In Blood by Hey ColossusRelease date: September 1, 2023
Label: Wrong Speed Records
Celebrating twenty years of doing it for the love and virtually no money, Hey Colossus are one of our most enduring and excellent bands. They’re still growing and changing on their fourteenth album, In Blood, never quite doing what you might expect. Having always operated in their own sweet way they now sound more singular than ever but also more streamlined and accessible. Slipping free of genre, it’s still Hey Colossus, only different again.
Following 2020’s impressively wide ranging double album Dances/Curses, In Blood is a more approachable record. Its eight tracks instinctively condensing the loose, atmospheric elements of Dances… with the noisier rockers on its first side. The result is direct and cohesive but still mysterious, each song tumbling into the next as naturally as the seasons and flowing past just as swiftly.
Melodic but ominous ‘My Name In Blood’ has the weight of the world about its shoulders “the days are long, the nights are longer still.” It starts down on all fours in the mire, slowly trudging uphill towards some form of acceptance, finally inviting us to sing along. Once buried in the chaos of the band Paul Sykes’ increasingly tuneful vocals now lead you through the songs. But while it’s a lot easier to pick out the words to sing along than it was ten years ago an exact reading remains elusive. His lyrics here are rooted in folk and ghost stories but rather than old tales retold they become impressionistic meditations on the land and the supernatural.
‘I Could Almost Care’ bringing us a tangle of “seemingly disparate themes such as state of the nation barbs, 19th Century Fertility rituals and dreadful past life remembrance.” to unravel. When it first appeared a few weeks back you might recall the band talking about the influence of The Wipers and a suggestion from Sykes that this whole record be rippers in that vein. Inevitably, that’s not at all the case but ‘I Could Almost Care’ is certainly up on its toes and a sense of momentum carries right through the album even in its gentler moments.
The steady sway of ‘Perle’ is punctured by familiar steps out into the sonic storm, a deft and deceptive working of the loud quiet loud dynamic. ‘Avalon’ is a sun dazed drift, half asleep in a summer field, hazy voices in the grass and trees. The closing ‘Over Cedar Limb’ begins with hypnotically circling guitar parts and turns over darkly beautiful images of death and burial. In its second half the drums switch to a rumble as the words become a folk chant, welcoming the warmth of the returning sun and the promise of rebirth. Everything intensifies, growing and ascending into the light, before to falling back to that ever circling guitar, like a cosmic pulse.
The last few years have been challenging even for a band as resilient as Hey Colossus but the music on In Blood is not marked by the apparent difficulty of its creation. Their shadowy working process seems ever more organic, new shoots thriving on old. Beyond the lyrical themes of recovery and rebirth in a haunted land it intuitively feels more rural, open to the elements, close to the earth.
Twenty years ago they wanted to combine the sludgy noise of Fudge Tunnel with the open ended experiments of Can. Since then they seem to have telepathically devised a rich musical language of their own. At the album’s centre ‘Can’t Feel Around Us’ and ‘Curved In The Air’ move them nearer to mainstream alt rock than ever before and yet they remain as weird and unknowable as ever. A dark but healing record for strange and ugly times, In Blood is a remarkable achievement for a band this long in the tooth, you never want to skip a track and it always seems to be over too soon.