The Fall Of Troy

Manipulator

Written by: PP on 04/06/2007 17:01:40

The Fall Of Troy's "Manipulator" was always going to be one of the most difficult albums to review this year because of its drastic departure from the sound of 2005's "Doppelgänger". At the risk of losing a large portion of their original fanbase, guitar virtuoso Thomas Erak and co have made their guitars cleaner and less erratic, while at the same time made their sound overall much more complex and mature. There's no question about whether the band has taken a quantum leap in artistic development and evolved as composers up to a level most bands never reach, but the concern amongst many fans has been if that's what we really want from The Fall Of Troy?

The new direction is immediately audible on the first song "Cut Down All The Trees And Name The Streets After Them", where the first thing you notice is the absence of the impossible virtuoso guitar scales that "Doppelgänger" opener "I Just Got This Symphony Goin'" had. In their place is some impressive riffage that needs some time to get acquinted with, mostly because of the initial shock-effect that the change has on you. But towards the end of the song Erak returns to his crazy shriek-like screams, and the song explodes into a slightly more unpredictable guitar sequence that builds up to the explosive final shriek "FOR-NI-CATE!". The next song "The Dark Trail" starts off rapidly with equally explosive screams "Light up the moon!", making it one of the most impressive song transitions I've heard to date. It's not all screaming though, and its structure almost precisely mirrors the one on the previous track, albeit with a slightly more complicated guitar line towards the end of the song. Though these two are different from what we are used to from the band, they still aren't as radical as the next track "Quarter Past", which in the words of our scribe TL "is the perfect fusion of soul into the sound of TFOT", and along with the later acoustic track "Caught Up" is by far the largest piece their fanbase will have to try to swallow during the album.

Aptly titled "Problem!?" is the first track where the band returns into something resembling its earlier style, with manic pace and stupendously raucous guitarwork, complete with Erak's signature high pitch screaming where you constantly fear for his vocal chords bursting into pieces, as if to make a statement "do you have a problem with what we did on the first three tracks?" "Semi-Fiction" then is the complete opposite of that track, being a more riff based song with breakdowns and beatdowns halting the clean parts unexpectedly, variating between the smooth riffs and ridiculously complex passages.

So we're five songs in and here's where I'm thinking so far so good, but I'm yet to be dazzled other than by "Problem!?" and the superb transition between the first and the second track. Fortunately TFOT had anticipated this and quickly raise their profile with "Oh, The Casino!", in my opinion the best track on the album, and its groovy-as-fuck riffs that demonstrate both the new direction of the band as well as their eccentric songwriting from the older albums. What then follows is a six minute beast of a song, "Sledgehammer", that lives up to its title. The number of transitions in this song is too big to describe effectively in a review, but lets just say that artistically this is one of the (many) pinnacles of "Manipulator". "Seattlantis", the song the band first released on Myspace, is the first one where Erak sound pleasantly off-tune in parts of his singing, but even so, along with "Oh, The Casino!", the song is among the very best on this album because it mixes TFOT's ability to write uniquely structured melodies with contrasting factors like erratic screaming and unpredictability over what comes after each note. Honestly, you can never be sure if TFOT will go up or down on a scale, or whether they'll insist on destroying you with a breakdown or soothing you with a perfect melody in the next passage, and this is nicely demonstrated on various parts of this song. "Ex-Creations" is another favorite of mine because of the cosmic sound in the guitars that is coupled with oscillation usually home to the modern hardcore scene.

"Manipulator" by definition is an intensely volatile album, that hangs together by a thread. Just one or two notes different and the bell would gong as the sign of the band being knocked out on the first round, but at the same time, in its current form, it is as near artistic perfection as the band could possibly reach at this stage of their career. One example of the volatility is my constantly changing opinion about the album: one day I'll like the first half better, and the next day I'll find that it stands no chance against the strong second half. But at the same time, I hardly ever have a moment where I think the entire album is just amazing, partly because it does come across as unbalanced or at the very least incoherent because of the vast number of different genre-influences Erak's bunch has packed together into a single album. But in any case, "Manipulator" is one of the better - I hesitantly hint towards best - albums this year, although it is an acquired taste and requires hours of active listening before it can be understood fully.

8

Download: "Oh, The Casino!", "Ex-Creations", "The Dark Trail"
For the fans of: The Blood Brothers, Heavy Heavy Low Low, The Mars Volta, Fear Before The March Of Flames
Listen: Myspace

Release date 01.05.2007
Equal Vision
Provided by Target ApS

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