We’ve all heard some variant on the expression that there can be no light without darkness. Beauty does not now, nor has it ever existed in a vacuum. There is a perpetual ying and yang that subsists in the natural world, that is sewn into the very fiber of our beings from birth. Plenty of musical acts attempt to tap into this wonderment, this juxtaposition of light and darkness, this natural resource so easily gleaned from deep within us all. Yet, no act seizes it, molds it and redelivers it to us with such aplomb the way Austin’s dark wave trio Troller do on their newest album, Graphic.
It’s been four years since Troller’s self-titled debut caused a stir amongst fans of all things dark and heavy. While not a metal album per se, its shadowy essence and overall sonic opaqueness struck a chord with both metal and non-metal fans alike. The last four years have seen Troller holed up scheming and birthing the follow-up album. While the initial thought was that their debut was going to be tough to top, the end result of further honing their chops is nothing short of a masterwork in its own right. Graphic is everything their debut album was, only amplified. It’s catchier, it’s sleeker, and yet it’s somehow heavier and more oppressive as well.
The primal aesthetics of synth-laden dark wave are slathered all over this album. Tracks like “Not Here” and the title track are visceral displays of humanity’s seedy underbelly, drenched in both cheeky naughtiness and something altogether more sinister. They play out like a couple attempting bondage play for the first time, filled with both excitement and fear as they explore the side of themselves they never knew existed in the light of day.
The synth, drum machine, bass combo that Troller employ has the knack of being completely unsettling when they allow it to be. By design, often times only the ethereal and angelic-like voice of Amber Star-Goers saves Troller from being completely lost in a depressive landscape – albeit a gorgeous one. However there are moments when Troller’s softer side makes an appearance. The track “Torch” is almost poppy in its presentation, wholly danceable and the most likely candidate to gain the ‘accessible’ tag for those who fear true introspection. “Storm Maker” on the other hand is an altogether alluring affair, equal parts radiant and mysterious, and something not unlike a track you’d expect to hear in the new Twin Peaks reboot, with its silky-smooth vocals gliding along a landscape of smoky, sonic mysticism.
A trip around the Internet will score you multiple references to the earliest Cocteau Twins output when comparing this album to something tangible. While the similarities are there, they are often times only surface-level – lush female vocals, trippy sonic landscapes, a penchant for all things “post” (either rock or punk or both). In the end though, and on some much deeper level, Troller have delivered an album that is wholly memorable in its own right. It’s an album that can seem to seep directly into those cervices in your brain that cause you to feel love, loss, and passion. An album that, if allowed, will leave an indelible mark and one that should be allowed to with as many beginning to end listens as you can muster.
Graphic is out now, with a CD version delivered by the good folks at Crucial Blast Records. You can experience and purchase the album at the Troller Bandcamp page.