Trophy Scars - Darkness, Oh Hell (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Trophy Scars

Darkness, Oh Hell (2010)


It's wild how Trophy Scars have been the quiet underdogs of, well, no one's scene for nearly a decade now. The New Jersey band began as a slightly spazzy and ill-tempered post-hardcore act influenced by the likes of Thursday, the Blood Brothers and Bright Eyes on their first full-length, the long buried Darts to the Sea in 2003; by the time the band had released their third LP, 2009's Bad Luck, they'd evolved into some strange stew of progressive punk, blues, lounge, classic rock, and light psychedelia. It was a sound that, while it didn't always compel, it often confounded, and its originality was striking enough to make it an approvable success. Their most recent EP, Darkness, Oh Hell, essentially picks up where that last album left off, and it results largely the same way.

"Sauvez-moi De L'Enfer" begins with rainfall, an omnious piano and French, female sung vocals singing the general theme of the record. Then she translates it for us ("Save me from hell") before frontman Jerry Jones comes in with his froggy mutter. That's when "Nausea" busts through with its big-band psychedelia; then a bluesy guitar riff and Jones' gravelly, Tom Waits hat-tip vocals begin to guide the jaunty number...all while the jazzy piano plinks in the background. This is largely Trophy Scars' M.O.: a cornucopia of styles smoothly blended into one, with a slightly sinister drive.

The surprisingly major-key title-ish track proceeds along a pretty standard blues progression, though it contrasts with some demonic, loosely cheesy imagery ("lurking in the floorboards / for a body I can own"). It's a little easier to get lost in the climactic bustle of "Trazodone", but the subtle phasing and dizzier acoustic integration of the slowly grinding "Sad Stanley" is interesting. Their last full-length, 2006's Alphabet. Alphabets. had this strange issue where every song felt like it was winding the album was persistently coming to a close. They've long since rectified that issue, and closer "Time in Heaven, Forever in Hell" is finally a specific spot where that feel is appropriate.

While the theme of the record is delivered a little vaguely, it's the singular lines that represent both Jones' and his band's personal touch attempting to extend to greater meaning: "I remember ['American Pie'] as a kid, / and how I was affected. / Everyone is connected. / Everyone feels estranged in this world." More often than not, he manages to articulately put everything in a greater context.

This is yet another very solid entry in Trophy Scars' growing discography. While it seems as though they've yet to either really break through or come up with the "scene classic" they're so obviously capable of (which would probably help the former), the band hasn't missed a beat for a very long time.

Darkness, Oh Hell EP