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Interview: TRAIL OF TEARS
Title: Of unforgettable streams of tears

Talented Norwegians Trail Of Tears began as Natt in 1994. But it wasn't until 1997, when the band experienced drastic line-up changes including the replacement of Ales Vik by Helena Iren Michaelsen and drummer Vidar Uleberg by Jonathan Perez, as well as addition of a permanent keyboard player Rank Roald Hagen. Latest is the twin bother of bass player Kjell Rune, which prompted a change in musical style, that the name Trail Of Tears was instituted. 



„When Silence Cries”, a three track demo, was recorded in March and April 1997 at the Jailhouse Studio. Shortly thereafter, lead guitarist Michael Krumins left the band and was replaced by Runar Hansen. The demo prompted a spew of contractual offers and in early 1998, the band signed a two-album deal with Dutch label DSFA Records.

Trail Of Tears entered Jailhouse Studio once again to record their tremendous debut-album, „Disclosure In Red”, released in November 1998. Heavy touring followed including a European tour with Tristania, The Sins Of Thy Beloved, Siebenbürgen and Antichrisis. However, conflicts with female vocalist Helena Iren Michaelsen ensued both on later tours and in the studio forcing the band to bid her farewell following the completion of the amazing second longplay-successor „Profoundemonium”. 



Trail Of Tears welcomed Helena's replacement, golden voice Cathrine Paulsen, in May 2000. The band have signed a new recording contract with Austrian Napalm Records for three further albums and recorded the first of these full-lengths during February 2002 in Soundsuite Studio in Marseille, France with producer Terje Refsnes. The thrilling result is sheer breath-taking: „A New Dimension Of Might“ stands for Gothic Dark Metal at its very best!

Trail Of Tears singer Ronny Thorsen answers all of my questions.

Please explain the meaning of the new album title! Which new dimension is meant?

„To us the title `A New Dimension Of Might` is a suitable description of the musical contents on the album. It is a way to explain the atmosphere and sheer power of the material. Judging from the feedback, people seem to agree that the feeling of might is well present throughout the album. Like I said we feel that the title reflects the feeling you get when listening to the album. Lyric-wise there is no main concept or red line if you will, each song stands separately from each other. The title is an extract from the opening song, it`s actually the first line of the first song and we felt that this was representative for the entire album.”

Please report about a few of the most important new songs! What is the deeper lyrical meaning behind them?

„First of all I think that all the songs on the album is equally important, it would be wrong to say that some lyrics are more important than others. To me it is the total expression which is what counts and like I said there are no main story throughout the album. Keywords to describe the lyrics are hate, betrayal, confusion, hope, sovereignty, denial and strength. It is all together written in order to create a wholeness and that`s also why the running order of the songs are the way it is. You have to read the lyrics from start to finish in order to get the full picture. People view the whole lyrical part differently of course, some doesn`t find it that important while others see it as an equally important art of the album and that`s why the listeners should read the lyrics as he/she sees fit, explaining each and every lyric in-depth to me is in a way to narrow the whole experience. You don`t want someone to tell you how a movie ends before you see it and it`s the same thing with this subject.”

Who composed most of the new tracks?

„The main themes and frame of the songs are made by Runar and Frank, while I`m responsible of vocal arrangements/structure and lyrics. Of course everyone contributes with their respective parts in order to make it Trail Of Tears, it wouldn`t sound the same without using this working process. We have decided to specify the composers on each song for this album and all of this is printed in the booklet of the album. When it comes to influences on this album I think it`s diffult to mention exactly where we have gotten it from as we don`t deliberately seek influences any particular places. People will soon discover some new elements on this album, among other things we have worked a lot on the atmospheric part and it has become a little bit more industrial which is probably a result of new imput etc. We wanted to make a more uptempo album with more catchy songs, the structure is perhaps a bit more verse/refrain oriented and I think this has worked out nicely compared to what we had in mind.”

Who wrote most of the new lyrics?

„I have written all the lyrics this time since I also did most of the vocal arrangements and choir parts I found this to be the easiest way of working. Cathrine has also contributed with some arrangements which I have later written the parts for. The lyrics are not as personal as they were on the previous two albums, at least when it comes to self experienced matters. Of course I still write out of a personal view on things but it`s more how I see different things that goes on in everyday life. There are songs about cowardness in the way I see and regard certain group of humans, there descriptions and portraits of betrayal, lies, hate and anger so lyric-wise it`s still very dark and threatening. The way I write the lyrics is so that there are room for personal interpretation, I hate straightforward lyrics where everything is being explained to you.”

For what reason Helena Michaelsen did leave the band in the past?

„Helena was kicked out of the band two years ago because it was impossible to co-operate with her. She has had several new attempts with other bands but everything has stranded like it did for us. But this is a chapter of the past and we are way beyond that now. Cathrine has also been a member of the band for two years and is a well established member.”

How has been developed the collaboration with Cathrine Paulsen? Her voice sounds divine on the new album, so I surmise, all has been moved pretty good!?

„We knew right away when we heard her voice that she would be the new female singer. After trying out about 15 singers there was no doubt in our minds. Not only does she possess a great voice with a wide range, she is also from the same metal background as the rest of us which makes everything much easier. It is a privilege to work with a girl who knows what this kind of music is all about! She is still very young, just passed 20 but that just says a lot of what to expect in the future. Like I said she has been a part of the band for about two years and through touring etc she has melted in really well. This was her first album recording and of course she is still learning but the performance on this album really succeeded our expectations.”

