by Steve Beebee
Guest Staff Writer —
The most important thing to know about The Trial – this remarkable, squalling, sneering, despairing riot of art rock – is that this is the proto-Warrior Soul. The place, for Kory Clarke, that it all truly began.
By the time Warrior Soul started swinging blows of timely warning from the shadows of New York City, Kory had abandoned his drum kit and was standing up front – all hair, raised fists and metallic street poetry. Nothing has changed. Those that truly supported him then truly support him now. But how many of those people are aware of The Trial, the origins of Warrior Soul and an important band and album in its own right? Even the most ardent fan probably only knows of The Trial by name, and fewer still will have ever heard their music.
That time has now ended, with the release of this extraordinary and pivotal album, a release that quite incredibly hails from 1983, not merely years before the rise of grunge and alternative metal, but even pre-dating the Hollywood hair metal era that that scene usurped. If you wanted any further evidence of Kory’s artistry and forward thinking, here it is.
Confrontational and steeped in reverb, The Trial’s music stalks the dark underground channels between the first Warrior Soul album and classic Killing Joke. “Where do I fit in?” roars Kory in 9th Grade, the start of a quest that continues today. Songs like this, the fiery New Rock and the deliciously cynical Human Beings, fight the fight for the underdog and the disenfranchised, the self-proclaimed losers that don’t fit. Drenched in psychedelic, seething guitars – a sound familiar to those who freaked out to Warrior Soul’s Trippin On Ecstasy – the canvas is colored in dark hues. It is propelled by Kory’s exhausting rhythmic barrage and, of course, his voice – a voice that sounds like the last voice at the end of the last bit of everything. Last decade, dead century anyone?
It’s impossible to listen to this decades-delayed work and not picture the doubtless head-fucking spectacle of the band playing live. Kory at the back, singing and playing drums simultaneously (no small achievement in itself!) but projected to the audience on big screens at the front. Footage interspersed with disturbing images of corpses, of porn and American TV advertisements. This already was an artist seeking to challenge people’s preconceptions, to disturb, probe and ask questions. The wicked riffs and anti-establishmentarianism that pummels “Ruler” along is yet another sign of things to come. The skittering guitars and shout-out-loud hooks of “Skeleton Dance” follow suit.
Much has been written, not least of all by this writer, about how Kory Clarke and Warrior Soul were among the most important artists to emerge in metal’s turn-of-the-Nineties rebirth, and that by rights they should also have stood alongside its biggest selling. No feeling of injustice, however keenly felt, can ever re-write history but, satisfyingly, this early project confirms that we were right all the time. For Warrior Soul fans past and present, it’s time to stand Trial.
Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10
[Steve Beebee is a journalist, author and broadcaster, best known for his work with Kerrang! magazine. Beebee is one of the magazine’s longest serving writers.]