By Sascha via Behold The Blessed Wax
Trial – Moments Of Collapse LP, 1986
This is not a write up about the Straight Edge Band Trial. Sorry dudes. Gonna have to take your mosh somewhere else for the night.
I can’t exactly recall when I first heard this LP, nor can I recall what led me to seek it out. Maybe it was reproductions of fliers from Crucifix’s Exhibit A retrospective LP I bought when I was sixteen? I have a weird memory for detail when it comes to music. This band was definitely mentioned in the liner notes of that record. I think scouring the thank you lists, and flier displays in punk records as a way to find out about bands you hadn’t heard was ubiquitous in the days of punk pre-dating the filesharing era. Often if something piqued my interest I would have to seek it out out at record stores, or tape it from friends. If it was as obscure,as this band, it would have to just remain a mystery. I know I heard this within the last five years, and upon hearing this record I immediately wondered to myself “why is this record not more celebrated?” This is phenomenal Peace/Post-Punk from the Bay Area. Finding information about the band on the internet has proven to be near impossible for me. I’ve been digging for some time, and managed to find out within the last six months they shared a drummer with aforementioned San Francisco Peace Punk legends Crucifix and he plays on this LP. (Thanks Cvlt Nation!)
I don’t think they make music like this anymore. I’ve commented on other reviews of lost punk records from the 80’s that they have that special urgency that was came from being made by young people who were both exploring a form of music that was still new and fresh, and living in times as turbulent and fraught with anxiety in the 1980’s. I’m not saying punk, and post punk can’t still be urgent, and full of desperation, the best punk music often is. I’m also not saying that the era we live in now is not as turbulent and fraught with anxiety as the 1980’s, it might be more so, actually. I’m not saying that kids today aren’t creating new and wild music. I’m just saying that this might be one of those “Time and place” records. It stands on it’s own, and at the same time serves as a relic from a bygone era.
Anyway, the LP opens with “Lobotomized Visions” Frantic, nearly tribal, martial drumming, soaring, terror soaked keys, and minimal guitar, mixed with dramatically shouted vocals that sound like an individual bellowing out every fearful thought, and piece of growing up in the dying days of the cold war suburban America angst they have ever had. The track reaches it’s crashing crescendo, and heads into “Unshackled In the Garden” and the record immediately changes pace. The vocalist, now largely unaccompanied by instrumentation aside from sparse keys,sings mournfully of lost love, forsaken freedom and “quiet lives in well furnished cells.”
The record then shifts into more familiar post punk territory with “Detached” I can hear the influences of bands like Crass, The Mob, Zounds, and Joy Division.” I’m not entirely sure why, but I’ve also always likened this LP a little bit to Valor Kand era Christian Death. Particularly Wind Kissed Pictures, and Atrocities. I might be alone in that one though. This has more emphasis on the beautifully tragic, and the personal as political, and less of the morbid shock that Christian Death employed.
Side two begins with “Anatomy Of The Trap” building slowly with a lone, repeating riff, and sparse drumming gradually increasing in volume, but not pace. This song both serves as sort of an opener for the second side of the LP, and holds some of my favorite lyrical content of the record:
“Youth is honesty, Intact spirit. The innocence of childhood with age comes the mask, with adulthood it is fused permanently to our souls. The waiting game of youth, the longing game of age. Fist slams on the table the few seconds in between did you play the worn out song? Did it crack and skip, and come out wrong?”
“Crimson Retrospect” continues side two starting with haunting guitar notes and the lyrics “warheads sprout in the fields, a poppy in my lapel with time wounds have not healed, flashback into neon hell.” The drumming is completely hypnotic and flawless, the music flows, with an ascending guitar note, and heads seamlessly into the next track “Chant 4501” with a brief change in timing, pounding drums and guitar notes to let you know you have moved into the next song. The bass is there too, played so in such a way, where it flows with the rest of the music, but with a trained ear (Which I don’t have) you can hear that the bass player is actually all over the place, and not just following the lead of the guitar player. “Almighty girded phallus arching towards the static sky a million whitewashed faces wax plugged ears, and sealed shut eyes.” I make the Joy Division comparison again, because I imagine it was was what was available to these kids at the time. You really have to listen to it to hear how unique this LP is.
On my copy of this LP, in the lyric sheet there are the lyrics for a song titled “A Dance For The Limbless” but it appears nowhere on the record. I wonder if it was a printing error? Or a recording error? Perhaps there is a long lost Trial song somewhere out there, floating around on some forgotten reel of tape in San Francisco. I’m sure I’m not the only one that would love to hear it!
“The Border” follows as sort of an apocalyptic love song. Written as to lovers taken, and paths never walked as the world falls down around us, yet daring to hope for open hearts and tender possibilities of the last days: “you see the sun, you feel the rain. For knowing tears, endure the pain. I could run, so far away. Head in hands, afraid to stay. You’re in reach you’re closer now. We’re on the borders of a new world now.
The LP closes with “Of Speech and Thought, and Stripping Gears” Almost a tender denouement, as if the band has spent most of their frantic energy on the rest of the LP, and now want to lovingly, hopefully put this LP to rest. It ends on perhaps the most hopeful note found in the entire record. “My friend, we’ve one foot inside the door already. Our hearts will guide us, our fears would betray us, but our love will save us today. Right between your eyes it is shaded by the flesh right between your eyes it is jaded by the flesh, my friend. Time advances in precision, our love retreats unless we nourish it. Our soul, stagnating withers unless we help it along. In attempts to breathe, my lungs shudder painfully, in attempts to see, my eyes are strained deafened by the din of the city I still struggle to hear our voice.”
And with those words, the record comes to a close. As far as I know this has never been bootlegged or repressed. I found my copy relatively inexpensively from someone online. Their screen name on the site I tracked this down on was XsomethingX so I have often wondered if they were a straight edge kid who snatched this up thinking it was a lost LP of the straight edge band hardcore band Trial, and then resold it not realizing what a lost gem of a record they held in their hands. You can find digital copies of it floating around. Aside from and EP predating this record, I think this is Trial’s only recorded output. I don’t know what projects the members went onto afterwards, but I would like to hope they went on to do great things. Judging by the passion, musicianship, and poetry contained in this LP they richly deserved them.