Trail Of Tears – Bloodstained Endurance (2009) Album Review

When I think about Trail Of Tears in their early days, an album name comes to my mind, an album that shocked me with how much potential this band had back then, the name of that album A New Dimension Of Might, an album that managed to break into mainstream and to lead the band towards a successful career. Things went well, until an unfortunate event happened. A failed world tour, huge debts an album that could not convince the masses and thus failed at selling and the worst of all things Ronny Thorsen, one of the original members was abandoned by his mates. At that time, after hearing this unfortunate string of events, I said to myself that Trail Of Tears would need a miracle in order to reclaim their already lost glory. Much to my surprise was that, Ronny Thorsen was not willing to give up, thus hiring new musicians and not any kind, diverse musicians that activated in bands with different playing style than the one Trail Of Tears has been playing. Cato Jansen and Endre Moe activated and still activates in a death metal band called Cutthroat and an industrial metal project named Dimension F3H (Cato Jansen also is part of several black/death/thrash bands).

I think the best achievement of this band is the recruitment of a new female singer, Cathrine Paulsen (she is the one that did the vocal part in A New Dimension of Might), and what a hell of a singer. Her soprano vocals which could be witnessed on the 2007 record Existentia are upgraded in Bloodstained Endurance. Who would’ve thought that a classical music singer would venture into the realm of metal. Her voice is an enchanting one, she can adjust it in order to fit the mood of every kind of songs, be it aggressive ones, emotional ones or a combination between both.

At the beginning of the new Trail Of Tears era, I was having doubts about their future performances and records. For every band, an event such as a conflict with the record house, or a change of record houses and not to mention, a complete change of members are stuff that could cause unrepairable traumas for any band but it could be the beginning of an even better band. In Trail Of Tears case, the second thing happened, the new line-up did not brought more conflicts but rather a sense of security and stability. After the line-up was formed and a bit of time passed so that the band members could come to know each other, they started to write new songs for their upcoming albums. Existentia was more on the symphonic metal side, featuring a good deal of neoclassical influences, violin layers and the usage of orchestras. Bloodstained Endurance, although it did not completely abandoned the classical influences, switched to a much more extreme side of metal, exploring a combination between symphonic gothic metal and the harshness of black metal. While listening this record you could feel mightiness, power and a much more consistent record than its predecessor.

The songs are rather short, none of them going over the 5 minutes length, maintaining a time length between 3 minutes and 4 mintues. The album begins with a song that depicts a march of determination The Feverish Alliance and descends into one of the hardest pieces of this album and also one of the most melodic songs, featuring in the beginning an impressive guitar solo, Once Kissed By A Serpent (Twice Bitten By Truth). This song mostly features harsh focals from Ronny Thorsen while Cathrine’s performance is reduced to a minimum. Wise choice, considering that the fast tempo and the harshness present in this song mostly fits Thorsen’s way of singing. Bloodstained Endurance the self-titled track of this album is the only one that feature violin layers and probably one of the best duet performances between the two singers.

In The Valley Of Ashes is probably the hardest track on this record featuring both power elements and melodic influences as well. A Storm At Will is the expression of sadness and emotion in this album, a very slow-paced song at the beginning which towards the end picks it’s pace featuring Cathrine giving her best performance in this album. I have to admit that her voice fits perfectly with songs that are a bit slower. A thing that I like about her is that her vocal performance is hard to compare with another gothic or symphonic metal performer. Her voice is not so high pitched like Tarja’s and also not that sweet and mellow like Sharon den Adel’s. Take Aim. Reclaim. Prevail reminds me of the old Tristania days when Morten Veland was still in the band.

Before finishing this review I cannot mention the best song of this album, The Desperation Corridors. This song features once again a duet between Thorsen and Cathrine but what attracts the attention is Cathrine’s performance which shines in this song more than in the other ones, it is probably the only harsh song where I could appreciate her voice the most. The album ends with Faith Comes Knocking, a rather interesting choice for a closure song, centered around one groovy riff from which the song develops, it features doom metal influences and another splendid combination between Cathrine’s clean vocals and Thorsen’s harsh performance.

The question that may haunt every Trail of Tears fan is if this album could be considered better than it’s predecessors? Good question. While this album might be much more dynamic and consistent than Existentia, I think that it is a sort of equal with A New Dimension of Might. Rather than completely changing style alongside with the new line-up, I believe that the effort deployed in order to produce this new record was well thought since a change in style might’ve been way too risky, considering the fact that the band went through some hardships few years ago because of some mild experiments. This, as years pass might become a classic of its genre, and why not, probably the most critically acclaimed Trail Of Tears album, but for now, I think it fights on par with A New Dimension of Might.

Overall Impression: 94/100