Album Review: Trojan Horse – World Turned Upside Down

My first impressions of Trojan Horse were always slightly mixed. Their back catalogue was schizophrenic at best, torn between what exactly it wanted to be and therefore trying to be everything at once, but ‘Paper Bells’ had just been released into the world and with it came the possibility that Trojan Horse had finally found their voice. Now, after a four year-long labor of love, comes ‘World Turned Upside Down’, a new album destined to prove once and for all where the quintet’s future lies. Fortunately the band aren’t ones to crack under pressure and finally we have the chance to see if the progress shows.

The prog rock outfit kick things off with the punnily titled pace-setter ‘Jurapsyche Park’, and certainly something has changed in the band’s execution. The shifts in time signature that in the past have left Trojan Horse appearing so slapdash and all over the place, come together this time to create the best kind of chaos. It’s a sweeping, frenetic piece of work that lurches back and forth between the sounds of Polymath and early Dream Theater; a writhing instrumental capturing you with its sheer insanity. The seven-minute ‘Sesame’ is not too different. A slower affair at first, the track builds playfully into a rather charming voyage through the more whimsical side of Trojan Horse. The synths drive the song’s middle stages before the vocals come in once more, seeming almost like something you’d hear in a children’s cartoon from the seventies; one that would grab cult status in the modern day for coming across as all too “creepy” for its target age. It’s a maniacal kind of fun, but one that ends rather abruptly before the first of ‘World Turned Upside Down’’s trio of interludes, leaving you processing just what exactly you’ve been treated to in the past seven minutes. You go back and listen again, just to be sure. And then you listen again because you enjoy it. You’re not quite sure why, but that’s the charm. It just works.

World Turned Upside Down by Trojan Horse

The out-of-tune piano that introduces ‘Scuttle’ should be enough to let you see that the next eight minutes are going to be another bizarre adventure. Whether creeping by or trampling through, the track’s ever-changing pace is mesmeric to say the least. The band career back into the realms of chaotic math rock, with the percussion seeming at times to indeed scuttle along as insanity takes over in the most dazzling of ways. It’s certainly good to hear the band given a chance to pull off a properly solid vocal performance, and once again Trojan Horse’s music is as difficult to fault as it is to explain. Before the album’s ‘Centrelude’, ‘See Me At The Crow Bridge’ offers a brief flicker of normality; seventy-two seconds of sense amidst nonsense at its peak. The staccato vocals that open the LP’s title track, meanwhile, certainly appear to be leading to something, and what they lead to is a remarkably grounded. It all goes a little bit Jethro Tull, and instead of struggling to keep up the band leave you swaying along. It’s just in time, really, with a twelve and a half minute epic fast approaching on the horizon.

‘Hypocrite’s Hymn’, you could say, is the coming together of everything that Trojan Horse have been and were and are. It dabbles in disorder of course, but for the most part this is the quintet at their most focused. Even as they veer off the rails, each wild fluctuation seems far more measured and nailed down. ‘Hypocrite’s Hymn’ is the track that makes absolutely clear what an arduous process this album has been; there is order in even the most haywire time change, and by the halfway point the five-piece are a band unleashed. You can’t peel yourself away for a single second; what can arguably be marked down as Trojan Horse’s magnum opus takes whatever hypnotic effort they’ve pulled off in the past and trumps it unequivocally. As it fades out to be somehow followed by ‘Death and the Mad Queen’, it’s a tall order not to be left speechless. Whether the haywire nature of the Trojan Horse sound draws you in or rebuffs you immediately, it’s nigh on impossible not to recognise the impressive feat pulled off in ‘Hypocrite’s Hymn’.

Maddening or awe-striking; divisive to say the least, one thing you can say for Trojan Horse is that they are never remotely boring. ‘Death and the Mad Queen’, as any track would, struggles to pick up the pieces that its preceding number sends flying across the room. It’s a far more basic affair, but lyrically strong and perhaps, in its own slightly folky way, their most accessible song yet. ‘Behemoth’ is an effort more typical of the London quintet; mostly instrumental, fluctuating between math and progressive rock, leading into the aforementioned ‘Paper Bells’: the track which had instilled such hope in the band back in January of this year. Echoing vocals ease you in, and the song which gave a band the direction they desperately needed sounds just as good here as it did back when it was first released.

It’s the last full-length effort on the LP, and a damned good note to end on. The five-piece do bung in one final ‘Outerlude’ before ‘Fire! Fire!’ closes the album out. Perhaps the best track from the band’s earlier years, it’s a nice surprise to see the title track of their 2012 EP ‘Fire’ resuscitated to wrap up the full-length record. Trojan Horse are as ever a difficult band to quantify. But there is, at last, a reason to rave about them. ‘World Turned Upside Down’ has certainly proved to be worth the wait and, love it or hate it, might just be the most interesting album you’ll hear all year.


‘World Turned Upside Down’ by Trojan Horse is out now on Bad Elephant Music.

Trojan Horse links: Website|Facebook|Twitter|Bandcamp

Words by Antony Lusmore (@Metacosmica)


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