My head was jerking violently, my eyes following a picture of a musical note scrawled onto a piece of paper hanging from piano wire. It was making me dance for my life, the snipers and high powered machine guns waiting for just a single misstep. As the subconsciously ritual unbuckling and buckling of seatbelts continued, I tried to calm myself without the help of my heart which had already sunk out of reach. Bloody smiles and mangled cars watched as the powerful magic I attempted to wield spun out of control. I hit the brakes but it was too late, my mind had strayed too far from the fine line. I had been thrown into the mercy of the other half…
Uhh… hi everyone. Today we will be exploring a little bit of the darker side of psychedelia. I’ll start with a little bit of history. Psychedelic rock was a main influence in what today is known as heavy metal. The genre is splintered into many sub-categories, such as death metal, thrash metal or even punk. There are countless forms of metal these days, but the one thing that is common among most of them is that the psychedelia has been phased out.
The band I bring to you today is the Fall of Troy. They are a hardcore band from Washington state that is also guilty of phasing out pyschedelia, up until recently anyway. One of their more recent EP’s, Phantom on the Horizon, is one of the best examples of heavy music implementing psychedelic elements out there. It does this, however, in a much different and darker manner than most traditional psychedelic bands would. This naturally suits a hardcore band.
If I had to accurately apply a genre to the EP, it could only be a psychedelic post-hardcore rock-opera. It consists of five songs, or ‘chapters’, and spans the length of a nightmarish and most-likely magic induced story about a Spanish galleon which encounters a ghostship from another dimension. It features amazing lyrics and is highly over-produced compared to the band’s other, more-raw albums, giving it almost this truly genuine hellish feeling.
Chapter II: A Strange Conversation opens with an extremely powerful introduction. The drums hammer away complex rhythms with precision while the guitar shreds away only building in intricacy as time passes. The combined sound creates that intense metal feeling right up until the beat skips and begins to stagger in a more hardcore manner in my opinion.
The vocals come in clear along with ridiculous guitar lines. The only thing that can make listening to this band better is knowing that both the singer and the lead guitarist are the same person. That means whenever you hear jaw-dropping shredding and raging screams, the source is the same entity.
Yes I did say screams. If that is cause for some alarm then let me try to ease you. I like to consider this song the friendliest introduction to screaming possible. They really aren’t that bad on this album in general, especially when compared to the rest of the band’s music, and they fit perfectly with the theme of the story.
What I love in particular about this song is that the screams truncate extremely clear and downright good lyrics, eventually leading into very powerful opera-esque wailing vocals which do justice to the singer’s wide range. In case you are wondering who is this extremely talented musician, his name Thomas Erak, a quickly blossoming guitar legend.
The song ends on a very slow and calm note, putting the post into post-hardcore. The music is one of a kind, and almost even more importantly, the feeling it conveys is a brand of overwhelming psychedelic insanity that bands in the 60’s only dared approach with a thick wall of dry-humor.
Chapter IV: Enter the Black Demon is the other song on the EP which I need to share. As kind of the musical apex, it opens with a flurry guitar notes and drum beats which melt into one another as if it all were riding on the edge of a massive volcanic explosion. A long howl does very nicely at indicating the mood at the current point in the story, and a second singer is implemented to represent the ‘black demon’.
The main vocalist and protagonist of the story fights for his sanity here with his confrontation with ‘black demon’ “Bang Bang Bang Bang, the thoughts in your head taking hold.” The representation of madness seen here is dealt with a passion that demands respect. A short heavy screaming part (MURDER) segues into a light and upbeat bridge. “Explanations turn to Explanations which turn to Explorations.” It gears you for a intense guitar solo which builds heavily into an abrupt and again peaceful ending.
The contrast between the endings and the rest of the songs on this album make for beautiful metaphors, kind of like sailing on the seas which one day are calm, the next stormy.
This sort of epic EP, with a length of only 37 minutes, is best enjoyed in a full sitting. Only then will you be able to truly appreciate a masterpiece of this sort of mood, which is actually very new to musical scene and is very psychedelic in nature. Just the screams alone convey a feeling which is truly hard to replicate any other way and even show a definite level of commitment to the music based on the negative effects of screaming. The sheer range of emotions in this EP creates an openness of interpretation which allows any listener enjoy it like a custom tailored movie experience.
Side- Note: If you are someone who refuses to listen to this because of the screaming then keep this in mind. Phantom on the Horizon is actually a remake of the band’s much earlier Ghostship demos. The demos were essentially the same songs, minus chapter three, much shorter, and a lot more raw. There is even a debate on the internet about which version is better, with supporters of the latter saying that the new release is way too tame for their tastes. In my opinion both are great in their own regards, and if you are willing to compare the two I will link the original version of chapter four down below. Just remember, screamed vocals are quite the… acquired taste… and please, for the love of god, don’t automatically associate them with ‘screamo’.