Band: Trophy Scars
Title: Darkness, Oh Hell
Released: October 26th 2010
Producer: Self produced
Trophy Scars’ last album Bad Luck is one of my favourite albums of all time. It had the perfect mix of musicianship, storytelling and theatrics and I remember at the time thinking ‘how do you top that? Where, as a band, can you go from here?’ 5 track EP Darkness, Oh Hell is their answer (technically 6 tracks, but one is an intro).
‘Nausea’, the album’s real opener, bursts in with a blues-tinged guitar riff and a horn section, signalling early on where Trophy Scars have taken their music this time around. There were hints of blues on the last album, but this EP takes that to another level. We’re treated to more horn sections, great guitar ‘noodling’ and even more piano as the songs progress and it’s a combination that works extremely well and offers something fresh in this sub-genre.
Vocally, I’ve always considered Jerry Jones’ delivery as words being channelled through a series of different characters. On opening track Nausea, I feel as though he made a mistake with his casting. The gruff, throaty persona that he uses on this track detracts from the music and the amount of screen time that he gives this character drags on for too long, making an otherwise dynamic song sound a little monotone. Title track ‘Darkness, Oh Hell’ carries on the theme of linearity, as the song sticks close to a constant theme that becomes repetitive. At the end of this track, you’re left wondering whether the band have purposely chosen to be more simplistic with the songs on this EP, in the wake of such a complex and detailed performance on predecessor Bad Luck.
In typical Trophy Scars fashion, as soon as you think you’ve figured them out, they make you think again. ‘Trazodone’ changes the dynamic by starting small and progressing into a melting pot of different layers and emotions that typifies Trophy Scars’ music. Things go from strength to strength with the proceeding ‘Sad Stanley’ and ‘Time in Heaven; Forever in Hell’, as the band continue to blast out their blues-tinged riffing and Jerry’s full ensemble of cast members is fully utilised.
Like any piece of music that Trophy Scars puts out, this EP is unlikely to hit you straight away. It took a few listens to orientate myself with the style and to appreciate the way the songs progressively improve as the EP plays out. The whole thing reminds me of the 5-scene format that typifies a Shakespearian play. The first track sets the scene and introduces our main character, before the second unveils the inciting event that sets the tone for what’s to come. Things come to a head in track three, as all of our characters interact to create the mid-section reversal, the emotional reactions of which are explored in scene four. The final track is the best one yet, bringing a final big hurrah and closing out the threads that came before it. Looked at through this lens, Darkness, Oh Hell is a fantastic response to an album that I thought impossible to follow.
If Bad Luck was the band’s major motion picture, Darkness, Oh Hell is their attempt at taking their art to the theatres. Whilst it’s not without its problems – it’s slow to get started and too one dimensional in the opening two scenes – they’ve made an excellent debut and I look forward to seeing what they next bring to the stage.