U.K. thrash unit Trial may have first appeared as recently as last month, but its members—Interim_Void (vocals, guitar, bass; also of Khost) and Demöniac (guitar; also of Primitive Knot)—possess lengthy histories exploring an assortment of underground sounds. The duo's 19-minute, five-song debut exhibits a dismal, industrial-tinged interpretation of a rough 'n' rugged classic thrash foundation—all at once familiar yet puzzling and atypical.
Stream the new EP below, followed by an illuminating discussion with Interim_Void...
It seems like this first EP came together quickly within just a few months. What's the genesis of how Trial fell into existence?
It did, indeed! We'd been discussing a thrash project before lockdown, and about getting into a rehearsal room nearby to sketch it out. But the bottom line is that in late-March we started work with a riff-based approach, laying down riffs.
The challenge was the drums: I play drums and had hit the rehearsal space at a similar time to record segments, but then lockdown happened... so basically over time I created a small unit of sounds—in part derived from sessions that Daniel Buess recorded, most notably the kick drum. He played a wicked Sonor kit and played like a demon.
The Trial material came about really quick.
It's interesting, because when you first mentioned Trial to me, you cited inspiration from sources such as Kreator, old Voïvod, and Prong, but I don't pick up on too much of that. Of course the core riffs in "Colony of Trial" and "Towers of Short Term Lies" have that token old school thrash approach, and atmospherically there are parallels to some of the cold, creeping rawness of early-Voïvod by way of Calhoun Conquer (at least vocally), but the end result is really more of an oddly "industrialized" take on thrash, with occasional fits of dissonant Swans/Godflesh swells or grinding bass pulses. In retrospect, do you feel like the initial spark wandered into a different direction—perhaps just as the natural result of your decades of history within less traditional avenues of aggressive music?
I think a lot about how things in general conspire over time to finally culminate in the finished thing. I mean, if someone set up an experiment to recreate a classic band, and they maybe even reverse-engineered the elements that made the classic band—the guitar, the sound, the style, the drums, the vocals, even the era—I will always come to the conclusion that the final result will be radically different to the original band. Maybe better, who knows... but don't get me started. Even established bands that reform and you wonder, "Why has it changed?"
Trial was always meant to be pretty stark thrash, and there's a really dystopian take on things: that was clear from the start, and it won't change.
But apart from loving the bands mentioned—and you have made my day with the mention of Calhoun Conquer, how I would thrash that '89 album over and over!—we also loved the bands that the thrash guys loved: stuff like [Judas] Priest, Motörhead, Killing Joke. So, we wanted a lot of that, and relished the thought that we could just do it... no limits. I guess my point is that it will always culminate in something unexpected.
Here's what I would say with some of the bands mentioned: Kreator changed my life, and I always got this stark, smoky, electric battleground vibe from them—straight from some Middle Ages plague era. It destroyed me. A similar chaos would be amazing to conjure up in Trial. "Flag of Hate," "Betrayer," "One of Us," "The Pestilence," "Awakening of the Gods"... we feed off the energy of stuff like this even if it is not overt, that is important to state. Who knows what future stuff will evolve? They also are a band who are awesome to witness, as they manage to do the "single" and "video" thing really well, where many thrash acts just don't: they look like they are staged in front of a camera crew, intercut with clichéd images of conflict.
If there is a sort of "accessible" vibe about Kreator's "video" songs, we really like that! In other words, we love the way they are accessible to a big audience and are underground, too. I've seen them do it live—some of that accessible material—and there isn't one person in the house that isn't locked into it. I guess what I mean is: even though it's not the uncompromising, underground stuff all the time.
I have to say that I met and hung out with [Kreator drummer] Ventor last year in Essen, so I am blessed. I also heard this great story that [Kreator vocalist/guitarist] Mille arrived for soundcheck in London once in a [Joy Division] Unknown Pleasures shirt. I think Mille is badass—always have—and we are both in awe of his guitar approach.
Voïvod: there are moments—for example, when it came to "Mannequin Eyes," I was thinking, "How would [Voïvod guitarist] Piggy play the fast bit?"—so after loads of attempts, there was I think the right vibe. Plus, Voïvod were another band who did the "video" thing so well, for stuff like "Ravenous Medicine"... and they spelled it right out in that video: "Stop Animal Slaughter." This was in a big way the inspiration for the "Mannequin Eyes" lyrics, which are about peaceful, happy, miraculous sentient beings who, having led a life of simple truth now see the true—and fucked up—guise of their human counterparts, at the point of a slaughter they had no idea was coming. They just existed in trust. They see fucked up, unseeing doll eyes intent on killing them, dressed in bloody PPE [personal protective equipment]. And to think: humans would regard animal eyes as sort of "inhuman," how fucked is that? If anyone doesn't get that, I wonder what planet they are on? Planet Denial. To me, it is a literal hell—as said in the lyrics—and I lay awake at night thinking about it and get quite fucked up. The consumer-driven, rabid end of this spectrum has caused what we have all been going through, too, I totally believe.
If thrash has always had a dark fantasy aspect to it, it is always the most concussive when—in the case of Slayer—it draws from real-life horror. "Angel of Death" needs no explanation when it comes to topic and delivery—dropped in the middle of the sunny, affluent '80s of L.A., let's not forget. The slaughter I'm talking about isn't fantasy: it's real-life insanity, happening and perpetrated 365 days a year, for nothing but greed. Destruction and agony, for nothing but to keep some parts of our species fat and stupid. They don't even respect the animal: most of it ends up in black bin liners: landfill.
