As age slowly turns me into more and more of a cynical asshole, it almost feels unreal to think that I was a once a kid, fully immersed in the fantastic worlds of cartoons like He-Man, the Ninja Turtles, or Captain Planet (late 80s and early 90s, if you were wondering). The cartoons were pretty moralistic, hitting you over the head with lessons about honesty, friendship, and even sobriety, as demonstrated by the absolutely bonkers Cartoons All Star To The Rescue. There, the likes of Bugs Bunny, Papa Smurf, Garfield, and the Ninja Turtles all got together to teach a boy that smoking a joint would lead to his death. There was even a musical number.
There is a wonderful simplicity to all of these cartoons, and which only really works when you’re a kid. Good and evil are always clearly defined, and you (yes, you) can change the world if you just try hard enough. That’s all it takes. I have some fondness for the empowerment that came from watching these shows, since they always made me feel like, well, I had the power. In fact, I’ve been told that I used to run around the house half-naked yelling “I’m He-Man” and hitting people over the head with a plastic sword, so I guess I was pretty committed to the cause.
Trick or Treat are basically the musical equivalent of those cartoons. And I don’t say that as a negative. I’m sure they’d love that description. From the very beginning (2006’s Evil Needs Candy Too, with a great Donald Duck-themed song ) they’ve made no secret about their inspiration. They’ve devoted a full album to Saint Seiya (a very popular anime in Latin America and Europe in the 90s, but which only made it to the US in 2003, where it flopped), made two albums about Watership Down (the book and the movie that scarred a generation), and a whole record to songs from cartoons (20180s Re-Animated) . It’s not a gimmick, it’s who they are. And it’s actually pretty good.
With a name like Trick or Treat it might not surprise you that the band started off as a Helloween tribute. Almost two decades later, that influence can still be heard (particularly the Keepers era) on Creepy Symphonies, their latest album. They love guitar duels, as well as the fast-paced drumming that power metal fans have come to expect. It’s fast, it’s heavy and, honestly, it’s a whole lot of fun.
Reminding me of Avantasia (such as the 12-minute epic “The Power of Grayskull”) and even Dragonforce, the music mostly keeps a fast pace. This perfectly matches the lyrics which, in line with their cartoon muses, are empowering, positive, and even wonderfully bizarre. They cover everything from from struggling with the daily grind (“Crazy”), keeping your inner child alive (“Peter Pan Syndrome”), to voicing the struggles of a Ninja Turtle in love with April O’Neill (seriously). They don’t always work, either because the lyrics seem a bit clumsily worded, or because they’re a bit too heavy handed, just like 80’s cartoons (“Falling over the Rainbow” and “Queen of Likes” were probably the worst offenders at this). But, still, they do the trick. And when the songs work, they do it as well, if not better, than the people who wrote all those theme-songs way back when.
Listening to Creepy Symphonies was a more entertaining experience than I would have expected. Though I’ve liked Trick or Treat for years, there was something special this time. It was an odd, roundabout way to get to be the kid I was all those years ago, sitting in front of the TV. And that was actually pretty fun. Hopefully you’ll get to do the same.