The first thing to note about Troller's debut album - newly pressed on to vinyl after being initially released on cassette in 2011 - is that cover. Look at that thing. Everything about it suggests metal. It looks like it's taken from the inner sleeve of an 80s metal album or some Scandinavian black metal disc. The guy on the cover even sort of looks like Dave Mustaine. The thing about it is that it embodies a male persona that conservative parents dreaded in the 1980s but with hindsight has become sort of laughable for the fact it was more posturing than it was dangerous. Whatever it's function, that cover is the first of many things that make Troller's debut a remarkable album.
As for the sound of the music; it’s dark. As in 1980’s goth/post-punk/industrial or post 2000’s witch house dark. It’s the sort of sound that has one foot in the past and one foot firmly planted in the present. Most of the songs are driven by the bass which has a slow, distorted, gurgling quality that is almost lethargic, but heavy as hell. It’s music that recalls Faith era The Cure or (underrated) electro musician Mount Sims. “Milk” gets the whole thing started with that dull, distorted throb of bass that just rumbles along, almost sounding de-tuned or slowed down. Female vocals lead the funereal procession but most of the words are inaudible, and synthesizers produce wailing and shrieking sounds in the background. It’s big, dramatic, dark but also has a playful quality. The second song is named or not-named “-” and is the first of many instrumental interludes which serve to highlight the textures that make the band’s sound work. And this pattern of alternating between structured songs and more brooding and unnerving instrumentals drives the ebb and flow of the record. It’s a winning formula too and one that finds a balance between writing greats songs vs writing great records and manages to do both.
It’s a lucky thing for us as listeners, and a deserved thing for Troller as a band, that their debut was re-released and given the vinyl treatment. About that album cover again: After listening to the album it takes on a whole new and more menacing meaning. Almost like it plays a very strategic role in the listening experience. Before hearing the album, it feels like an absurd or ironic red herring. After hearing the album, the music takes all that satanic metal posturing from the 1980s and makes that enveloping darkness somehow real. If you missed this album the first time, make sure you don’t miss it again.