Sound — 8
Having started in 2002 when the founding members were still in high school, The Fall Of Troy would hit success with their follow-up album, 2005's "Doppelganger," with its most popular song, "F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X.," being included in a number of video game OSTs, and the album as a whole gaining a cult following for its tricky mathcore style. From there, The Fall Of Troy's next goal was to grow their sound (with frontman/guitarist Thomas Erak commenting that he wanted to make something that wasn't just "riff after riff"), resulting in their third album, 2007's "Manipulator," bringing more to the table than just the frenetic technical riffs, including more synth usage, more singing, more metalcore characteristics, and easier moments like the minimal "Caught Up." Unsurprisingly, this desire for elaboration had The Fall Of Troy reaching for a more prog-influenced sound, heard in the Mars Volta-esque style of their 2008 EP "Phantom on the Horizon," and their fourth album, 2009's "In the Unlikely Event," which showed more effect pedals, classic rock influences, and a general display of different songwriting gears. But in spite of this, their fourth album would end up being their most ambivalently received, whether because of its output being more long-winded than the band's previous albums, because of it not having as much energy and crazy riffs as their earlier albums, or both.
The Fall Of Troy would break up a year after that release, going their different ways (most notably, Erak would become the new lead guitarist for Chiodos in 2012, composing for the band's fourth album, "Devil"), but with the band's reissued material on vinyl generating good reception, it was clear that a The Fall Of Troy reunion would be well received. After reuniting in 2013 and Erak officially leaving Chiodos a year later, The Fall Of Troy announced plans to work on a new album that they intended to give for free as a display of appreciation for the support they've received through all the years, and though it took some time, they now deliver on that promise with their self-released fifth album, "OK."
It's pretty easy to see how the aforementioned issues people had with "In the Unlikely Event" inspire the output of "OK." Where their previous album was their longest, "OK" is their shortest album (even shorter than their "Phantom on the Horizon" EP), and where their previous album contained the largest span of styles, "OK" most notably brings things back to the "Doppelganger" days. Along with the techy riffing in "Suck-o-Matic" and the tempo modulation in "Your Loss," nearly every song contains a degree of frantic riffs and rhythms, whether it be Erak's lead riffs in "Side by Side" or the layered riffs in "Inside Out," Tim Ward's basslines in "An Ode to the Masochists" and "Auto Repeater," Andrew Forsman's drumming in "Your Loss" and "Inside Out."
But while "OK" mainly brings that old mathcore spirit back, The Fall Of Troy still integrate other genre flavorings into songs in order to bring some variance, as well as keeping the album from feeling like a simple "Doppelganger" reverberation: The opening "401k" not only has a hook riff that wields a retro rock swagger to it, but the bridge also brings a reggae break into the mix; the second half of "Savior" contains some prog-metal riffing similar to the likes of Between The Buried And Me; "Auto Repeater" begins with a trippy '80s synth arpeggio and ends with a screamo/metalcore breakdown; and "Your Loss" starts off with a dreamy and light guitar riff, synthetic horn swells and synthetic percussion, as well as having a break with a delicate piano melody and vocals that sound like Craig Owens (nothing's confirmed yet, but given the connection between him and Erak, it's not out of the realm of possibility). Of course, not every bout of variance is a rousing one, and the penultimate "Love Sick" is a boring display of elementary dynamics, where screaming and slamming instruments trade off with contained guitar plucks and whispering vocals for two uneventful minutes.
Lyrics — 6
Generally, Erak's lyrics in "OK" delve in the same kind of subject matter as those in The Fall Of Troy's previous albums, dealing again with an oscillating relationship of toxic attraction. Erak goes from chauvinistically empowered in "401k" ("So spread your legs and start counting your blessings / I'll be your 401k") and "Side by Side" ("Before the liquor, she hates me / Now the whiskey makes her dance in my bed") to being sincerely enamored, first being a positive experience ("You're a part of me, that's been fitting and lost in time / Pardon me, let's relieve all the tension, safe from depression" in "A Single Word"), but then shortly turning into a draining one ("I don't care what they see / As long as you still suck the life right out of me" in "Suck-o-Matic"). Even with the pain recognized and hatred blooming ("It's such a shame you've missed your mark / I find my comfort in how far you fall" in "An Ode to the Masochists"), Erak's lyrics show him worse off trying to disconnect from those former feelings, heard in "Auto Repeater" ("All the time away from you / I can't stop falling down / Even if she says the truth / I'll never get up now") and "Love Sick" ("I'm lost as I can be / A sadist anomaly / As far as you think you see / How much more do I have to bleed"), and even though a sense of conclusion is meant to be established in "Your Loss," he also admits of a yearning to be wrapped up in this love/hate relationship ("You bring the tape / Tie me up just in case / You keep me safe / Make me believe the case"). In the big picture though, this spanning narrative throughout "OK" not only feels fairly similar to that of "In the Unlikely Event," but Erak's lyrics come off much more simple compared to the more vibrant vernacular heard in "Doppelganger."
Overall Impression — 8
While there was nothing glaringly flawed in The Fall Of Troy's original journey from a landmark mathcore record to a more elaborate, multi-faceted and realized prog rock style, it was a fair argument to make that the band were starting to neglect their intensely skilled signature sound in that journey. With "OK," The Fall Of Troy not only bring things back to that signature style of awe-inspiring instrumentals, but their usage of stylistic variance from their later albums and new influences shows the album striving to be more than just a "Doppelganger, Pt. II." Ultimately, "OK" is a concise and impressive returning album for the band.