Trail of Tears
Free Fall into Fear

Wow, this is good. Formerly known as Natt, a gothic metal band with female vocals, this Norwegian band is now a far more impressive beast with a darkly progressive and avant-garde black metal lean that imbues visions of Arcturus, Solefald and Lunaris.The first thing you notice when “Joyless Trance of Winter” fires up is the stunning production courtesy of Finnvox. The sound is thick and resonant and largely reminiscent of the band’s Goth metal past, but in all honesty, suits the bands new direction perfectly. Gone is Catherine Paulsen and in steps Kjetil Nordhus (Green Carnation) to deliver the album’s well delivered clean vocal segments. Whereas the band’s aforementioned obvious peers tend to overdo their artistic prose, bordering on often quirky self promotion, (except maybe Lunaris), ToT are firmly rooted in a more disturbing form of psychotic artistry that doesn’t come with a pretentious ambience. There are thunderous riffs abound as well as turbulent blast beats, all the while the material hums with a delicate fusion of atmospheric keyboards and supine time changes.

After the artful lurch of the opener “Joyless Trance of Winter,” ToT deliver a sweeping dual vocal laden blast beat of “Carrier of the Scars of Life,” the album’s first “whew” moment that’s not content to sit on its sweeping pace but morph into a menacing down-tuned, violin laced monster. “Frail Expectations” starts as another full on slice of black metal, but this time elegantly sheathed in some delicate choral arrangements that resurface throughout the song between its robust gothic/death metal rumble. Rony Thorsen provides ample growls and screams to keep the album in the more extreme side of things and he compliments Nordhus’ eloquent croon as they often play off each other with often breathtaking results. “Cold Hand of Retribution” is essentially the album’s first full on avant-garde foray with angular but heavy riffs and a labyrinthine pacing backed by a varied array of vocal styles including ethereal female vocals.

Basically, every track on the album is a superb example of forward thinking extremity that’s never to full of itself and become too “artsy.” Nordhus and keyboardist Frank Roald Hagen keep the albums progressive gloss, while Thorsen and co. keep the back bone of the music grounded in liberally heavy black/Goth metal. No where is this epitomized more than “The Architect of My Downfall” which starts with a circus-ish Arcturus like lurch, then blazing into a seething ball of blistering yet progressive black metal before revisiting the opening riff once more. “Drink Away the Demons” is another more avant-garde take on their sound, but comes across as dutifully artistic rather than force feeding you their non-linear sound. “Point Zero” could pass as a cyber metal track with its mechanical gait but the vocals remind you that this band is far more than a simple sample laden outfit.

Free Fall into Fear oozes sheer musical class on every level that should satisfy listener of all types from Goth to black to death to cyber, ToT are inclusive by virtue of their ability to shift gears effortlessly both within tracks (“Dry Well of Life”) and from track to track, but still maintain a common thread of superb quality and consistency.

Highly, highly fucking recommended.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
May 2nd, 2005

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