Zero, Acts 3 & 4 by Laughing Stock

Release date: March 4, 2022
Label: Apollon Records

Zero is a character that we all know from school. Never fitting in with the cool crows, the misfit, the nerd, always picked on by the bullies in the hallways and in class, he’s us. Very much like Peter Parker from the Marvel universe before being bitten by a radioactive spider and becoming Spider-Man. That and Laughing Stock’s final section of the play in four acts, bring the character’s story in full circle in Acts 3 & 4.

Mind you, I didn’t get a chance to listen to Acts 1 & 2 yet. But after going through the third and final section of Zero’s story, I might get a chance to delve into the full arrangement to see what I was missing. Produced by Jan Mikael Sørensen and mastered by White Willow’s Jacob Holm-Lupo, this is Laughing Stock’s heartfelt release on the Apollon label.

And to be allowed to have Solstice’s Andy Glass, Nad Sylvian (Steve Hackett), and Samantha Preis (Devin Townsend) who makes her return as the troubled Mom, it becomes a combination. Taking inspiration from The Who’s Tommy, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and the unsung rock opera, S.F. Sorrow by The Pretty Things. Zero’s characterisation in the music, brings it to a saddened end.

Mournful acoustic opener ‘Wingless’ begins the album with a walk into the world of Video Games. You can imagine Zero being free from the Real World and escaping into a place where he is free from the troubles in school and at home. Then it erupts into a heavy pounce as the pearly gates open up to give the young man a chance to see who he really is.

‘Lifeboat’ is another composition in the mournful universe. There’s a strong sense of being buried at sea as the trio give all of their might to make the sound more rising and eruptive before landing back down to the small boat, sending a distress signal in the middle of the Atlantic.

 

I felt a strong touch to White Willow’s Ex-Tenebris-era as Sørensen and Nilsen channel a reprise to the epic, ‘Leaving the House of Thanatos’ while Nad comes into the heavens with a soaring turned organ, mellow arrangement of ‘The Call.’ Nad brings empathy and sorrow to the young man as he feels Zero’s pain.

He lets him know that he’s safer than being at home with his mother. There’s bits of Queen II and the Electric Light Orchestra to the end while ‘Free’ goes into a mid-‘80s rocking approach to arena rock vibes as it goes into an eerie mellotron-like lullaby.

Unexpected, but Laughing Stock have those ideas mixed in very well for what is about to happen next. The tragic arrangement on the first part of ‘Words’, sees Zero almost in a vegetable state, not responding to his mother and going for the underwatery string sections, but on the inside, he’s crying for help.

Andy Glass’ playing on ‘Running Faster’ brings fourth these bluesy textures to make the rain come in with some Gilmour-sque vibes. A strength of magnitude, hard to clean improvisations, Glass would have listeners digging out those early Floyd albums during their time as an underground band before hitting the mainstream with Dark Side of the Moon.

Samantha Preis walks into a mournful Seals and Crofts approach as Zero’s mother. She’s almost writing a letter to her son on ‘Familiar Eyes.’ You feel her sympathy and strength that she has with Zero. Even though they don’t see eye to eye with one another, there’s always the good they had together when he was a young man.

‘Mother’ is finally seeing Zero shutting off everything in the real world. Now, he is the loneliest person in the world.

While I’m new to Laughing Stock’s music, Zero Acts 3 & 4 is a touching, stirring, and emotional release that is like an imaginative movie brought to life on the silver screen. And this here is a great introduction to get you into the trio’s music.

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