It was a brutally cold evening in January when Norway's Gothic Symphonic Metal sensation Trail Of Tears decided to pay New York City a visit and while the month would generally be chilly around this time of year, we had been experiencing unseasonable warmth in the city until this very day. The wind and chilling temperatures made outside travel unbearable and it was clear to many that the band had brought some of the frigid Norse winds with them for tonight's trip. The show this evening would be a part of the bands very first journey to this part of the world and "Existentia" is their latest slab of music that comes to us care of Napalm Records. The show would find the band supported by Unexpect, The Agonist, and Echoes Of Eternity so anyone who had seen or heard these bands in the recent past knew right away that it was going to kick a lot of ass from start to finish. From the look of the promotion for the show, it seemed as though Unexpect would start things off once again and be the first band up at a very early point. It also appeared that Echoes Of Eternity would be the direct support for Trail Of Tears as their drummer's kit was set up as the main kit for TOT to use as well, yet when I arrived I found out that The Agonist would go right before Trail and Echoes would instead follow Unexpect. The downside would be discovered early as the first band would have to go on be at 6:30pm based on the venue hosting an event right after this one. Suddenly the mental tape player in my head started to spin up "Oh Canada" and I knew that this meant Uexpect would be making their way to the stage. The crowd had not really gathered in the venue yet and was rather sparse so as much as I was excited to see this group perform I had hoped for any delay to offer more people the chance to make their way inside.
Unexpect: I cannot heap enough praise on this band who I have found to be one of the most interesting groups in heavy music today. For me it began with their opening for The Gathering and my interest in their career seems to grow with each any every chance that I have to see them. Having spoken to them on occasion I know firsthand that they enjoy performing and even though they attack the stage with the same intensity at 6:30pm as they do at 11:45pm, there had to be some level of disappointment at doing this for a very ill-attended event. By my guess there couldn't have been more than forty or so people in the place but despite this the ones in attendance were treated to another killer set that pretty much mirrored the one they did last time I caught them with Sonata Arctica. The band is still in support of their "In A Flesh Aquarium" CD, and I admit that I am hungry for some new material from them very much. Among the songs performed tonight would be "Chromatic Chimera", and the band performed admirably once again in the tight quarters of the stage tonight. There was so much equipment around them that it made it a little tight for the six member group.
Echoes Of Eternity: It seemed as much of a surprise to Echoes as anyone else in the room tonight with their appearing second up this evening but either way this is a band who also seems to know how to adapt to schedule changes and work with the room and audience. "The Forgotten Goddess" is their Nuclear Blast Records debut and this would be the second time I got to see them perform. The early slot found the set time a little shorter than I would have liked to enjoy but even though they only had the one album to deliver to us the band decided to present to everyone a brand new song entitled "Den Of Swords". It was a good track and worked well within the context of the material on the debut and I have to say that the more that I hear songs like "Voices In A Dream" and "Lost Beneath A Silent Sky", the more I am into what this band is doing. For the newcomers, they are a female fronted act with the incredibly beautiful Francine Bouchier singing her heart out, but the Metal underneath her melodies is absolutely crushing in terms of the drumming by Kirk Carrison and razor sharp guitar riffs of Brandon Patton. Their album was met with serious approval so you know that its follow up will garner a lot of attention. To my understanding we shall see this released in late 2008.
The Agonist: Once again it was The Agonist turn to mix things up and with their being from Montreal like Unexpect, and with Francine from EOE also having origins in the region it seemed as though the original Norwegian invasion that TOT had planned would have a strong Canadian base to it. The last time I saw The Agonist was at the Sonata Arctica show where I also caught Unexpect and this little déjà-vu was becoming more of a déjà-three when it came down to it. To be honest I found them not going over too well with Sonata, but felt it was more based on the audience being psyched for the main band as opposed to being open for anything new and that was a shame as The Agonist clearly delivers and have not disappointed me yet. The band is led by Alissa White-Gluz who while on the petite side is in possession of a giant voice and actually when it comes down to it, two voices. She growls with fierce abandon and would make the strongest Death Metaller proud and her melodic high notes are so good that she can launch a career using them alone in my opinion. The Agonist also have in their command the guitar work of Danny Marino, nephew to Mahogany Rush's own Frank and he adds interesting level of melody to the mix while at the same time offering up levels of crushing riffage. Support continues for their debut release on Century Media Records "Only Once Imagined" and you should really check it out as the points they make on the release are rather poignant. The band presents us with a more socially conscious level of Metal during a time where attention to that which is around us is never a bad thing to be mindful of. Alissa herself is also very big on the actual presentation that she puts forth on stage and each time I see her, the outfits that she is sporting is cooler than the one she had at the show before. Image works hand in hand with Metal and The Agonist along with all the acts preceding them tonight seem to know that very well. You can also always find them willing to talk to the audience or sign stuff and pose for photos if time allows them to do so after their set. I know a few more short tours are planned for this band before they head back into the studio to work on their own follow up album. I am interested to see what they come back with.
