By: Ed Sprake
Down I Go | website | facebook | twitter | bandcamp |
Released on October 23, 2015 via Holy Roar Records
The first thought I had when it was suggested that I review this album was genuinely “How the hell am I going to describe that?”.
Now, at the time, I didn’t have the background, or the back catalogue, of this band. I was pointed towards their Kickstarter project by a social media post from Jamie Lenman, liked the sound of what they were doing and took a punt. I should hopefully have the vinyl turning up at the end of the month (ubiquitous worldwide vinyl backlog permitting).
I got hold of the download on the release date, I’m not sure whether I was ready for the sheer intricacy, attention to detail and ridiculous musicianship that ended up adorning this recording. I genuinely have no idea how they have managed to pack this many ideas into 32 minutes, and still come out with a coherent and frankly enthralling whole. And all this when the band split up in 2011 and the members were scattered around the globe, only coming together to write this in “nine days of isolation, buried in the colds and wilds of rural Iceland”.
Most tracks on the album come in at around 3 minutes and have multiple changes in feel, and sometimes time signature, fluctuating between almost gentle passages of melodic sung harmonies and rapidly morphing into hostile screamed vitriol. This is not a one trick pony of an album though, it’s dense, mathy and heavily layered. I’m still hearing different pieces and nuances at every listen. There’s a fairly extensive use of brass arrangements in there (made possible by the Kickstarter campaign), which really expands their sound into something fuller than their back catalogue. It’s the kind of thing that almost shouldn’t work, but actually, it really, really does, and along with the startling variety of ideas, textures and themes, this will be an album that keeps me coming back for (yet another) listen for a long time to come.
There’s choral passages in there, combined with aggressive hardcore, a bit of near Gregorian chant backed by guitar in ‘The Sending’ and one bit in ‘The Slaying of Skeggi’ where it spontaneously changes into a section that reminds me of the vocal melody from very end of Dire Straits’ ‘Money For Nothing’ for about five seconds, but much, much better.
Nominally described as post-hardore. I’m not sure that I’d like to pin this to any particular genre-specific board. This is an album which deserves to be free range, happily skipping through many different soundscapes to create something entirely its own.
In short, if you like your music, beautiful and disturbed, angry with sensitivity, complex, weird, interesting, obstinate difficult and strangely, inhumanly catchy, you should not let this album slip through your hairy fingers. For some reason, I can’t stop singing bits of ‘The Hired Hand & The Lake Dwellers’ under my breath.
Definitely an album I’ll be returning to frequently. My one and only bugbear is that it’s hugely unlikely that I’ll ever see them live.
Smells like huuuuuman…