(M) Pastel Jack ‘Trojan Horse’ Album Review

By Ashley Bailey
Opening with the album’s title track, ‘Trojan Horse’ is immediately what one would expect from a Thrash album; a simple yet fast riff that’s in your face. After about twenty seconds the song then becomes what you would expect from a Pastel Jack song, featuring a melodic riff playing over Tom’s hectic drumming. Once Neil’s vocals begin the band’s Alt Metal influences become extremely obvious. The song has a fast flowing and catchy pre-chorus which leads into a slowly sung, yet epic feeling, chorus and you can almost picture Neil stood in the classic Darth Vader dramatic pose as he recorded it. The soloing doesn’t have the frantic shredding typical of a Pastel Jack solo, like Pete is trying to chase the world’s fastest spider away from the fretboard; it has more soul to it than that – making it a perfect fit in the song. My only grievance with this song is running over six minutes it feels at least one minute longer than I felt it needed to be.
Flat line is quite possibly the strongest new track on the album, with a drum led opening that is very reminiscent of Megadeth’s Recipe for Hate…Warhorse. The song focuses heavily on the drums, which is always a good thing when dealing with a talented drummer such as Tom, though Neil does pull a few neat surprises of his own. The Sacred Self, despite being the standard affair and feeling somewhat repetitive, features an absolutely ball shredding solo from Pete, and vocals that will without a doubt mince whatever remains of said balls.
The Gentle Art of Combustion best showcases Neil’s Alt Metal vocals and is generally a mellow song, until something extremely interesting happens at around the 3.30 mark. Once the song reaches the bridge section, it becomes a vaguely psychedelic drum and bass led crescendo, which slowly intensifies becoming heavier and heavier – leading to a powerful solo by Mr.Delaney. It is incredibly different and therefore obviously effective. Methematic (for which there is now a video, in case you are interested) feels like it was intended to be the magnum opus of the album, as its big sounding choruses seem to be going for an epic feel. It is an interesting song, but I felt it could have used a few more solos to help solidify its status as epic. Cold Light of Day is probably the album’s most powerful track, in part to Neil’s vocals which are also complimented by some interesting guitar riffs and drum beats.
Returning from the EP ‘Ghost in the Machine’ are; Condemned from the Start, Day like You, Part 2 and Synergy. Condemned is a foot tapping little number, it isn’t the greatest song on the album admittedly but is one you can defiantly sing along or fervently head bang to nonetheless. Day like You is one of Pastel Jack’s most thrash orientated songs, and probably features some of the greatest bass riffs and drumming of the entire album, the pre-chorus is just fucking intense and I was half expecting Tom’s biceps to rupture. Synergy meanwhile, still remains one of Pastel Jack’s signature songs and it isn’t hard to see why, with vocal harmonies and a multitude of strong and technical riffs.
Swandive is a diverse song; whilst slow like Part 1 it also features heavy sections which set it apart. The first three minutes have a perfect clean sound that sounds almost haunting against the vocals, but despite being different to everything that has come before, it is instantly Pastel Jack. You instantly know it; perhaps Neil’s melodious vocals lend a sense of familiarity. Regardless it is hard not to like the song, when it epitomises the greatest elements of the band, and features Neil at his absolute best. Eventually it transforms into familiar Pastel Jack territory and contrasting the opening and early vocals now with some pretty solid riffs (especially the pre-solo one) it seems more like an aggressive ballad.
Part 1 is intended to compliment Part 2 perfectly; the former is a slow and light song with romantic connotations, whereas the latter is arguably the heaviest song on the album and features lyrics such as ‘we raise our fists to you’, which would indicate there’s no running barefoot through a meadow to be seen here. They had to include this song on the album, because as far as I’m concerned this represents the pinnacle of Pastel Jack’s song writing. It has everything you’d want from a melodic Thrash band with Alt Metal influences. It has one of the strongest openings on the album, one that could have come straight from an Iced Earth album. Part 2 is also home to Neil’s strongest and rawest vocals, and probably the best chorus as the power behind it, cumulating in some solid backing vocals, utterly blows you away like a whorish Dyson no matter how many times you’ve heard it before. Add to it very proficient soloing from Pete, some tough bass by way of Dave and powerful drumming courtesy of Tom and you have quite possibly the greatest song a local band has ever produced. Bonus track Down to a Sunless Sea forms the perfect end to the album; a progressive song featuring a somewhat complex compositional structure.
Aside from the songs themselves I also have to consider the production of the album; which is expertly done…for the most part. I believe that most attention was given to the instrumental breaks as these parts are perfectly mixed and layered. But Neil’s vocals are nowhere near as loud as they should be; to the point where they are overpowered by the backing vocals. The bass is quite difficult to hear in parts, I know this is true of almost every metal album (especially And Justice for All) but it didn’t make my task any easier. But you really cannot fault the production; it has crystal clarity sound and comes across extremely professionally.
Pastel Jack have an immensely unique ability when it comes to song writing; the way that they can freely create a hybrid between Alt Metal, Thrash and Traditional Heavy Metal is truly amazing, and is portrayed excellently on Trojan Horse (their first full length album). From start to finish this album never fails to impress; from Neil’s soulful yet raw vocal style to Pete’s face melting guitar solos and varied riff writing skills. Meanwhile weaving the whole package together are Dave’s razor sharp bass lines and Tom’s thundering beats which blend this into a very tasty package indeed. This is going to be a must own for pretty much anyone interested in music, Pastel Jack have as much regard for genre boundaries as an illegal immigrant, and that is an extremely positive thing.
Devil Horns Rating (out of a possible five): \m/\m/\m/\m/