The mythologically-inclined post-hardcore… blues?

Holy Vacants is the 4th album by the New Jersey band Trophy Scars. It’s one of the most conceptual notable pieces of music out last year to the general public, and it will send the mythology, religion and conspiracy-interested crowd into fits of reference-induced joy.

The album was originally envisioned as a 35-page screenplay – “a bizarre cocktail of albumvacantsmythology, ancient religion and conspiration theory surrounding the Nephilitic gene” – about two lovers who discover the formula for Qeres: the only substance to kill angels and Nephilites, their offspring with humans, and the fact that the blood of angels is the fountain of youth. In a convenient and perhaps cartoonish turn of events, the couple decide to go on a killing spree to maintain themselves young.

The album is riddled with graphic depictions of the lovers’ journey, which is layered with lush vocal choirs and voices other than Jerry Jones’s alternating growling and melodic voice, effect which is specially memorable in Crystallophobia. The presence of these choirs helps differentiate the different characters in this story and leads on the mythical-religious concept amazingly well for obvious reasons.

What’s also sonically notable about this record is the almost effortless blending of the blues-psychedelic guitar work into the post-hardcore background the band has used listeners to – from the catchy riffs to the great solo work by the guitar and the booming bass, it’s completely irreprehensible and should please fans of both genres. A great highlight in this regard is the 7-minute epic, Qeres, precisely about the angel-killing substance already mentioned. One can even say that a very characteristic and refreshing middle-ground was found between the two approaches, with the adding of organs, Moogs and a lot, a lot of brass.

The lyrical work borders on perhaps too embellished and might come off to some as pretentious, but we’re slapped across the face with some charmingly ridiculous lines that kind of bring us back to more honestly perceived ideas:

Oh, girl
Now that you know
Practicing voodoo is not my M.O.

As the album goes on, the deterioration in the lovers’ relationship starts to become more and more apparent, maybe as Jones’s testament to denial and wanting to delusionally drag on something that was doomed to begin with – symbolized by the fountain of youth in the angels’ blood.

In the end, there’s Nyctophobia, the fear of the dark, which signifies the demise of our protagonists and symbolically the end of this relationship: they’re finally free from the devil and the God, stuck in limbo, their souls aging past their appearance… all with a heartbreaking voice mail in the background that probably relates to Jones’s own experience with a passing relationship.

And so it does, as the singer and lyricist with a major in screen writing has since spoken about it in very clear terms:

“When it boils down to it, the themes are applicable to romantic love songs. The album was really an exorcism of a relationship with a girl I had proposed to, and it was about being so in love with somebody that they literally destroy you. The only way I know how to go through that kind of therapy doisis to present it as art. I had to write the album as a way of exorcising this person from my mind and soul. I wanted a Bonnie and Clyde-type story, because I’ve always loved that. There’s something beautiful about the idea of rebelling together against something and losing yourself in the rebellion to the extent that it destroys your life. It’s the doomed romanticism thing.”

It’s an over-the-top, all-over-the-place ride that still manages to be cohesive and keep a clear theme and goal in mind, and for that it deserves absolute praise for being one of the most flat-out interesting releases in 2014. We will see if this is the definite release for Trophy Scars, as they were planning, or if the collective will surprise us with more enthralling stuff.

Monk Xavier

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