Symphonic & progressive death metal is a hot musical topic these days, and Trail of Tears are in the thick of things thanks to their red hot latest release Free Fall Into Fear. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo spoke with singer Ronny Thorsen to discuss the recent happenings within the band and their breathtaking new album on Napalm Records. (Read our review of Free Fall Into Fear)
Read on for the full interview!
Sea of Tranquility: When Catherine Paulsen left the band, was there ever a time when you wanted to replace her with another female vocalist?
Ronny Thorsen: Well, when the situation occurred and Cathrine made it clear that she
wouldn't be able to put the necessary effort into the band anymore there was of course a moment where we were forced to consider what to do regarding her role and whether or not she had to be replaced. We quickly found out though that the material that was already written actually worked great without female vocals. Iin fact we only had to make minor adjustments and as a result of that we didn't see it necessary to include
a new female singer just because we have used that element in the past. It was of course a risky thing but on the other hand Trail of Tears have never been known for being predictable and I honestly think that most people will be able to recognise good quality music when they hear it and not focus solely on the lack of female vocals.
SoT: How did you come to decide on Kjetil Nordhus as the new singer?
Ronny: This is our 4th release and keeping in mind that Kjetil has contributed
ever since our 2nd album Profoundemonium it was a very easy decision to
make. When Cathrine left and Kjetil signalled that he would like to become more involved it just felt like the perfect time to make him an official member. For us it really just felt like a formality, this being his third studio contribution and also joining us on several tours for the past four years. He fits the band perfectly, and we are truly priviledged to have a singer of his caliber in the band as well as a good friend. Like the rest of us, he grew up in the same little town, we went to the same school and
have been friends since elementary school.
SoT: The band now has a very powerful vocal attack, with the clean and melodic vocals versus the death metal growls. How difficult was it to write new material that would not have female vocals this time around, but focused more on varying male vocal styles?
Ronny: Not difficult at all! In fact like I mentioned earlier we only had to make
minor adjustments to the songs after Cathrine left so when it comes to the vocal work it was not at all more difficult than on earlier albums. It is our first album with this formula but I think we have already managed to find a good balance between brutality and melody as far as the vocals go, even though the material we have written so far for the next album promises to be even better in that department. Variety has nevertheless been the bands trademark since the beginning and working with female vocals as opposed to male clean vocals isn't as different as what people might
think. Its all about avoiding boredom and if something sounds good then we are gonna use it even if it might be unconventional.
SoT: How has fan and critics reaction been so far to The Fall Into Fear?
Ronny: The reactions have been overwhelming! We expected a lot more scepticism to
be perfectly honest but the reviews have been off the hook and most fans seem to appreciate the album. Of course you are bound to get some less flattering reviews keeping in mind that the album does sound somewhat different in its approach but it is very easy to see from the reactions that people recognise the sound of the band even though we have approached the songwriting in a slightly different way. Its important to know that we are the same songwriters and except for the female vocals we have kept
the same line-up for eight years and four full -length albums, which has to be characterised as rare these days. Most band release an album or two and that's it.
SoT: As you mentioned, there's lots of variety on the new CD-plenty of symphonic & progressive metal, some mellow and atmospheric moments, and death/thrash metal. What are some of the favorite styles of members of the band, and how does that
effect the way the music of Trail of Tears gets written?
Ronny: We have never allowed ourselves to put limitations upon ourselves, that is
I think both an advantage and a disadvantage for us depending on how you see it. We would probably sell more albums if we played it more safe but then again sales aren't everything and we simply couldn't live with ourselves if we had to constantly have that argument in our heads when creating music, we would just get too bored if we were to operate within a strict musical landscape. After all, we do this in order to escape the
boredom of everyday life and if we were to make music which we couldn't stand for 100% then the meaning of the whole thing would be gone and I would have felt like I was doing a random job. If I wanted that then I could just as well take a job in a boring factory you know. I would love to sell a million albums, don't get me wrong, but it has to happen on our own terms. Even though we never seek inspiration directly in other bands
you are bound to pick up pieces here and there and I think that our taste in music definitely shines through in our songs. We listen to practically everything as long as it holds quality. Personally I find great satisfaction in bands and artists like Emperor, Samael, Limbonic Art, Dimmu Borgir, A-ha, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Madrugada and David Bowie.
Trail of Tears
SoT: As an extension of that question, who are the main writers in the band, and how does the writing process take place?
Ronny: The main writers of the band are myself, Kjell (bass), Runar (guitar) and
Frank (keyboards), even if Frank has decided to slow down and not play live anymore he is still a resource for the band. Over the years we have managed to obtain quite a decent amount of recording equipment so how we usually make songs is that we all record ideas, riffs and themes individually and present them to each other. We choose the necessary ingredients and work out the arrangements together.
SoT: How is it recreating the full sound on record into a live atmosphere?
Ronny: Trail is a live-band, it's as simple as that. For us, playing live represents the true essence of what we do. I think that 99% of the people who have witnessed a live show will tell you that Trail of Tears sound a lot better live than on record, wheter or not that is a positive thing I will leave up to others to decide but personally I would much rather
overwhelm and blow peoples heads off with a good live show than on a record. If you have enough money everyone can sound amazing on a studio recording. We are full band live but certain parts, like choirs and certain effects have to be sampled for obvious reasons, we simply don't have the resources to bring a full choir on tour.
SoT: Are you planning a tour perhaps of the US in the near future?
Roony: I would love to announce a two month tour through North America but sadly
that is not the case at the moment. There have been offers in the past but to be honest I'm not very keen on playing headliner shows in closet sized bars in front of 20 people. We were very close in 2003 but then a certain someone decided that it would be a good idea to go to war and everybody started panic so it turned out too difficult unfortunately. It is no secret that we sell more albums in Europe and South America so a tour of the US would have to be as a part of a bigger package with more known bands. Man, if it was up to us we would be there tomorrow so if anyone has interest in bringing the band over we would pack our bags immediately!
SoT: How about in Europe? Any tours or festivals planned?
Ronny: Yeah, we will headline a benefit festival in Amsterdam in January and combine that with some shows in other parts of the country. There are also some festivals confirmed around Europe next summer but too early to mention them at the moment. There are some gigs lined up in our home country Norway in February, then its into the studio to record the next album which will be followed up by a bigger European tour and then its off to South America and Mexico. So if anyone wants to squeeze in some dates
in the US, just get in touch and we are gladly there!
SoT: What other bands on the scene are members of Trail of Tears involved with these
Ronny: Well, Kjetil has Green Carnation of course and is also involved in a band
called Chain Collector with our session guitarist Goran Bomann, who is also in Carpathian Forest. Apart from that Jonathan is still with Sirenia doing the drum responsabillities there. Apart from that the rest are only involved in Trail of Tears.