My grandparents always encouraged me to listen to the wonderful style of jazz, but they were always disappointed when I told them I loved metal. They would even call it “the rock stuff” when they would try to refer to the type of music that I listen to, because they would never dare acknowledge that their grandson looks up to pig-squealing, devil-worshiping, goth face-painted dudes. Little did they know at the time that the term metal actually refers to a genre of various stylistic differences held together by a common heavy core sound.
New Jersey’s very own Thank You Scientist are the perfect example of a band that hones metal qualities, but doesn’t necessarily set any limits to their music. The band’s sound can actually be described as a brilliant combination of alternative, jazz, metal, and modern prog; think what it would sound like if Coheed and Cambria and Tower of Power had a baby… Pretty interesting, right? TYS‘ debut Maps of Non-Existent Places, released in 2014, is already one of the best albums of the decade, and immediately earned the band a spot as one of the best up and coming prog bands in the scene today.
When I first heard that the band would be releasing their second album this year, I was ecstatic, but the immediate question became clear: can it compare to Maps of Non-Existent Places? The short and easy answer is no, and as much as it hurts me to say it, I am very disappointed with Stranger Heads Prevail.
The first thing I noticed with this album is that all of the hooks that made Maps so memorable are pretty much non-existent here. There weren’t any hit singles like “A Salesman’s Guide to Non-Existence,” or the nearly perfect epic “Blood on the Radio.”
That’s not to say that I really dislike this record, but the catchy element of Maps has now matured into a more defined and straightforward alternative/jazz sound. I think that the band makes up in enjoyable technicality for what they lack in catchiness. Almost every song features very intricate work from each member of the band, as they showcase that they all possess some of the best chops in the business. Even the horn/violin section of the band comes alive on this record, especially on some of the more jazz-influenced songs like “Need More Input” and “Rube Goldberg Variations.”
While I’m disappointed with Stanger Heads Prevail in relation to the band’s debut, it is undeniable that what Thank You Scientist is doing with their music is nothing short of groundbreaking. It’s not every day that you come across an alternative metal band with a trumpet, trombone, and violin player!
After spending some time with the new Thank You Scientist record, it seems to me that the band has taken steps both backwards and forwards at the same time. It’s a pretty odd transition to describe, but Stranger Heads Prevail is definitely an album that fans of creative music will want to hear.
FFO: Karnivool, Caligula’s Horse, Coheed and Cambria, The Dear Hunter
Notable Tracks: “Rube Golberg Variations,” “Caverns,” “A Wolf in Cheap Clothing,” “Epilogue”
To break it down:
Production/Sound Quality: 8