REVIEW: Trophy Scars – ‘Holy Vacants’

trophy scars feature

Artist: Trophy Scars
Album: Holy Vacants
Genre: Rock, Blues, Post-Hardcore
Label: Monotreme Records

Ambitious, high-concept records are nothing new in progressive post-hardcore. La Dispute and A Lot Like Birds have built careers on albums with deep, involved storylines, and Boys Night Out’s 2005 magnum opus, Trainwreck, is one of the genre’s crowning achievements, but the premise of Holy Vacants, the fourth full-length from Morristown, New Jersey natives Trophy Scars, makes its predecessors look like child’s play. Set in a world where angels walk the earth and hold the fountain of youth in their blood, Holy Vacants combines mythology and religion with a varied and technical musical palette to create one of year’s most engaging and intriguing albums.

The central arc of Holy Vacants follows two lovers who set out to kill as many angels as they can, drinking their blood in an attempt to live forever. The first half of the album features their Bonnie and Clyde-style exploits, which end in a tragic murder-suicide at the midpoint. The latter half finds the couple living as ghosts, haunting a young family’s new house and lamenting the choices that took them from simpler human lives into a purgatory where they will inevitably be forgotten.

There is something distinctly cinematic about vocalist Jerry Jones’s storytelling. It’s not hard to imagine how the action sequences of “Qeres” or the haunting described from the ghosts’ perspective in “Gutted” would look on the big screen. His characters and the world they inhabit are vividly realized in “Archangel” and the beautifully nostalgic “Every City, Vacant.” There are occasional missteps, like the scenes revolving around the characters as ghosts, which seem to go on just a bit too long, but on the whole, Holy Vacants succeeds as a concept record.

Of course, this is music, and even the most intriguing and well-crafted story alone won’t save a bad album. Fortunately, Trophy Scars fans have absolutely nothing to worry about in that department. The quintet fires on all cylinders throughout Holy Vacants, drawing influence from classic progressive bands like Yes and Rush as well as modern blues, psychedelic rock, and post-hardcore to create a unique fusion of styles and sounds to complement each chapter of Jones’ story, not without the help of massive multi-instrumental arrangements from various musicians recruited to amplify Holy Vacants‘ undeniable theatricality. Jones himself displays impressive vocal chops throughout the album, ranging from silky croon to a deep, bluesy roar, often in the same song — not to mention a guest spot from Fear Before’s Adam Fisher on “Chicago Typewriter” and a slew of wildly talented female vocalists that contribute throughout the entirety of the album. To top it off, the excellent production ensures that every guitar lick, bass line, and organ chord shines through the mix.

Unlike many of their peers and influences, Trophy Scars rarely slide into self-indulgence. The songs are long, with a couple pushing seven minutes, but they don’t feel bloated, and the band’s vision is fairly clear even in their most technical passages. In almost every way, Holy Vacants is a meticulously crafted record that rewards repeated listens, so don’t let it slip under your radar.

SCORE: 9/10
Review written by Troy Sennett (follow him on Twitter)

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