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Dead Again - 49%

GuntherTheUndying, September 22nd, 2013

Trail of Tears closed the book after releasing "Oscillation." The band's vocalists—Ronny Thorsen and Cathrine Paulsen—had apparently had enough of putting up with each other, so they launched an open-letter war over the internet, which is clearly the only feasible solution to solving interpersonal dilemmas, that ended in an implosion. I'm a total stranger to Trail of Tears, so as usual I'm creeping into the graveyard and exhuming this band's frail, rotting corpse for reasons that are none of your concern. I had been quite curious about finally hearing Trail of Tears: I was under the impression the Norwegian squad fell somewhere between symphonic gothic stuff and a melodic style of black metal. "Oscillation" is quite ordinary and disappointing, however: it comes off as a standard gothic metal release carrying symphonic/orchestral elements in its pockets. In other words, nothing this type of genre hasn't produced before.

It's a rather anticlimactic record, which is somewhat baffling considering this is the swan song of an esteemed project often dubbed one of the genre's finer acts with six full-length efforts in the rearview mirror. In the end, "Oscillation" sounds frustrated and bland. Being a total neophyte to the world of Trail of Tears, I must say the vocal situation that takes on the familiar concept of mixing harsh grunts with elegant female chimes is cooked better than most. Cathrine Paulsen does a splendid job appearing emotional and pristine against the bleak backdrop, and Thorsen's growls stab like a knife in the gut; they do not appear in conflict, even when overlapping. This is the sort of combination many groups of this niche (and even beyond) attempt, but ultimately fail to achieve. With that said, I'm left feeling sort of depressed about the remaining traits within "Oscillation," and I'm not referring to the dreary, joyless lyrics about life sucking the big one and the like.

Trail of Tears' style implies there's nothing here that would indicate the band is trying to rise above the cookie-cutter idea of what this genre tends to offer. The thirteen anthems are all simple, poppy pieces of accessible, modern metal riffs melted down with basic rhythm work and symphonic pieces weaving through the sad atmosphere which "Oscillation" preaches. It's a fairly acceptable blueprint, but it falls down after a handful of songs, becoming rather bothersome given the record has THIRTEEN cuts that all juggle the symphonic goth idea in similar circles. The opening "Waves of Existence" is quite fine, and "Scream out Loud," though dominated almost entirely by Paulsen's vocals and a sugary chorus, is catchy and explosive. After the title track, however, Trail of Tears creatively breaks its foot and pouts in the mud. Song after song flies in one ear and out the other with little to remember afterwards. The six-minute "Path of Destruction" is completely devoid of hooking guitar work, while "Room 306" or "Eradicate" shows an irritated group hammering out inadequate, common music with little meaning.

The Paulsen-based, piano-driven "Lost in Life" is a fitting ballad that shuts the door on both "Oscillation" and Trail of Tears for good, though Trail of Tears had once called it a day before and then reorganized, so who knows if this is their actual final opus. The bonus tracks ("Sleep Forever," "Quick Fix of Shame") are musically more adventurous and rewarding than most of the record; they both share a revitalized energy and explore musical ideas usually foreign to "Oscillation," such as blast beats and enhanced symphonic arrangements on the latter. The fact that the bonus tracks are more hooking than the actual album speaks leaps and bounds about the substance of "Oscillation." It seems Trail of Tears—this strictly being the view of an outsider—had outlived its prime, and "Oscillation" marked the decline into mediocrity. I'm not very good at farewells; neither is Trail of Tears, apparently.

This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com