Primitive Origins is a column where we’ll look back at proto-metal and early metal that deserves a bit of your battered eardrum’s attention. We’re keeping it loose and easy here: there’s no strict guidelines other than it’s gotta be old, it helps if it’s obscure, and it’s gotta rock out surprisingly hard for its context. Pscyh-ed out proto-metal from the late ’60s? Of course. Early attempts at doom metal from the ’70s? Hell yeah. Underground Soviet metal from the early ’80s? Sure. Bring it on. Bring it all on.
I love getting tips from readers for this column, and the tips do come in, proto-metal explorers being a passionate and chatty bunch. So when someone got in touch and suggested early Italian prog rockers New Trolls, who formed in 1967, I knew what I had to do.
The band combines wacky prog with classical flourishes and heavier prog rock, and today we’re going to look at their wild 1972 album UT. And wild it is: although it’s not one of the heaviest albums we’ve examined here, it’s one of the more outrageous.
Opener “Studio” is a dramatic piano-led track that leans more classical than proto-metal, certainly making me wonder what’s about to happen next. The song takes us through the haunted house with a Klezmer band playing outside, which isn’t at all what I was expecting. It’s pretty cool, though, whatever the hell it is.
“XXII Strada” starts off threatening to just keep the haunted house vibe going, but then, boom, here comes the band, taking us on a wild little 1:51 journey through instrumental prog-rock mayhem. Things start to get pretty bashing and slightly heavy around the 0:53 mark, and it ends with a great crash and thump, not quite proto-metal but certainly aggressive early prog rock.
Vocals finally rear their head in on the third track, “I Cavalieri Del Lago Dell’Ontario.” The song starts off innocently enough, as a sort of fun prog lite, but New Trolls prove again that when they hit hard, they hit hard, which they do throughout this wild journey of a song, which takes us through the funhouse, through Gentle Giant’s jam room, peers over curiously at proto-metal with some of that heavy hitting, then just continues on its great sonic journey to the unknown. Seriously, the last minute of this song is one wild ride.
“Storia di una Foglia” is up next, and this is some pretty serious “Hey, it’s 1972, let’s do the acoustic folk song” stuff. When Zep does this, it gets me every time. New Trolls, not so much. Moving along.
“Nato Adesso” brings back that classical touch with the piano, although it doesn’t take long for things to get into tripped-out mid-paced prog-rock territory. And, again, this is quite the ride New Trolls take us on, highlights for the proto-metal crowd being when they really hit hard and bash and crash, as they do on this song’s engaging climax. Propelled by a hypnotic bass line, “Nato Adesso” is a killer eight-minute prog odyssey.
“C’è Troppa Guerra” kicks off with one of the most hard-rocking riffs on the joint, then goes on to ape Zep pretty damn hard, then, at 9:06, comes crashing back in with an incredibly heavy proto-metal riff. Wow! That’ll wake you up here in the final third of this release, as the band suddenly aims to outheavy Sabbath in the finishing stretch. Excellent, a highlight, and for our purposes today, the song metalheads should gravitate toward here.
“Paolo e Francesca” immediately wipes away any trace of the previous cut’s Sabbathian glory, the six-minute song starting off like any number of toothless quiet songs from the era, the thing basically a write-off except for the amazing, skronky, nonsensical guitar solo, which totally sabotages this one until the weird, anti-climactic ending. Actually pretty brilliant. Well played, you total weirdos.
“Chi Mi Può Capire” ends off this fun record with a dramatic, classical-infused mood piece that kinda makes me think of Billy Joel at his most ’70s cinematic (honestly, not a bad thing). Not proggy, not heavy, but a good closer.
There’s a lot to explore in this band’s catalogue, and I haven’t done it yet; from what I gathered, this album was a good place to start for proto-metal mining. Pound for pound, New Trolls are definitely leaning more on the prog side of things, but I just love how hard this band hits when they start feeling around for some proto-metal glory. Then I love how they move on, caring less about chasing a sound than chasing their muse, as fantastical and nonsensical as it may be.
New Trolls’s UT – The Decibel breakdown:
Do I need to be stoned to listen to this?: No, the music takes you places all on its own.
Heaviness factor: Down the middle, but when they hit hard, they ain’t fooling.
Obscura Triviuma: There are releases out there under the name Of New Trolls, featuring two New Trolls dudes. No idea, man.
Other albums: Lots; New Trolls have tons of studio albums out for your exploration.
Related bands: Tons; a lot of people have come and gone through this band’s ranks over the years.
Alright, fine, if you must: LSD.