Trial | Für Zwei (review)

Trial 'Für Zwei' cover art

Trial ‘Für Zwei’ cover art

For its 14th release Electro Aggression Records (EAR) has presented yet another ambitious package to its loyal listeners, this time a compilation/retrospective for the Hannover-based Trial. Trial had built a loyal following in its early years, starting with the EP Blut Und Eisen and then building on that momentum with their first full-length Zero Feeling, both released in 1992. The band’s unique brand of high-energy, muscular EBM was an instant hit and many tracks became club anthems of the time.

The band continued with the release of Secret Feeling in 1994. The band has been inactive in recent years, their most recent release being the 2-disc No Fate in 2008. Sometime in the subsequent years the members of Trial, Erick Miotke and Torsten Schröder, officially parted ways due to differing career paths and interests.

Trial’s Für Zwei then is a valiant effort by the band, or in this case rather Erick Miotke acting with the permission of Torsten Schröder, to provide a broad overview of their career. The set includes updated versions of old hits, previously unreleased songs now in completed form, a pair of cover songs, a traditional compilation of old songs (mostly untouched), and both live video and audio performances, with material spread out over four discs (one of them a DVD).

The first disc presents updated versions of classic tracks such as “Blut Und Eisen”, “No Fate”, “Für Zwei” and even “Brother In Arms”, the band’s exclusive entry on EAR’s first compilation Old School Electrology, Vol. 1. The disc also features cover versions of the Grandchaos song “God Is Dead” and the Brain Leisure song “Defect”. The disc additionally features finished versions of songs that were previously unreleased. With a modern production, at times veering more into techno territory, the disc rewards both new listeners and long-time fans with fresh mixes and unreleased material.

The second disc is live material compiled from four shows: Magdeburg on Feb. 25, 2006; Leipzig on June 2, 2006; Köln on July 21, 2007; and Hannover on October 30, 2009. Live performances I feel have always been a difficult proposition for electronic bands. If the band tries to perform too ‘live’ then there is always the potential for technical issues. If the band does not play live enough then you are often left with band members staring at a laptop computer (at least in modern times) and a dull performance.

I don’t know the technical specifications of these performances, but this live disc is everything you would want from an EBM performance. The sound quality is fantastic, with some of the recordings being soundboard quality, and all performances with a fresh mastering. It’s certainly interesting to hear these songs in a live setting, and especially from a time period when electronic bands were also forced to use more improvised live elements due to the technology limitations of the time.

One aspect I greatly appreciate of this retrospective is that the live CD also has a different track listing than the live DVD, although both the live CD and the live DVD are sourced from the same shows. In fact, the live CD has by my count four tracks that are exclusive: “Limiter”, “AIDS”, “Deeper (Under Zero Mix)” and “Für Zwei (Bunker Mix)”.

The third disc provides listeners with a classic anthology, showcasing largely untouched tracks from deep in the Trial archives. For many listeners this disc could very well be the most important, given how rare (and expensive) the original releases are today on the secondary market. With material gleaned from all of the band’s major releases this disc gives a great overview of the band and how they sounded at that time.

With the classic anthology the listener can also hear other aspects to Trial’s sound, with some elements of experimental, dark electro and even goth rock making themselves known. The diversity is reminiscent of other acts of the time, particularly from Celtic Circle Productions, who refused to be confined to one genre, acts such as Absent Minded or Last Delay. I feel the classic anthology disc is vital to this retrospective and gives a more complete picture of the band’s overall output.

Finally, the fourth disc in this collection is in fact a live DVD, again comprising material from the same four shows as the live CD. The songs are presented in a different order, as mentioned previously, but also the DVD includes exclusive tracks of its own: “Sin”, “Diabolic”, “Secret Pain”, “Fear” and “Hunter”. The viewer can see first-hand how special Trial was in a live setting from this DVD.

Torsten Schröder had an electrifying presence as a frontman, energetic and engaging. Erick Miotke, meanwhile, created faithful reproductions of the band’s compositions. Schröder at times steps away from his duties as vocalist to play live drums on a traditional kit, which provides an even more powerful kick to the music. The performances are exciting to watch, and you can really feel a sense of fanatical enthusiasm from the crowd.

Those with an eagle eye may note the absence of one of the band’s exclusive compilation tracks, “Force” from the Art & Dance (Volume II) compilation. The track could not be included on this release but is in fact found on the later digital release of the collection. And for the completists there are several digital singles available as well, Für Zwei and Feels Like, which can be found at on napster, Amazon Music, Spotify, deezer and Apple Music.

The track ‘Force’ is also set to be re-worked by the band Trilogy, which is Erick Miotke’s current project with Jens Müller. For Trial fans old and new the upcoming Trilogy release on Electro Aggression Records (EAR), set to be released later in 2022, is an exciting development. For more information about both Trial and Trilogy please also read Luke Jacobs’s excellent interview with Erick Miotke, published here at Brutal Resonance.

With Trial’s Für Zwei retrospective from Electro Aggression Records (EAR) the band has given its fans a final goodbye present. This impressive set, which doubtless took countless hours to compile, will win over long-term fans instantly but will also introduce many new listeners to the band’s discography. Most notably with this release we have a band’s own personal farewell, on their own terms, a life worth’s of music on three CDs and one DVD. There are no special guests, no special remixers, just the band putting out their best works for one final time.

(This review was originally published for the webzine Reflections of Darkness. You may find the original review at this location.)

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