Album Review: Trophy Scars – “Astral Pariah” (Post Hardcore)

Written by Melinda

Trophy scars – Astral Pariah
Post Hardcore/Progressive blues from New Jersey, USA
Released September 10, 2021

I am the blanket of death between the moon and the stars

One of my all time favourite post hardcore bands are still going strong with their new progressive blues style of very-post-hardcore that I have enjoyed watching them develop over the last decade of releases. I adore their earlier post hardcore emo orientated stuff with rap elements like Alphabet. Alphabets. from 2006 but this maturity of sound fits them so damn well and is full of elegance. The first time I remember hearing their style switch was the Darkness, Oh Hell EP in 2010 which featured some of the most infectious and powerful vocals of their entire career. The vibe of that EP is in full swing here with bluesy gang vocals screaming impactful lyrics to swinging guitars and drums but this is by far their most psychedelic country tinged release to date.

Something I’ve always swooned about with Trophy Scars are the lyrics and I’m glad to say the overall voice that’s been present since the start is till here and in its most cosmic form yet. There’s a poetic casualness to a lot of the lines, often using conversational turns of phrase and exclamations that things are “bullshit”. Then there are super personal profoundly tragic lines centred around the family and the self. The songs feel like an ongoing dialogue trying to flesh something out or come to terms with it over a series of stories in fits of rage, sorrow and acceptance. The voice swells in excitement for bombastic peaks backed by massive instrumentals, and when it settles, it whispers romantically through space and time.

There’s so much control and vision here compared to their oldest material which was a bit more of a loose assortment of chaotic proggy licks like a punk rock version of Fall Of Troy. In this and their recent albums you can really hear the years upon years of playing together and syncing completely in order to produce the biggest version of their sound yet. The whole album feels the head of a spear hurling towards the sun with no ability to stop, nor any intent to. I am wondering if they have taken this sound to its full extent now. Perhaps their next work will reach new directions even further or perhaps they will somehow one up themselves yet again. The important thing is, we have more new music from Trophy Scars right now.

The song that will ensure maximum hair raising goosebumps is “Mother” with it’s dynamic mix of vocals and lines like “You may be a man, but you’re still just a boy to me” and the ending passage that concludes this little story within an album of stories:

And I can’t even help but laugh
My shotgun will cut you in half –

The shotgun I have in my….
So it’s true what they say about you?
You’re really that fast, my boy?
You’re a man… and now I can’t…
Feel my face… my face… can’t feel anything

The story telling aspect combined with the progressive composition reminds me a lot of The Mars Volta and even The Protomen or The Dear Hunter but with much more of a grizzled edge to the sound stemming from their hardcore origins. Many bands go in new directions completely, and sometimes it works and sometimes it alienates a huge portion of the fan base but Trophy Scars sound never disappeared, it simply mutated gloriously. You can still hear the *person* from the original albums, much in the way I look back on my old writing and see something so familiar and yet so much more unrefined compared to now. It still contains the essence in a way that feels true.

The Bottom Line

A lot of the music I listen to is very sad, capable of putting me in an unproductive hole all day where I just sit in the vibe and use my heart so much that it gradually removes braincells. Astral Pariah is full of emotion but it’s stirring in a different way, almost as if it refills my heart and gives me inspiration. It’s restless and agonised but in some way it also gets it all out and transcends above it, or if “Cosmic Suicide” is anything to go by for an ending track, perhaps transcends “out of it” is more accurate. It has been beautiful to sit by listening to this band put out album after album since I was a teenager and developing alongside them in some spiritual way.

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