If you’re not in the market for a lesson in humility, stay far away from Doppelgänger, the second album from progressive hardcore unit the Fall of Troy. Over forty-five minutes of musical math class, the band proves a million times over that it’s way better than your band will ever be. The nutsoid fretwork is faster, the breakdowns are heavier, the screamed vocals more violent, the melodic hooks more uplifting. Plus, each of the three band members is younger than twenty-one. What the hell have you been doing with your life? Go practice, slacker.
Thing is, the band is a little too good. Like that loquacious friend who spouts the most brilliant ideas but just won’t shut up, the Fall of Troy chains together a blur of impossibly complex motifs and refuses to commit to any of them. “The Hol[ ]y Tape” is the sound of musical Tourette’s syndrome: tiny rifflets, drum fills and time changes erupt unannounced in almost every passage, forcing the song to lurch forward in a convoluted fit. The speedy cascade of notes at the beginning might score guitarist/singer Thomas Erak a spot on the next G3 tour, but seeing as it’s totally unrelated to the rest of the song, it comes off as pure indulgence.
All this might not sound so appealing to those of us who say “no” to Yes, but the Fall of Troy brings more than just prog-rock pretense to the table. Erak’s virtuosic guitar lines dance decorative arabesques rather than arrogantly shred their way into the spotlight. And the guitar frippery rarely overshadows the band’s prowess for massive pop hooks. With a soaring emo chorus and a stunning instrumental section that radiates momentum rather than stifling it, “F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X.” is a Mars Volta epic distilled to four gloriously concise minutes. It’s as memorable a rock song as you’ll hear all year.
The four rearranged old songs on Doppelgänger confirm the Fall of Troy has improved immeasurably since releasing its undercooked eponymous debut in 2003 (tapping Foo Fighters producer Barrett Jones definitely helped). New songs such as “Tom Waits” are even better, succinctly welding the most extreme elements of Seattle-area brethren Botch and the Blood Brothers then ratcheting up the craziness to near-Dillinger Escape Plan levels. Fall of Troy is still too young a band to realize that constant sensory overload gets tiring pretty quick, but it’s refreshing to hear its members tear through such complicated music with the joy of discovery rather than self-seriousness.