Trail of Tears – Bloodstained Endurance (Napalm Records)

Saturday, 16th March 2013
Rating: 9/10

It’s not like we throw a 9/10 rating around here every day, but the unbridled vitriol and contrasts on Bloodstained Endurance practically begged for this mark. All this, after Trail of Tears nearly split up in late 2006 after the well-publicized departure of four out of six band members, including clean singerKjetil Nordhus. Yet mainman Ronny Thorsen has proven to be one resilient dude and the results on Bloodstained Endurance speaks for itself: this is the Goth metal album of 2009 to be reckoned with.

Returning to the band is female vocalist Catherine Paulsen, who was last heard on 2002’s A New Dimension of Might. Paulsen, a soprano, fits right into the band’s very-aggro, death metal-tinged approach. This is most notable on “Once Kissed By the Serpent (Twice Bitten By the Truth)” which might be the band’s most significant song to date, as Paulsen turns in a passionate, cut-throat performance during the chorus topped off by feverish melodies.

Paulsen’s mark is all over this thing, mainly during the chorus sections. She shines during “Bloodstained Endurance,” “Triumphant Gleam” and “A Storm At Will” and does a tremendous job of keeping this album out of typical Goth metal territory.

In terms of riffs and arrangements, Thorsen and co. have emerged with a litany of bone-jarring, subtlety melodic riffs, of which are in full force during “In the Valley of Ashes” and “Take. Aim. Reclaim. Prevail.” Combine that the vitriolic, vengeful nature of the lyrics (it’s not a stretch to say most, if not all of this are in direct response to the lineup debacle of ’06) and it’s just one seething album that – like we mentioned earlier – pulls away from typical Goth metal conventions.

Always thought of these Nords to be of the upper-echelon of Goth metal bands and the inherent strength of Bloodstained Endurance supplants, if not destroys that notion. A pure gem.

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