Review Summary: Badass and haunting, Astral Pariah is another victory lap from a band that simply cannot miss.
If there’s one thing that you can set your watch to with New Jersey-based Trophy Scars’ music, it’s that you will feel something. Sure, it may be recoiling at the sheer demonic nature of Jerry Jones’ vocals, but once that initial shock has worn off you’re left, mouth agape, staring in awe at a remarkable storybook of death, drugs, sex, ghosts, and love. They’ve always had a penchant for huge theatrics, but they do such a good job of selling them with the utmost sincerity that you almost forget you’re listening to an interpolation of “House of the Rising Sun” that’s about a pair of lovers who killed each other out of spite and haunting a family out so they can finally have some peace and quiet. It’s an impressive feat, to be sure, and that’s without getting too thick in the weeds about just how jarringly perfect the instrumental performances are with little licks and fills adorning every nook and cranny of their runtime. One could make the argument that they’ve always been head and shoulders above their peers, but since the heelturn of becoming a bonafide blues band I’m not sure I could even put my finger on who their peers are anymore. They’ve simply been content to put out one underappreciated classic after another.
Astral Pariah, their latest after an agonizing seven year wait, continues that impossible streak with the most intimate and focused album of their career. This time, the coat of paint is the wild west and we’re treated to fiddles, high-noon dueling guitars, rollicking drums, and that signature demonic growl to tell the tale of familial revenge on a cosmic scale. It’s just as ridiculous as it sounds. But for 29 minutes and change, you will be sold on every second of it and forget that you’ve spent the better part of eighteen months trapped inside due to a global pandemic. Instead, you’ll be donning a bandana, a rusty pistol, and insatiable bloodlust.
Not that Trophy Scars have ever belabored any point other than the devastating capacity that heartbreak can have on one’s soul, but they’ve truly stripped away any fat on here. Holy Vacants was the band attempting everything in their orbit, but Astral Pariah is aiming for the head with pinpoint precision. “Turpentine” starts things off with their trademark fade in and from there you are off to the races. Songs will bleed into each other, giving precious few moments to catch your breath after the band so easily takes it away. It really is astounding how many capital-M Moments there are in such a short amount of time, from the arena-ready, bombastic ending of “Mother” to the genuinely terrifying “Sister”, the band knows exactly what they are doing and command the elements as if they were god. Longtime fans will also be rewarded with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nods to past releases through lyrics and little instrumental passages. It’s a real treat.
At this point in their career, Trophy Scars should not be doubted. The production is immaculate, the mix is perfect, the aesthetics are without equal. It’s just simply a treat to sit back and listen to this band pull out another bag of tricks, even if it took nearly two presidential terms to get here. So stop wondering. Of course Astral Pariah is a classic, it bears the Trophy Scars name.