We always loved how Voïvod worked off a template that was part-Motörhead, to create something that was more than just petrol-driven, it was more nuclear-fuelled. [Voïvod vocalist] Snake would also have that cold, monotone chant, too, in parts—and always, always planted fantastic post-apocalyptic scenes in my head. Pagan and weird. I also loved the dirtiness of the first two albums and would have those on tape—added analog grime—for years. Also, the Live at The Spectrum tape, which I got with a nice note from Piggy at the time. "Tribal Convictions" off that tape is off the scale, by the way.
I also have to say that my physical bass was inspired by Voïvod after being blown away—sorry for the partial pun—by Blacky's bass those years back. Voïvod and Portal for the aesthetic.
Prong I always loved due to a connection with Swans and Ted [Parsons, drums], and I loved hearing such a diversion to thrash from guys who seemed more punk in spirit. But, hell, either way, if you pick up an album in a store that looked like Primitive Origins and you know it is all about NYC street vibe, wow: it is being purchased immediately.
Also loved that they were guys doing thrash, and that they loved Chrome. Amazing. We've already had someone remark about Chrome in some delivery-related aspects of Trial. In our video by Lagomorphosis it has a beautifully stark, "cut-and-paste" aesthetic, too, and we love that video. [Chrome founder] Damon Edge is a total hero for his aesthetic approach... just look at some of the sleeves. Alien eyes, jagged edges, fashion magazines—all fusing.
Also loved Prong's take on the more "accessible" metal front, too, having heard it through loud club PAs. Always killer. Check out how the cover aesthetic of Rude Awakening has held up, too: it's not overtly "metal," at a glance, is it?
With influences and styles, yes, we have a lot, and it will continue to work its way into the experiment, going back to the start of this answer. I mean, look at Celtic Frost and how they changed over a short time: when you bought into this beautiful, dark, twisted, thrash-centric music in the '80s, who would have expected the operatic vocals, electronic klanks and wailing ("Tears in a Prophet's Dream"), or a Wall of Voodoo cover? Not to mention thrash-glam, fuck yeah.
Regarding different directions: if anything, we are reining it in.
As we've briefly discussed earlier, my initial response to the EP was that I was intrigued by the writing and overall feeling of the material, but it took me several listens to adjust to the nature of the guitar tone, which I guess I would describe as having a crispy, "digital" sheen to it. You encouraged me to bring this up, so I'm curious if it's an intentional characteristic, etc.?
We both use gear which is pretty well-tempered from the live experience with [Demöniac's] Primitive Knot, and in stuff I have been involved in. The gear is road-tested, and so we just plugged that sound right in. For some of the more blatant riffs on this, I utterly love how it cuts through and forces the other instruments to react and stack up in different ways.
I have to say, too, that on some of the leads there are effects I wouldn't normally gravitate to at all, as you can end up in prog territory, but really there's no chance of that... so they were used in order to add to the general Trial vibe. The prog guys... wow, that is completely something else anyway. I'm a Tesseract fan and have been for some time. That is a whole different world and discussion.
Some of the descriptive imagery related to the EP—for example "deformed, jagged remnants of superstructures" and a "sightless void, staring at you"—bring to mind visuals pertaining to Khost's Buried Steel, which we discussed a few months ago. At the same time, Trial is conceptual to the point where even the aliases used differ from the members' other projects. Talk a little bit not just about the topical ideas behind Trial, but how they may or may not overlap with some of your outside work through other musical avenues.
I have to say this: with thrash music, you would put on the record and there sometimes was a classical-type intro, which basically heralded something much nastier to come. So, I guess straight away we were thinking along the lines of that nastier frontier and looking to engage with it ASAP.
I've just got this metaphysical pre-dawn landscape in my head and completely wanted to depict it and sketch it out. I've got to drop another name: I once spoke to [drummer] Marquis Marky of Coroner years back about how their stuff made me think of alien, moonlit vistas and he was like, "Yes, that is it." He liked it. I have always loved Switzerland and am proud to have connections there with 16-17, and reading this interview back before I send it, I am aware of: Frost, Calhoun Conquer, Giger, Daniel Buess, Coroner... they all come up. We haven't even mentioned The Young Gods.
"Towers of Short Term Lies" is the song for me, I guess, that I'm most proud of as I get to sing the line, "It's a lie; it's crafted short term lies," about the automatons of modern business. All smiles and "How are you?," but it's just utterances from future corpses, dead inside, hoping you get them through another day. I see the skyscrapers as ugly, useless—they should be instead used as vertical farms, kill-off haulage and oxygenate the air. Offices should be underground bunkers with a table and a mattress and broadband, not up high, for status. I had a mental image of lies flushing down the sides of these buildings like muck and waste being flushed down the sides of medieval castles.
But, a lot of the material is meant to be positive, too: if it depicts a world in twilight and in wreckage (there's a Rollins reference there), then it is good as it means that in such a wasteland the actual source of sustenance for the architects of modern evil is fucked, too, with a lot of hapless refugees of their ilk. The underground is strong while the fat trolls suddenly find themselves defenseless game. I could write about that all day.
These topics do cross over to other groups, sure, and at one stage CARTHAGE in particular was very much about fractured soundscapes, but that is now in another tangent: that's another story.
I believe you're already working on some additional material, and if the debut is any indication, it seems possible that listeners may have more to explore sooner rather than later. Do you have any indication as to where things might be headed... or when?
We've started the next batch. I am hoping it will drop later this year.
The 1 release will come with an extra track called "Structural Demise." It looks at the people that comprise the machine. You know those old George Grosz paintings and sketches? Those, some Giger art for inspiration, spidery riffs, and that is the belly of this song.
1 is out now via Bandcamp. View more from Trial through Instagram.