15th September 2017 – Easy Life/Sony Red
01. Before Me
04. Off The Floor
09. Everything [All At Once]
10. Half The World
Arcane Roots are an exciting vision for the future of heavy music. With only one full length and a smattering of EPs delivered over the past decade, it’s understandable that questions were starting to be asked about whether we’d ever see another full-length release from Kingston’s finest. However, each smaller release has added further textures to a sound that has evolved to become unmistakable – and it’s a really good sound, so with their second LP finally with us, the question here isn’t “is Melancholia Hymns any good?”, but rather “how good?”.
Despite its maudlin title, Melancholia Hymns begins brightly; “Before Me” opens with a collection of burgeoning synth swells that ramp up before being penetrated by Andrew Groves’ unmistakable vocal. But this initial radiance descends quickly into a darker, more wistful, almost passive tone, magnified by the hazy production before building back its intensity with “Matter“. This should be more familiar ground for long time fans; frenetic riffs, with each instrument fighting relentlessly for space to lead. The inclusion of screams on this track is well considered and cuts through the noise to bring an intense climax.
This review opened with the statement that Arcane Roots are an exciting vision for the future of heavy music and it’s with “Indigo” and “Fireflies” where this is most noticeable. Taking a step back from a barrage of riffs, Arcane Roots change focus, the latter uses pulsing and twinkling synths to deliver a cinematic kind of heaviness that relies on simple electronic elements and Groves’ emotional vocal delivery to push the song forward. “Indigo” is quite possibly the best song Arcane Roots have ever delivered; it’s emotive and deeply melancholic, delivered with tangible introspection, and it’s a perfect representation of the idea that less is most certainly more. Heavy music will always exist in some form or another, but with compositions like this the idea that heavy is solely defined by tunings and screams is an incredibly outdated notion. To innovate is to survive and that is precisely what Arcane Roots achieve here.
Melancholia Hymns is for the most part split in half; not in a typical side A/side B, format but in terms of sheer intensity. Tracks like the aforementioned “Indigo” bring with them an experience that is incredibly personal, best absorbed though headphones during a quiet moment. The flip side of this is the likes of “Everything [All At Once]” and “Solemn“; these vast soundscapes, paired with powerful performances, could only ever be fully appreciated in a live setting.
It’s important to understand that Melancholia Hymns isn’t a metal record – in fact, it’s only just about a rock record – but it is one of the finest examples of British music in recent years. Untainted by the homogenised pop industry at large, Arcane Roots have forged ahead with cultivating and distilling a sound that is cinematic, emotive, introspective, powerful, and above all: memorable. If there were ever any doubt that Arcane Roots were capable of brilliance that doubt is long gone.