Troller's debut album is the perfect example of the imagery not matching the music. The late 1980s metal woman on the cover and script font screams some sort of early thrash revival, when the album contained is actually a lush, bleak piece of electronics heavy death rock from this Austin, Texas trio. The result is a disc that definitely feels rooted in that era of smeared mascara and smoke machines, but with a clearly modern day sensibility.
The six main songs that constitute this album (with four instrumental passages between them) all work from a similar template: sluggishly paced drum machine, distorted bass guitar, complex, effects heavy synths and distant female vocals. Even though there is that similarity from one to the other, the songs all stand out unique on their own and never blend together.
"Tiger" is all slowly clapping drum machine and fuzzed out bass, but the lead here is the synth, with the vocals buried amidst the two like any other instrument would be. "Milk" instead emphasizes the bass, with the keyboards twinkling away farther off in the mix. Again the voice is buried, cold and emotionless, but in the most effective way.
The strongest songs are the ones that put emphasis on the writing and structure rather than just the mood and texture. "Best" is overall more spacious, with the surging bass guitar and synths underscoring the more vocal-centric performance. The vocals are still buried and low in the mix, but it feels more like the driving force here, rather than just another sonic element.
The same goes for the almost upbeat feeling, keyboard lead "Winter," which has a faster pace and again showcases the singing, although here I desperately wanted to turn the vocal track up louder than it was. The closing "Peace Dream" may not be as spryly paced, but is instead more gauzy and ethereal, rather than the bleak, occasionally oppressive sounds that preceded it.
Shades of The Cure's Faith are abundant on Troller's debut, and for my ears that is a great thing. There is that sameness that could possibly wear thin over a greater span of time, but it stays strong here. The best moments are the ones where the trio delves more into pop approaches rather than the meditative, textural pieces that are also here. Those interstitial bits also add to the record as a whole, and make the actual songs all the more effective, making for a promising introduction to the band.