by Jacob Wingate-Bishop

triggerLand is the latest full-length release under the Beo String Quartet name, stemming from the mind of violist and narrator, Sean Neukom. Consisting of no less than sixteen tracks, the album is split into eight narrated ‘Part’s and lengthy, accompanying instrumentals. As the strings swell and erratic drums crash, a story is woven: a man named Alvin has just discovered a new mineral, and with it creates the fictitious world’s first firearm.

The new album is utterly bizarre, as one would expect given the piece’s disparate influences, from stoner rock and spaghetti westerns to Radiohead and Civil War movies. The US-bred string band – made up of violinists Jason Neukom and Andrew Giordano, violist Sean Neukom and cellist Ryan Ash – have put out classical favourites (2021’s Heart Sleeve Tryptych, 2023’s 131, featuring sprawling Beethoven compositions), art rock (Ghosts Revisited) and material that downright defies genre, as showcased in the 2022 single, ‘People’.

The Beo String Quartet, L-R: Sean Neukom, Ryan Ash, Andrew Giordano, Jason Neukom (Photo credit: The Beo String Quartet/beostringquartet.com)

And from the get-go, triggerLand promises to be just as unpredictable; in a world of churned out pop tunes and manufactured micro-rock, Beo (derived from Latin, meaning ‘to make happy’) have created a kind of gun creation myth concept album, and it sounds about as unconvential as you would imagine. Whilst alienating those more used to the chart favourites, triggerLand offers an interesting perspective into what happens when progressive rock crosses that murky border into performance art.

‘Modern Cowboys’, a splaying nine-minute epic, goes full on nu metal, echoing video game soundtracks and boss fights. ‘Color of Money’, meanwhile, is a deeply paranoid track, at times careening off into a wall of noise. Then, within the story, a funeral is held, followed by a pseudo-prayer which barrels into the album’s closer, the titular track.

The album, says songwriter Sean Neukom, ‘is but a vehicle for addressing a larger issue. How does a society move forward in the face of unwillingness to consider new conversation or opposing points of view?’ The answer to this question, for the classically-trained Quartet, is about as surface level as any orator would provide. Which is to say, not at all. All sorts of sounds, string arrangements and instruments are embedded within the psycho-opera of triggerLand, and yet at no point does the narrative feel lost in the sound. By the time ‘triggerLand’ closes, we’re left wondering what it takes for real cultural upheaval.

triggerLand – indeed the Beo String Quartet as a whole – owes as much to horror movie soundtracks and rock operas as it does to Beethoven and classical music in general. triggerLand is like a Tommy of the 2020s, merging real life, societal commentary with horrifying soundscapes, sweeping anthems and just a little psychadelia.

The full album is out now on all streaming platforms, such as Spotfy, Apple Music and Amazon Music. The band are also working on a ‘companion video’ to the album, the first part of which is set for release on May 29th 2023.