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Chaotic Coherence

The young men of The Fall of Troy make up more than just a punk band

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Thomas Erak is decidedly modest when describing his band, The Fall of Troy, by simply saying, "I just think of us as a punk band."

A punk band, maybe, but one that plays a combination of contemporary hardcore, emo and screamo, pile-driver metal, intricate mathcore, blues-based hard-rock, angular indie-rock, pomp- and prog-rock à la the '70s avant-garde noise, and even a little knob-twiddling proto electronica, all with nods toward folk-rock and jazz-pop.

What's more, contrary to the hundreds (or thousands) of up-and-coming bands around this vast country that try to play anything and everything, the music of The Fall of Troy makes sense; it actually coheres.

Punk?

"I guess, for us, it's more about the mentality and style (of punk) than it is about the technical aspect of us," Erak said in a recent phone interview from a tour stop somewhere in rural California.

At the time of the interview, a couple of weeks ago, The Fall of Troy was the opening act for RX Bandits. By the time the band hits Tucson for an Aug. 21 gig at The Rock, the trio will be the headliner on a bill that will feature HORSE the Band and Tera Melos.

The Fall of Troy is touring behind its third full-length album, Manipulator, which was released this past May by Equal Vision Records.

Produced by Matt Bayles (who has worked with such acts as Mastodon, Murder City Devils, Norma Jean and Isis), Manipulator combines influences as varied as King Crimson, At the Drive-In, the Dillinger Escape Plan, Thin Lizzy, Faith No More, Converge, the Blood Brothers, Buckethead, Foo Fighters, a little Tin Pan Alley and countless extreme metal bands.

And when Erak sings, he can sound alternately like Mike Patton, Geddy Lee, Jeff Buckley, Freddie Mercury or a hoarse hounds-of-hell Norwegian Satan worshipper.

In a recent press release, Erak stated that a primary goal of the band is "to push the envelope even further than what we've done before. We've figured out what we want to sound like, and it's a million different things. We wanted to go in different directions and see where we could take it."

The contrast between pummeling aggression ("Semi-Fiction," "Cut Down All the Trees and Name the Streets After Them") and tender melody ("Caught Up") creates a chaotic musical space that is almost jaw-droppingly beautiful and a vast progression from the band's 2005 release, Doppelgânger.

"It's definitely a step forward for us," Erak says during the interview. "It's a very different record than the last one, and I think we purposely had it in our minds to try to improve upon where we were with that one."

It must also be said that the three band members--Erak plays guitar and trades vocals with bassist Tim Ward; Andrew Forsman is the drummer--are only 20 and 21.

They have, however, been playing together for more than five years, coming together in high school in a band called the 30 Years War in Mukilteo, Wash., on the shore of Puget Sound.

Growing up outside Seattle, Erak and the others early on fell under the influence of Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix, he says. "And some of the other local Seattle punk bands as we got older and our tastes expanded."

The Fall of Troy already has undertaken several national tours, and has played in Europe as well. The band is a full-time venture, leaving no time, thankfully, for day jobs.

The earthly needs of Erak and his bandmates remain modest. "We want to earn a living at this, have families of our own at some point, be able to retire someday and have a normal life."

For Erak, though, The Fall of Troy already fulfills one important desire.

"This is the first band I ever played with that sounds like the band I wanted to hear."

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