History’s Been Kind, and the Future’s Bright and Sunny
Thomas Erak and Andrew Forsman are young, both 25, recording since they were 17 and no doubt inspired by their Washington state-inherited grunginess. Back then they were The 30 Years War, getting that name by dropping a finger into a history textbook—the same way they got their current moniker. In The Unlikely Event is their fourth and strongest album to date with a good deal of complexity and diversity of sound.
Comparisons will be drawn between this trio and tour partners Coheed and Cambria, but there’s something more straightforward about these younger prog-metal professionals. Several of the best tracks on Unlikely Event sound like less fussy versions of C&C songs, such as the strong “Single.” The sometimes heavy and almost always churning and distorted guitars and steady metal drumming of Forsman are trademarks of several of their contemporaries. Erak’s vocals don’t even approach Claudio Sanchez’s howl, but this is a good thing for Erak; his voice is ultimately listenable and compelling. Only on the second track, “Straight-Jacket Keelhauled” does he really tear up his vocal chords and merge into screamo for a second. This is deceptive because beyond this and “Nobody’s Perfect,” a screamer for the ages, the rest of the record isn’t nearly as hard.
The album is helmed by Terry Date, best known for producing Soundgarden, Pantera, Limp Bizkit and—perhaps closest in sound to The Fall of Troy—Deftones. For “Dirty Pillow Talk,” a tempo-changing progged-out winner, the boys recruited Rody Walker from Protest the Hero for vocals as well as Ryann Donnelly of Schoolyard Heroes. Another standout is “The Battleship Graveyard,” with a lengthy guitar-heavy breakdown full of effects and solos. It’s on songs like this one that they resemble current prog-metal heroes like Isis, Mastadon and The Mars Volta.
It’s a tough balance: metal that’s artful, intriguing and not overly epic. It’s also tough to wrap your head around a conceptual album, especially if the singing and playing isn’t so exceptional. That’s not to say The Fall of Troy are ultimately simple. Erak is a gifted musician, a capable songwriter, guitar player and drummer from a musical family (including his Eagles session-player dad), and in work like the slow, beautiful “Webs” he puts his chops on display. These guys are young, yet with four albums under their belt and huge tours behind them it will be a trip to watch as they mature and move beyond their peers.