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Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants Album Cover

Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

Reviewed by
8.0
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants
Record Label: Monotreme
Release Date: May 6, 2014

Every now and then you need something a little brainy in your speakers, something a bit more challenging, heady. Holy Vacants, the latest album from New Jersey quintet Trophy Scars is such an album.

The album opens with John Ferrara’s ominous guitar and shortly after Jerry Jones steps to the mic and delivers an even darker and reckless portrait of a night gone terribly wrong. Ferrara continues to wail on his guitar and the song snakes along with a precision and rhythm that can only come from years spent canvassing the country in pursuit of the ever-elusive dream. In the song’s latter stages, Jones lets out his trademark growl before yielding to a crop of gospel singers, and bam, the song finishes. And then, Trophy Scars, the unwieldy punk veterans this site has come to know and love, try and shut it all down on the dizzying, concussive and multi-layered seven-minute effort “Qeres.”

Propelled by the band’s crunching rhythm section and Jones’ possessed vocals, the song spits and kicks with wanton disregard, but not before pausing to let airy horns make repeated ten-second cameos. At only the three-minute mark the song already feels like a kick to the ribs, but the quintet shows little signs of slowing down. At the four minute mark, Ferrara begins to noodle away on his guitar, the horns kick in and Jones starts furiously spouting off. Organist Gary Reinhard takes to his keys and sends the song to the stratosphere, with Jones caterwauling in the latter seconds like a calf being slaughtered.

The tempo of “Extant” returns on the haunting and vindictive “Archangel,” a snarky kiss-off that finds Jones coiling in rage while his air-tight rhythm section keeps the song tottering forward. Those intrepid horns enter the frame at the minute mark and “Archangel” lurches forward. As evil-spirited a breakup song as any released this year, “Archangel” is a bruising, battering ram of torment and heartache that stakes its claim as one of the strongest songs the band has written to date.

One of the album’s underlying themes is the nature of phobias and how to navigate or delineate the layers of spirituality, an initiative which receives three songs over the duration of the disc. The first of those is “Crystallaphobia,” a song which gives guest vocalist Desiree Saetia twenty brief seconds to display her winning vocals and Jones ample opportunity to revisit the heartbreak of its predecessor. Jones is not shy of illustrating his sinister nature and makes that front-and-center on the downright evil cut “Burning Mirror,” a multi-layered affair that packs almost as much punch as “Qeres” and finds guitarist Ferrara once again pummeling away at his instrument. Holy Vacants’ second song in the phobia trilogy is “Hagiophobia,” a skittering and positively haunting slice of horror-movie torment that is equal parts poetic, chill-inducing and deeply disturbing. Often times art can be seen as theater or entertainment and perhaps that’s the end goal with “Hagiophobia.”

Arguably the album’s most direct and immediate efforts are “Chicago Typewriter” and “Vertigo.” The former is a bleak and bleary-eyed effort that revisits much of the same themes as its predecessors but does so in a way that feels more engaging, more long-lasting and definitively more accessible. Moreover, the horns, which have not been heard since “Archangel,” re-enter the picture and their presence in the song’s latter stages makes for one of the album’s most inspired and memorable moments. “Vertigo” on the other hand is hard-hitting and urgent effort and has its biggest takeaway in the form of a cadre of vocals in the song’s final seconds.

The disc’s back half propels forward with the snarling “Gutted,” the deeply pained “Every City, Vacant” and the album’s apex moment, the brilliant and deeply memorable “Everything Disappearing.” On the latter, Reinhard’s well-placed organ meld intricately with Brian Ferrara’s drums and Jones’ strongest vocals to date. Those three factors combined with David Rimelis’ indelible violin reel and an absolutely mesmerizing final three minutes help accentuate why Trophy Scars are a band well worth the investment. The final song of both the album and the phobia trilogy is “Nyctophobia,” a supple acoustic effort with vocals from Gabrielle Maya Abramson. While the song is an intimate, restrained and cute way to end an album it feels horribly misplaced here and makes for a rather awkward conclusion.

From front to back, Holy Vacants is a visceral, fist-pumping cornucopia of rage, terror, disappointment and instability. But its lasting impact will probably come from the hordes of listeners who are struggling with two distinct yet not dissimilar problems: a lack of faith and navigating heartbreak. And while Holy Vacants is at times quite exemplary, the band’s insistence on driving home those messages often seems both histrionic, redundant and tacked on. Be that as it may, they have crafted an album that will leave plenty talking and even more thinking.