How is to understand the band name and who came up with it once?

„Our guitarist Terje came up with the name of the band back in 1997 when it was time to change from the old name Natt in relation to the demo recordings. He is overly interested in the native American history and possesses strong knowledge about the Native Americans past and present. The name is taken from the event where the Cherokee Indians were forced from their homes by the white settlers. The Trail Of Tears was the route which they used to deport the Indians and the route got it`s name after the many tears which were spilled during this process. To us it holds no deeper meaning or symbolism, we simply thought that it would be a suitable name for our music at the time we chose it.”

Which are the main inspirations for the music of Trail Of Tears?

„I see it more as the inspiration comes to us instead of the opposite. We mainly love what we do and so everything is easy and natural. We don`t try to make music in a way that we know we can`t master so the writing process is mostly very natural. We try to focusing the absolute best of course and we are extremely picky when choosing music for the songs. Books have never been a source of inspiration for us, I guess when it comes to movies there are certain soundtrack elements incorporated, at least on this new output. Also I guess it`s fair to say that we get influenced from certain music but it`s difficult to mention specific artists.”

Tristania, The Sins Of Thy Beloved, Therion – which one of those three could you name for a comparison with Trail Of Tears?

„It`s not right to mention any of those bands as references to Trail Of Tears. We are a much too heavy band to be compared to those bands. I think Sins Of Thy Beloved is more Gothic than us, Tristania is more Industrial Gothic and Therion is more classical which is all a great thing because, like Trail Of Tears, those bands have their own sound which is very distinct. That to me is the essence of a good band, it doesn`t have to be overly original to be good but a band needs a sound which is easily recognisable. Personally I think Trail Of Tears combines Gothic Metal and Melodic Death Metal in a way which is specific for us and although I understand that people without knowledge to a certain band needs references in order to understand the concept there are too much labelling going on these days. Quality is quality regardless of musical definition.”

In which position do you see Trail Of Tears within hundreds of Gothic and Dark Metal acts?

„I think that this album will establish Trail Of Tears as one of the leading acts in this kind of music. Again we are approaching the subject of a distinct sound, if you look at bands like After Forever, Sirenia, Tristania, Trail Of Tears, My Dying Bride etc they all have a sound of their own which is absolutely vital in order to gain respect. These days there are too many bands and labels which deliberately try to copy other bands and nothing creative can come out of that philosophy.”

In which direction will go the music of Trail Of Tears in the future?

„It`s too early to say which direction we will go, we haven`t started to create new songs yet and I don`t know when that will happen either. The plan however is to release a new album next year so we will use our time to decide on what to do musically.”

Why did you choose to cover the Faith No More song „Caffeine” as a bonus track? Faith No More, one of your everlasting faves?

„There were many reasons why we chose this specific song. First of all Faith No More is a great band and "Caffeine" is a song which we have wanted to do for quite some time. It contains an atmosphere that would be suitable for us to transform, I think we have managed to put our own sound to it. Jonathan and Runar have played in a Faith No More coverband as well and we were all familiar with the music. It is also a bit unusual for a band of our kind to do a Faith No More song and we wanted to show people that it shouldn`t be necessary to get locked into one specific genre. After all it turned out very satisfactory and blends well with our own material. A lot of people would perhaps expect a Moonspell/MyDying Bride/Paradise Lost cover from us and thus the surprise is bigger and the impact also likewise.”

The production of Terje at Soundsuite sounds typical for him; are you completely satisfied with it?

„There will always be little details which one is not entirely satisfied with but overall I have to say that the production is killer and this is also the main reaction from people so far. I also think that we have maintained a sound of our own and in contrary to a lot of other producers/studios, Terje Refsnes has managed to separate each band and given them something of their own. This was also one of the main reasons why we chose to go for Soundsuite. I also found it to be very satisfactory after my work there on the new `World Of Glass` album of Tristania.”

With seven musicians in the band thou shall be able, to reproduce the brilliant sound of the new record also on stage during the following tour through Europe, or?!

„Yes, we`ve had a couple of shows with the new material already and everything has gone just fine I have to say. All the ingredients on the new album will of course be maintained and performed, as for the choirs we are forced to run those on tape. We don`t have the capacity to bring on a full choir on tour but that won`t be a problem. After all, we use choirs in a different way than a lot of other bands, with us they function more as an effect and we don`t build the choirs around the songs to put it like that. A full European tour is being planned at the moment and we also hope to get over to the other side of the Atlantic next year, it depends on the sales of course but we are optimistic at least regarding some shows in Mexico and South America.”

There are some pretty mighty choirs of the new album to hear, how they have been created?

„Thanks, we are also very satisfied with the choir parts. I wrote the parts and arrangements in Norway and got some help to transform them and writing them on notes before going to France where we hired a professional male choir from Marseille to perform the parts. Choosing only men also helps to give it a sound of it`s own, not so many have combined blast-beats with a classical male power choir.”

All the very best for the future, Ronny - strongly hope to meet you face to face one day!

„Thanks for this long interview, Markus. Let`s have a beer or two when we hit Germany again on tour this Autumn.”

© Markus Eck, 20.08.2002

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