Trail Of Tears: The night continued to move swiftly as Trail Of Tears were onstage almost immediately after The Agonist had finished their set. I was one of those fans who had gotten into the band only with their "Free Fall Into Fear" album and by the time they had gotten to the new release "Existentia" the group had gone through some major upheavals. Apparently, everyone in the lineup decided to quit before the new album was done and Ronny was left needing to replace every station under his command. Yet do it he would and with the returning Soprano vocals of Cathrine Paulsen he was able to deliver a killer set of their material for the crowd who wisely made it down to B.B. King's tonight. The best way to describe this band to the people who are sitting back wondering about them is as a Symphonic Gothic Black Metal band. There are epic riffs over both Soprano female vocals, and a mixture of dark growls and clean melodies from the male vocal. Ronny is handling both of those male vocal roles now and was doing so with little difficulty. Catherine was a welcome return by the sound of it, and between them they handled the music with dramatic fluidity. There was at times some acting going on as they same to both each other and to the audience in front of them as they clearly felt every single note that they did. The would play music from all of the albums tonight it would seem because while I heard what I knew from the last two there was music I had no clear idea of being done at times and while I was sure the audience around me felt a little of the same wonderment, the manner in which everything was executed made it very easy to enjoy. The band was quite tight as well and now features Ronny Thorsen and Cathrine Paulsen (both vocals) and Bjorn Erik Naess (guitars), Pal Olsen (guitars), Endre Moe (bass) and Cato Jensen (drums). The bands former members included Kjetil Nordhus (Green Carnation) and Helena Michaelsen (Imperia) and without insulting the new folks I would have enjoyed seeing them be a part of this tour. Ronny seemed very appreciative of the crowd who came tonight and there were those who caught them on prior nights who said the turnout was a bit limited and I guess in some circumstances this is to be expected when a band is aiming at building a crowd in a new region. Radio play for a group like this is non-existent and they only have the fans in other countries to help school their peers in their sound and what amazing stuff they have to deliver. Promotion also helps and I don't think there was a whole lot of it for this one based on those I spoke to. Despite all of this the band kicked ass and those who attended were screaming for more even when it seemed as though the show was coming to a close. Ronny was pleasant up on the stage and didn't seem to care that the numbers were light. Instead it was about entertaining those who did make the trip, believed in his music and were willing and eager to be exposed to more of it as the night progressed. Sure this was not a bad aspect to take back to Norway with him and it would probably be the impetus for a return in the not too distant future. Personally I felt that any of the Metal faithful who I normally see at every show who didn't come tonight had totally missed out on something rather special.
The show was very good and I certainly left with a larger level of my Metal hunger fed and while I knew that I had seen both The Agonist and Unexpect on a number of occasions I was definitely eager to see them again. Echoes Of Eternity continues to impress and for their first go round at the states, the Trail Of Tears folks performed admirably. However, I think that the next time the legions of area Metal fans hear about a group making their first ever trek to their area that they should make a little more effort in getting themselves to the show. Sometimes bands that make the jump and arrive to minimal audiences are not able to come back too easily so let's all help them out by showing support that is always needed.
Photos by Pete Pardo
Trail of Tears Set List
1. Obedience In The Absence
2. Deceptive Mirrors
3. My Comfort
5. Fate Sealed In Red
6. Disappointments True Face
7. She Weaves Shadows
8. Decadence Becomes Me
9. Splendid Coma Visions
10. Denial And Pride
11. As It Penetrates
12. When Silence Cries
13. Crashing Down
Official Web site: www.trailoftears.no
Official Web site: www.echoesofeternity.net
Official Web site: www.agonist.net
Official Web site: www.unexpect.com