Album review: Trope - Eleutheromania (2021)
TROPE is an interesting new band from Hollywood that is currently releasing their first album Eleutheromania (meaning ‘manic zeal for freedom’). They themselves describe their music as alternative rock with progressive elements, and I think that is a very accurate definition of what is offered on the 10 tracks of their debut album. The strongest references that came to my mind during repeated listening are with bands such as GUANO APES, with whom they share the more rock aspects, EVANESCENCE, for certain intense melodic passages especially linked to the melodic lines of the singing, and bands closer to prog like A PERFECT CIRCLE and TOOL for the structure of certain riffs and the general tone of the songs; a particular song, Privateer, in certain passages also reminded me the style METALLICA adopted for some songs from the album Load.
TROPE was born in 2016 when guitarist / producer Dave Thompson proposed the project to singer Diana Studenberg. In the following years the two worked on composing their music while looking for support musicians, but it's evident from listening to the album that they are the true soul and creativity behind the project. From the very first listening you can in fact recognise how everything is based on the beautiful voice of Studenberg, who is always in the front row and confidently dictates the development of the songs, supported by the guitar riffs that underline the rhythmic structure and the tempo variations. The arrangements have mainly a position of outline and support to the melody described by the singing, to which the melodic elaborations are left: this is particularly evident in songs like Plateau, with the voice moving in arabesques in the stanzas accompanied by a soft guitar pattern before opening into the chorus supported by distorted guitars; an even better example is Surrogate where Studenberg's performance is perhaps at its peak.
In terms of rhythm, there are a good variety of tempo and pattern changes through which the progressive elements of the band are expressed: the rhythms and riffs in odd times add colour and underline the various passages in the songs. A deserved special mention is their take on Shout by TEARS FOR FEARS, here very convincingly reworked in their style.
In addition to the quality of Studenberg, the other element that particularly struck me is the quality of the production. This shouldn't surprise me, given the names involved: Mike Fraser (AC/DC, METALLICA) as sound engineer, David Bottrill (PETER GABRIEL, TOOL) for mixing, and Ted Jansen (STONE TEMPLE PILOT) for mastering. All the instruments can be followed fluently, and the choice of timbres goes very well with the mood and style of the various pieces.
There are several things that did not convince me in this work, but I want to emphasize that at this point we enter the field of personal preferences and are dependent on the fact that I am inclined to seek and appreciate the progressive elements of the music I listen to. As I wrote at the beginning of my review, TROPE correctly presents itself mainly as an alternative rock band: in this capacity they are certainly excellent representatives of the genre, probably among the best. The progressive elements they speak of, on the other hand, to my ears are precisely this: an embellishment of the structure of the songs that gives them that extra touch that can make them shine among the other proposals in their field, but they have no central role that instead is reserved for the voice. The predominance of the voice over the rest of the arrangement also means that the melodic structures are not excessively elaborate and deep, and the structure of all the pieces tends to follow the same pattern with riff-verse-chorus succession that leaves little room for surprising moments. This structural rigidity probably also depends on the fact that on average the songs last less than 4 minutes (the whole album is about 37 minutes long), so there is never the space to elaborate the musical component in more depth.
I consider Eleutheromania by TROPE an excellent alternative rock project, with a sophistication that will surely find many fans among those who have always appreciated this genre, but I would also not hesitate to recommend them to those who have always loved bands like EVANESCENCE and LACUNA COIL. Fans of more progressive-oriented bands like A PERFECT CIRCLE and TOOL can certainly find some interesting elements and enjoy almost 40 minutes of well-produced music, but they may not be over-satisfied with the uniformity of the song structures.
Buy the album https://tropemerch.com/