Twenty Nine-Scene #1: THE FALL OF TROY - Doppelgänger (2005)
The year 2019 is now Twenty Nine-Scene. Join Two Minutes to Late Night co-creator Drew Kaufman as he looks at back at the seminal albums that defined what it meant to be someone who lived for -core between the years 1999 to 2009.Screamo, power violence, mall metal-whatever you called it.
Do these albums still live up to their hype, or are they beautiful little time capsules buried beneath that old VFW hall you first saw The Bled at? Buckle up your studded seat belts and pull your old snake bites out from the scrapbook as we stave dive into our first Myspace star, The Fall of Troy’s Doppelgänger.
I am thirty-one years old, which means that in 2005 I was 17. While we may be more sponge-like when we’re younger, 17 and 18 are our most formative years because we begin to codify who we will be as an adult. For me, that meant at least another decade of wearing tight pants and listening screamy-screamy music. I can think of anything more important to me in the autumn of 2005 than The Fall of Troy’s Doppelgänger (maybe trying to get a date to see Peter Jackson’s King Kong).
Doppelgänger was the perfect marriage of emo, post-hardcore, and progressive metal. It was like Blood Brothers you could play for your normie friends or Dillinger Escape Plan you could play for your mom, and at the time there was nothing like it. But does it still hold up 14 years later?
Holy shit, yes. This album still riiiiiiiiiips.
Doppelgänger is a dense and chaotic ride through 590 different songs in 44 minutes. It is relentless without ever feeling repetitive. There are graphing calculator guitar licks and impossible drum fills that are easy to follow along to without relying on a verse-chorus-verse song structure, which is extremely impressive given the technical proficiency of its band members. The three-piece of Andrew Forsman on drums, Tim Ward on bass, and Thomas Erak on guitar and vocals wrote and recorded this album before starting their 20s. Unlike some of their contemporaries, The Fall of Troy didn’t get lost in their own math on this album. The guitar shreds, the drums also shred, the bass is very good bass, but on Doppelgänger The Fall of Troy never skated too far away from the groove or a danceable hook.
What amazes me so much about this album is how big it sounds. Doppelgänger came out at a time when hardcore was about a big low riff and a slow china cymbal. This album, with all of it’s crazy pinball guitar pedals and higher register noodling crams your ears with more brooding insanity than most of the contemporary bands that screamed for Christ. Doppelgänger was produced and engineered by Barrett Jones who worked on Foo Fighters and Nirvana albums, which seems like the logical choice for a Seattle band that is more than chugga chuggas. I dare you to listen to this album in a car and not air something. Air drum if you’re good. Air guitar if you’re even more skilled. Or just air mosh if you’ve got death wish.
However, it has to be said that part of the reason this album is so good is The Fall of Troy had a chance to do a full Marvel reboot of their previous self titled album. Four of the tracks on this album, "I Just Got This Symphony Goin'", "F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X.", "Mouths Like Sidewinder Missiles", "Whacko Jacko Steals the Elephant Man's Bones" are re-recorded songs––hence the name Doppelgänger. While three of those songs are largely unchanged save for better production quality, "F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X." is a complete re-engineering of probably the weakest song on their last album, "F.C.P.S.I.T.S.G.E.P.G.E.P.G.E.P." Who would have thought that swapping the bass line to the guitar and speeding up this clunker would lead to their biggest hit and video game cash cow? Also, the last and most apeshit song on Doppelgänger, "Macaulay McCulkin”, actually comes from a leaked EP recorded between albums one and two called The Ghost Ship Demos. These four songs (five if you were really good at 2005 internet) were a concept album and the stuff of legend back when you had to know someone to get your hands on a weird demo. With its intense breakdown into a straight-up-techno breakdown, “Ghost Ship V” is the most quintessential Fall of Troy song in my opinion. But then again, what do I know? It’s not like anyone asked me to do this review. I am just very lonely and violently unemployed.
But This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race Let's tear apart Doppelgänger and the Fall of Troy.
No Hardcore Dancing In The Living Room: Can you mosh to songs on Doppelgänger? There aren’t a lot of breakdowns, but every one is equal parts memorable and siiiiiiiiiiiick. The two that stand out the most for me are "Whacko Jacko Steals the Elephant Man's Bones" and “Laces Out, Dan!” which are both manic and mostly come out of nowhere considering other more intense songs on this album never take the express train to pit city. Also of note is the breakdown at the end of "Macaulay McCulkin" speeds up before imploding into some smooth jazz.
