Monday, 14 March 2022


Storytelling via the medium of a whole rock album is nothing new The Small Faces (Ogden's Nut Gone Flake), The Beatles (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) and The Pretty Things (S.F. Sorrow) all, to differing extents, wrote and released albums loosely based around central themes or "concepts", however it was The Who's "Tommy", a tale telling of the rise and fall of a pinball playing deaf, dumb and blind boy, that really captured the public's imagination and took the "concept album" to a whole different level. We as people love a good story and we also love a good tune so when The Who's Pete Townshend combined the two together in what he described as a "rock opera" we lapped it up. Unfortunately we as a people also have a tendency for taking things a little too far and when the prog bands of the mid-seventies threw their hats into the concept pool things started to get a little too highbrow and over complicated. Despite the excesses of the seventies the art of storytelling albums has remained popular to this day and especially within the confines of our own doom/stoner/psych scene. 

New Jersey's Troll Teeth love to tell a good tale and in 2020 they released, to much acclaim, "Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing" a sci-fi themed opus telling of a doomed mission to a distant planet laid out like the pages of a book, a story with a beginning, a middle and an end with each song working as a chapter in that story. This year the band return with "Hanged, Drawn & Quartered" an album not concerned with giant spiders and a failing space crew but one that asks us to question our place and role in society and also that of our leaders.

Given that "Hanged, Drawn & Quartered" is inspired by Achille Mbembe's book "Necropolitics", a tome that theorises about those in power keeping certain populations in a state of subjugation in order to control and then eventually eliminate them, it is clear that this is not going to be an album packed with happy clappy songs of love and peace. Having said this, "Hanged, Drawn & Quartered" is not an album weighed down by by its theme, yes the lyrical content is dark, sometimes accusing, often angry but the weightiness of those lyrics is not always reflected in the music that surrounds them. Songs like "Hand Me Down", an angry tirade aimed at those who hold the power by one who holds an empty belly, the superb "Expect Nothing, Receive Nothing", with its beautiful acoustic section and sweet but mournful vocal, and the jazz tinted "Your Hands Are Red" all have moments where the gloom and doom suddenly lifts and rare glimmers of light are allowed to seep through, those moments often coming courtesy of Peter "Pretty Boy" Trafalski's fleet fingered guitar work, his solo's drawing mainly from the blues but also from many other sources. Trafalski's, crunching riffs and sterling lead work are perfectly matched by J.W. "Moe" Eccles mix of growling and liquid bass as well as his superbly delivered vocals, which are as clean and clear as they are powerful, while Kyle "Thuds Mackenzie" Applebaum lives up to his nickname by supplying Bonham-esque percussive thunder to the albums heavier moments and jazzy subtlety to its quieter periods. Together these three musicians bring a musicality to a story that might otherwise have been dragged down by its heavy subject matter the band using elements of the blues, hard rock and prog(ish) metal as a musical framework for what is an extremely intelligent and thought provoking concept. 

Political, intelligent and provocative lyrics framed in grooves that are heavy but never brutal, "Hanged, Drawn & Quartered" may not be the sci-fi sequel we might have been expecting as the follow up to "Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing" but it is a story that needs to be heard and one that may make you look at your world, and your place in that world, in a whole new light.
Check it out ....

© 2022 Frazer Jones

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