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Trail of Tears – Oscillation
CD Reviews
Written by Doctor T.   
Sunday, 02 June 2013
Trail of Tears CD Review
Trail of Tears - Oscillation

CD Info


 Massacre Records / Germany 
 13 Tracks

English Lyrics

OK, let’s get the business part of this out of the way up front since this is a CD review. This is a fantastic release, you want a grade, a 10/10 is the only fookin’ appropriate number I can come up with. Unfortunately, this is a little more than a CD review, it’s a Final Statement for Trail of Tears, one of the premier Gothic Metal sounds in the history of the genre. There will be no more; this is, as they say, the SWAN SONG. And that’s a very sad thing. Trail of Tears has been around a long time, since 1994, and Ronny Thorsen has been there since the beginning. He IS Trail of Tears. So what I’d like to do here, besides talk about the release, is talk a little about Trail of Tears, they’ve been one of my favorites since I became aware of this musical genre a number of years ago, fact, Ronny is probably the first musician in the genre I ever interacted with. So, this is more than just a music review for many of us, myself included.

ToT began as a mournful sound with some startling operatic vocals that caught the eye of early Gothic music reviewers. There were some top flight vocalists, right off the bat, Helena Iren Michaelsen being one of my all time favorites. The sound went harder after that, we got some different Gothic material for the third and fourth releases. Certainly, one of my favorites was the 2007 release Existentia, a title close to the heart of any existential psychologist. And the vocals of French vocalist Emmanuelle Zoldan, especially on the track Poisonous Tongues are, for me, a signature moment in the history of the genre, especially the soprano parts where Zoldan takes us to places other musical forms have rarely achieved. However, vocalist Cathrine Paulsen has been the vocalist most often associated with ToT, and she serves in that capacity on this release. Alongside, of course, the harsh vocals of Ronny Thorsen. And they are perfect foils, Beauty and the Beast in all its perfect harmony. Unfortunately, Beauty and the Beast didn’t work out completely. I won’t go into the details but there was a fatal split within the band, and things came to a crashing conclusion, one from which a resurrection is highly unlikely. So, Oscillation is the final statement, and what a statement it is.

Gothic metal is not intended to be happy music. It takes a dark road, it addresses those parts of existence that we think about but don’t communicate outside our deeper moments. And Ronny Thorsen seems to have this direction down pretty well. On this release, it’s doubly revealing, it seems to anticipate the death of the band, it seems to resonate with a feeling of doom. We get it in the music, the vocal delivery, and, especially the lyrics. That’s not to say it isn’t first rate Gothic Metal, it is, in all its finery, everything you ever wanted musically. The sound pounds, dark, heavy, throbbing metal, vocals from the dark side of life, a dirge of unrelenting emotion packed into killer metal guaranteed to satisfy the strongest metal heads. But there’s so much more to it, so much more communication of the pain of ending. It’s like the entire band saw devastation at the end of the production process and poured their hearts into it in an attempt to convey the remorse of visualizing the final moment. And, it’s a beautiful ending. They say the sweetest song is sung in the final moments, well, that seems to be the case here.

The release begins with Waves of Existence, and we immediately move to pounding metal to stir the soul. Its solid production, metal over background sounds produced by top production people. Production was done by Sound Suite Studio in Marseille, France with producer Terje Refsnes. The excellence shows from start to finish. I should point out that the Oscillation cover was created by Finnish artist Jan Yrlund and its stunning. Pretty much like everything else.. But that first track takes us to the sound that pretty much sums up what we can expect from the rest of the release. The vocals begin with Ronny growling with an angry urgency, one that leads to the female vocals which seem to answer with a corresponding level of pounding fury. We get an interaction that can’t be denied:

I see you standing by the rope / For each wound that bleeds within my 
Chest, another soul might have found / Some long lost rest 
How did it come to this, where did / We fail, For the world to see I left my
Glass and treat myself to a small / Sip of Melancholy

A dark refrain takes us to a remorseful moment:

Nothing lasts forever / Nothing lasts forever...

This forecasting of doom continues with other tracks. Scream out Loud provides an opportunity for Catherine to address the sorrow, and she does it with full vocal. The anger shows, the hopelessness is beyond denial. Pain is the order of the day. Crimson Leads on the Trail of Tears takes us to the remorse from a different direction. Here, we begin with something approximating a children’s choir, one that that takes us to the death vocals that lead us to sounds that are clearly not meant to be uplifting:

We burned the bridges down and let / All perish from the ashes of old
We’ll resurface to rise again / Nothing will break down the faith
That we have all this turmoil will / Only regain our strength
Nothing will ever appear in our way / We were destined to prove all the
Things that we say

Sounds like a prophecy to me...hmmmmmm...

Room 306 sounds like an innocent enough title. Don’t let it fool you. We begin with choral sounds, soothing to a point but leading to seething female vocals. The beat picks up and this one evolves into a rocker. But it’s the complexity of the track that grabs you, continued choral work, symphonics, solid death metals and the ever present haunting female lead. There’s a texture to this one that makes it one of the highlights. . especially as Ronny growls over choral elements:

Realize all is lost / Realize all
Is dead, realize all is lost / All is dead, realize all is
Gone, realize all that was / Sacrificed for both of us, has been drowned

This one sticks in your mind, one of several that have that interesting effect.

ToT has often had a signature sound throughout several of their releases, at least the last 3 or 4. It’s not hard to figure out who’s performing. Maybe it’s the guitar style, maybe the production. But, there is something to the feel of the music, something beyond the signature vocals that act as an identifier to the music. Of course, as the music has increased the use of symphonics and choral work, it has evolved. But, there continues to be that "sound", that feel that never goes away. We get it with Eradicate, it’s in the music and the vocals which seem to crash in desperation. Again, the message is harsh

Consider me your worst enemy / This breaking point is mine
To defeat, prepare to fall / Prepare to Fall!!

Well, unfortunately, this harsh interplay seems to have carried through to the band members in general and this becomes the final interaction for the band. More than a little unfortunate, but this has been a 19 year run, not bad in this business. There’ve been a lot of musicians who have passed through the ToT portals. A number of strong vocalists, some great guitar players, a wealth of production excellence. But the one common thread has been Ronny Thorsen. So, saying goodbye to Trail of Tears is almost like saying goodbye to Ronny, and we do that here; thanks for the memories, thanks for the great music, thanks for all you’ve meant to this business, and especially to this genre.

But, never say never. One never knows what time can bring us, evolution has a way of bringing some things back. . . .you never know. . .you just never know. . . . so stay tuned.

10 / 10

Sonic Cathedral Footnote:

Ronny & Trail of Tears have been a HUGE influence on Sonic Cathedral and its growth through the years. The 11th band (out of almost current 700) ever stocked in our almost 14 year old online store, Trail of Tears were and will continue to be one of the MAIN CORE BANDS that stuck around and evolved and grew with SC into what we are today. It saddens us as an entity to see the recent developments that have caused Ronny to leave his founding band. We wish the band and Ronny the best with their future projects.

  ~ John W / Owner

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