Glueing Carpet to Your Genitals Does Not Make You A Cantelope: Do these song titles make a lick or sense or have anything to with the lyrics? Well, no. They’re not full blown non-sequiturs, nor are they extremely clever puns, but they are mostly pop culture references and a little cheeky. "Laces Out, Dan!" is a reference to Ace Venture: Pet Detective, which isn’t very scene, but “”You Got a Death Wish, Johnny Truant?”” and "The Hol[ ]y Tape…" are references to Mark Z. Danielewski's novel House of Leaves and nothing is more scene than a band referencing a book they didn’t read. The winner has to be “Macaulay McCulkin" which is clever and completely random. I think it won the Pulitzer that year.
You’re Cute When You Scream: Do Thomas Erak’s vocals hold up? Yes and no. His screaming voice can fall a little on the side of annoying when he tries to hit those high notes, especially in “Laces Out, Dan!”, but they never really bug me as much as they can in later and even earlier recordings. Erak still downplays his clean vocals in this album without going full blown crooner, which makes the rising and falling tension more exciting to me. Also, Tim’s lower pitched growl adds a lot of depth what would otherwise sound like the Taco Bell chihuahua grabbing the mic at a Minus The Bear show.
Nothing We Say Leaves This Room: It’s 2019. Wonder Showzen has been off the air for 200 years. Does Doppelgänger have a place in our woke world? Mostly so. The first problematic song is “Laces Out, Dan!” where the narrator calls someone whore and screams “I want to wipe that smile off your face!”––which I don’t think is a reference to the V for Vendetta mask they were wearing. "Whacko Jacko Steals the Elephant Man's Bones”, “Tom Waits” and “Macaulay McCulkin” form a trilogy of songs involving gun violence and that sucks. Specifically, there’s a part in "Macaulay McCulkin” which is 100% about stalking and ultimately threatening to shoot the someone for rejecting him. All things considered, this is pretty tame by 2005 fuccboi lyrics, but it still should be noted that sex work is real work, stigmatizing anyone’s sexual history is gross, and guns fucking suck. I also have to bring up "We Better Learn to Hotwire a Uterus”. I have no idea what this song is about. Erak calls someone a trollop and then I think maybe they get an abortion in a world where it’s illegal. Makes sense considering it’s long rumored that "F.C.P.S.I.T.S.G.E.P.G.E.P.G.E.P." is shorthand for "Fuck Condoms, Premarital Sex Is The Shit! Get 'Em Pregnant, Get 'Em Pregnant, Get 'Em Pregnant!" At least that’s easier to type on your Sidekick II.
Hey, It’s Your Funeral, Mama: So what happened to The Fall of Troy? The band released their third album Manipulator two years later which marked a significant stylistic change. Besides being more poppy, the album featured significantly more clean vocals and keyboard, with virtually no background screams from Tim Ward. Basically, the trajectory of The Fall of Troy can be summed up as this. They put out their first album and Erak gets the album art tattooed on his arm. They put out the second album and Erak gets like a million diamonds tattooed on his arm. My dude got tired of hearing the term mathcore thrown at his American Apparel deep v-neck and he let himself get sucked into the scene. In interviews, Erak said he was influenced by “Weezer, Saves the Day, and the Get Up Kids” which is 2007 speak for “we want to be taken seriously by people who don’t drink Monster Energy.” This move was usually followed by using the term experimental rock to describe your sound and religiously deleting comments on your band’s Last.FM page.
After Manipulator, Ward left the band and they released a re-recording of The Ghost Ship Demos with their new bassist, Frank Ene. Dubbed Phantom on the Horizon, the formal release failed to capture the raw energy and unpredictability of the demos. They would release a fourth album in 2009 called the In The Unlikely Event before breaking up the next year. In the Unlikely Event was poorly received, but it did codify The Fall of Troy as a pretty good pop band. Without the maze-like song structures, Erak ended up cramming his insane malfunctioning robot licks into tightly-knit jingles and writing songs that were like if Katy Perry had Buckethead in her band. If that sounds up your alley, then it’s worth a listen at least once. The Fall of Troy reunited in 2013 for a few shows and released a new album called OK in 2016. The first song turns into a dub reggae song at around a minute twenty and that’s when I stopped listening to the album and called someone I care about.
I give The Fall of Troy’s Doppelgänger five flat irons out of five. It’s a must revisit.