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I had come by this in a record store that was not known to carry very many metal releases. It was an utterly blind purchase which had a habit of backfiring. As far as backfiring goes, this album is on the line; because, you see Trail of Tears seems to have continued their transfer from gothic metal into symphonic black//gothic metal.
Honestly, I have trouble seeing this as symphonic black/gothic metal. This seems more like gothic metal/rock with black metal, symphonic, and death metal influences because most of what is presented here is still seems to favor gothic metal much more. With it even some of the compositions are deluded to the point of gothic rock (look to 'Watch You Fall' for reference, no metal featured in other words). While I don't mind rock elements with metal on occasion (I love Paradise Lost's Draconian Times) but I'm not too thrilled when an entier song is riddled with it, especially if the band in question claims to have extreme metal influence
One of the primary elements that work in the favor of what they intend is the vocals. Both vocalists, harsh and clean, are fantastic; they are arguably the best thing about the album in it's entirety. One of the worst would be the guitars; most of the time they are stuck supporting whatever elements that take the lead.
The album starts out with the best it has to offer, with the first being 'Joyless Trance Of Winter' as it is a fantastic piece of symphonic metal with some groovy death metal riffs woven in that build up to the beautiful chorus with the clean male vocals. 'Carrier Of The Scars Of Life" is rather different; after the beginning riff it starts with the chorus moves on to the bridge then back the chorus. Don't get me wrong, the chorus is a fantastic representation of what the band can in fact do; but it just seems like there was a lot ridding on it alone to make the song work. And work it does, it's just I would like it more if it had some more meaty death metal to go with it but I can see that it would not be essential.
Unfortunately this is where everything good about this album dies for the more part. Is anyone to blame? Nope, not one of them "But whyyyyy?" because none of the material is bad per-say but it's not good at the same time. Mediocre? Yes and no, yes to most of what you'll find lurking with the songs after the aforementioned two, passages that feature uninteresting guitar riffs and keyboard interludes. Tho it is not as mediocre as some that I had the displeasure of hear it is still not enough to keep my attention. No to some of the elements contained within the songs that seem to be spread out, for example "Frail Expectations" has a guitar solo about mid way that is utterly fantastic, "Cold Hand of Retribution" would in fact be another favorite if it weren't for those damned female vocals; her voice meanders, like there's some middle east influence. It's a rough fit for the band but this is the only to song to feature her and I am thankful for it.
'The Architect Of My Downfall' would be the one in the album that I would call 'symphonic black/gothic metal' mostly because it contains the most black metal I have seen on this album. As I said before, all songs contain chorus' that feature vocalist Kjetil Nordhus; and may I say (if I haven't said it enough already) that he is fantastic. He alone elevates the quality of each and every song with his vocals. The only thing I dislike about his performance is when he uses what sounds like a mix of a vocoder and slight distortion. I suppose it does accent the atmosphere somewhat but it just seems unnecessary to me.
And the rest? Well, I mentioned 'Watch You Fall' above and yes; there are little if any metal elements present. There are harsh vocals but backed by a riff of nothing but pure goth rock and the strength Is almost immediately sapped from them; It is the worst song on this album, without question. 'Drink Away the Demons' is decent with some worthy black metal moments but it turns into some death metal breakdowns that encompass quite a bit of the guitar presence in most songs. Both 'Point Zero' and 'Dry Well of Life' both feature breakdowns where the keyboard adds something (insignificant) at the end of each breakdown. It's fun for the moment I suppose but it never sticks with me after the song is done. 'The Face of Jealousy' is more or less 'Watch you Fall' but with more energy and better passages, but that isn't saying much.
All in all it's a decent effort but beyond 4 songs out of the 10 featured here it's an album that still crumbles due to the lackluster songwriting most of the songs are plagued by. The fact is that they could not come up with material that was strong enough after the first two songs and the two songs spread out despite the chorus'.
The good: 'Joyless Trance of Winter', 'Carrier of the Scars of Life', 'Cold Hand of Retribution', and 'The Architect of My Downfall'.
The bad: 'Watch You Fall' , 'The Face of Jealousy'
The ugly: All else not mentioned.