel that open markets like these help smaller bands to get their works out more in the general population?
Bruchert: Absolutely. I and many other people have found a bounty of music that would have never been known to exist otherwise if it weren’t for Bandcamp. The irony is we found fans from European countries seem more inclined to order physical copies of Trials albums versus local.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve released a cover of Strapping Young Lad’s “Far Beyond Metal” on your Bandcamp site. Where’d the idea come from to cover that song in particular?
Bruchert: It was a natural manifestation from our regular rehearsals. That’s basically the story right there. All four of us are Devin fans, and by extension, SYL fans. The song found its way in regular rotation of warm-ups when we would get together if only because it was relatively simple and the lyrics were brilliant in that no one cared if you fucked them up….because they were mostly improv to begin with. The nudge it took was someone saying “Hey, we should actually cover that for the album.” Done.
Dead Rhetoric: Chicago seems to be having a solid base of newer metal acts, of the top of my head, there’s you, Immortal Bird, Warforged, and Without Waves (not to mention countless others). Do you feel there’s a bit of a metal boom in the Windy City?
Bruchert: I feel there has always been a presence of a metal scene in the city, but I would have to agree that there is a resurgence as of the past five years or so. The appearance of Unholy Empire, Empire Productions and venues like Cobra Lounge, Reggies, and Livewire Lounge hosting metal shows noticeably boosted more of a metal community in the city. On a selfish note, I get to enjoy those bands more as a result. We have played with and are good friends with the folks in Immortal Bird and Without Waves, now that you mention them. They are also releasing albums this year, so plug them please.
Dead Rhetoric: Any chances of Trials heading out on the road for some touring in the near future?
Bruchert: If the demand is there, we shall. We all miss hitting the road, even if it is for only a longer weekend mini-tour. After our record release, we would love to hit Europe (Hopefully?).
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on tap for Trials for the rest of 2015?
Bruchert: We will be performing at the record release show at Livewire on July 17th with Czar, Lungs, and Black Dragon River. We will then be opening up for Battlecross on their record release show on August 22nd with Crimson Shadows, Yesterday’s Saints, and our buddies in Kastasyde at Reggies. Afterwards, we may hibernate for the winter time and continue to write. It’s too cold for our limbs to function in a live performance.