Review Summary: The legendary band tries a return to form.
When I was young, The Fall of Troy embodied the franticness and insanity that I wanted from music: they were loud, grindy, precise, and I loved them for it. Their musicianship was unparalleled, a gateway through which they could showcase their intricate and unique songwriting ability, their unmatched breed of noise and cacophony. As I’ve gotten older, this has only appealed to me more. They were genre-defining, spawning a number of fledgling bands in their absence that wanted to stand in their image. But no band has done The Fall of Troy number quite like Fall of Troy and, as a result, The Fall of Troy’s newest album feels aspirational and ambitious, but ultimately disappointing.
Let’s not make any mistakes here: there are moments on OK
that will make you remember The Fall of Troy of lore. Spastic guitar parts, furious drumming, and underlapping dancy baselines have always been a staple of their sound, and OK
shows plenty of signs of life in that regard. “401k” boasts a main riff that mirrors some old-school ferocity with new-school grooviness that feels like it could be at home on a Strawberry Girls album, while “Your Loss” has the odd-time, in-your-face prettiness of songs like “You Got a Death Wish, Johnny Truant?” and “The Holy Tape.” “Suck-O-Matic” even feels like it could be on Manipulator, complete with jittery riffs in odd times that have that sloppy-but-precise quality that made songs like “Ex-Creations” so gratifying.
But it’s because of these otherwise great moments that the pitfalls of the album are so glaring. Song structure, which has generally always been The Fall of Troy’s strongest and most awe-inspiring quality, feels incredibly lackluster throughout the album. “401k,” for example, while boasting a great main riff and an overtly Fall of Troy-esque solo, has a middle section that almost ruins the song with its upstroke reggae feel and aimless execution. “Inside Out” falls into a similar trap, the song feeling more like 3 songs crudely stitched together from a veritable musical graveyard, each section of which is just a 30-second glimpse at Fall of Troy riffs revived from the dead. “Side by Side” proves to be uninspired in nearly every department, with cringe-worthy lyrics and lackluster instrumentation, and “Love Sick” feels like a Deftones cutting-room floor b-side that could have been left off of the album with no loss.
The production too, which has always given The Fall of Troy’s tracks their grindy, monstrous feel, is conspicuously dry here. The guitar tracks, normally full, punchy, and crisp, feel like they’ve been stripped of the tight low-end that made the breakdowns of their previous albums so devastating. Meanwhile, the vocals, noticeably cleaner this time around, are situated firmly at the forefront of many tracks, front-lining a side of the band that has never been the focus of the listener. “Savior” begins with an interesting intro, but it’s immediately cut down by a protracted vocal section with uneventful musicality and uninspired lyrics, while “Side by Side” feels vocally awkward with lyrics about a “dance floor” to match. Though vocals have never been the pinnacle of The Fall of Troy’s sound, Thomas Erak’s singing on older albums always had a kind of sloppy charm to it that meshed relatively well with their kind of tonality, and his lyrics had brief moments of glory in each song. OK
generally seems to lack these small moments of redemption. Even when the harsh vocals come in, the production quality strips them of any kind of genuine ferocity, making parts like the main theme in “A Single Word” lack the punch required to execute effectively.
However, it’s important to note that OK
is still a Fall of Troy album, and as such there are plenty of moments that showcase their undeniable skill in creating chaotic, interesting, complex songs. The last half of “Inside Out” is reminiscent of “Sledgehammer,” complete with a great vocal part, heavy guitar parts fluctuating in and out of polyrhythms, and tapping riffs that have that particular Thomas Erak sloppy warmth to them. “Suck-O-Matic” feels similarly huge, complete with almost incomprehensible execution on the whole band’s behalf, each transition feeling so adeptly calculated, each tempo drop so cooly done, that you feel like you’re listening to the old Fall of Troy grow up. “Auto Repeater,” hearkening back to old favorites like “I Just Got This Symphony Goin’,” exudes ingenuity and confidence, complete with chaotic guitar parts and a masterful drum section that feels like a cooler, more explosive “Macauly McCulkin.” At almost every turn, Erak shows off his ability to write frantic, pulsing riffs, while Tim’s basslines and harsh vocals add a redemptive dimension to songs like “401k” and “A Single Word.” Andrew’s execution on the drums constantly saves the slower, more uninteresting sections of “Savior” and “An Ode to the Masochists,” doing similar work to what they did on tracks like “Seattlantis” on Manipulator. Meanwhile, album-ender “Your Loss” clearly demonstrates that the band can fade in and out of different sonic textures and still be themselves, unabashedly and without reserve, while floating into relatively uncharted territory.
All over, the album screams The Fall of Troy: the musicality, the franticness, and the structures are all there, it’s just their presentation and cohesion that cause the album to be less a return to form and more of a testing the water. The album, at times, is invigoratingly satisfying, but is often equally frustrating, showcasing a band that wants to be its former self, but is finding noticeable difficulty in accomplishing that goal. All commentary aside, having The Fall of Troy back in form and function is undeniably exciting, and if the glimpses of their former glory on OK
are any indication of their future success, the future looks brilliant and bright.