In the end, maybe that’s all they are after.

Recommended if You Like Uhhh, I have no idea, The Mars Volta, Dredg, The Saddest Landscape, Minus the Bear, Brand New


Trophy Scars is Andy Farrell: bass
Brian Ferrara: drums
John Ferrara: gutiar
Jerry Jones: vocals
Gary Reinhard: piano, organ, mellotron, moog


Tracklisting 1. Extant (3:14)
2. Qeres (6:59)
3. Archangel (5:41)
4. Crystallaphobia (4:34)
5. Burning Mirror (4:47)
6. Hagiophobia (4:58)
7. Chicago Typewriter (4:35)
8. Vertigo (2:10)
9. Gutted (5:27)
10. Every City, Vacant (5:35)
11. Everything Disappearing (6:28)
12. Nyctophobia (1:07)

Produced by Chris Badami
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 19
12:04 PM on 05/01/14
#2
Bryan GribbIe
"Don't get hit"- Isai
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Rating is way, way too long.

Someone had to say it.

Edit: Review is also awesome, by the way.
04:14 PM on 05/01/14
#3
Quijiba
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I'm undecided about this band. Someone recommend a must listen song or two to me. I feel like I should really be into this band
07:14 AM on 05/02/14
#4
WhatJulianSaid
News on Once the Clouds are Gone
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I'm undecided about this band. Someone recommend a must listen song or two to me. I feel like I should really be into this band

I wish I could but I've been the same way for years, ill never understand
07:21 AM on 05/02/14
#5
Alex DiVincenzo
www.alexislegend.com
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Great review. This band keeps evolving and improving with time.
07:33 AM on 05/02/14
#6
Alex DiVincenzo
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I'm undecided about this band. Someone recommend a must listen song or two to me. I feel like I should really be into this band
If you're into the post hardcore stuff: "Assistant. Assistants." from Alphabet. Alphabets.
If you're into the newer bluesy/experimental stuff: "Chicago Typewriter" from Holy Vacants
If you want something in between: "Botanicas" from Bad Luck or "Messengers" from Never Born Never Dead
08:55 AM on 05/02/14
#7
TylerHartman
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I remember ore-ordering Alphabet Alphabets back in 2006...one of those bands, who were just next-level compared to anything of any kind of remote "similarity" in sound. Looking forward to listening to this. That being said, I don't think that today's music scene is ready to make this band as big as they deserve to be. And that's sad.
10:17 AM on 05/02/14
#8
Your Milkshake
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I remember ore-ordering Alphabet Alphabets back in 2006...one of those bands, who were just next-level compared to anything of any kind of remote "similarity" in sound. Looking forward to listening to this. That being said, I don't think that today's music scene is ready to make this band as big as they deserve to be. And that's sad.
sputnik is praising the shit out of this. wouldnt surprise me if ppl on this site were apethetic towards this music

dem blues licks doe
10:38 AM on 05/02/14
#9
mycuban
hermits.bandcamp.com
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I love this album. My one issue was that awkward last song, glad I'm not alone on that one, nice review.
10:39 AM on 05/02/14
ratsforcandy
i miss the seasons..
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Absolutely incredible record. Can't get enough. The recommended bands made me laugh
10:57 AM on 05/02/14
Your Milkshake
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yeah riyl is completely off
11:06 AM on 05/02/14
Your Milkshake
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riyl should be "imagine if Tom Waits fronted an experimental bluesy post hardcore band with horns, organs, and strings with weird ass lyrics"
11:42 AM on 05/02/14
lilRIPsta
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Great review. Score's too low
11:48 AM on 05/02/14
ratsforcandy
i miss the seasons..
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riyl should be "imagine if Tom Waits fronted an experimental bluesy post hardcore band with horns, organs, and strings with weird ass lyrics"
Ha basically, I was thinking Tom Waits
04:01 PM on 05/02/14
SLADE775
Still the greatest
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I have always been a huge advocate for TC and their work. I just received the vinyl and it's very well done. It's great to have the lyrics too. I still haven't connected with this album the way I did with AA or Bad Luck. The songs are solid and well written but there's just something missing. Hopefully a full listen with the lyrics in hand will help.

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