Arcane Roots – ‘Melancholia Hymns’ (Album Review)

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In order to create, you sometimes have to destroy. Ripping everything up and starting again can be cathartic, reinvigorating, exciting, terrifying, relieving, overwhelming, and/or everything above all at once. Forcing yourself to confront the truly blank page takes a hell of a lot of heart, and Arcane Roots certainly have that.

Through their first album Left Fire, Arcane Roots became synonymous with air-guitar-inducing acrobatics and the kind of time changes that would make the world’s physicists weep with despair. Second long-player Blood & Chemistry came complete with ear-fucking, ball-bursting riffs an order of magnitude heavier than before, and contrasted them with breathtakingly low-key sections from the outset, as on peerless opener Energy Is Never Lost, Just Redirected. Then came a four-year period of relative on-record inactivity punctuated by the safer (but still undeniably anthemic) Over & Over single and Heaven & Earth EP.

It’s been four years since Blood & Chemistry began fucking ears and bursting balls – and in a fascinating move that marks Arcane Roots’ first real rip-it-up-and-start-again moment, Melancholia Hymns barely does either. There are some big fuck-off guitars and even brief beatdowns (as on Matter, Curtains, and Arp); the stutteringly funky and epic Off The Floor; Solemn’s stomping rock intensity; and the Karnivool-evoking Everything (All At Once), the latter hitting another level of metallic brutality. For the most part, though, Melancholia Hymns sees Arcane Roots give themselves plenty of space to stretch out and chill.

Serious rock/metal sections aside, this album tends to feel more like a game soundtrack than a collection of songs. Before Me, Indigo, Fireflies and Half The World are instantly recognisable as Arcane Roots’ work due to Andrew Groves’ unmistakable voice, but they owe more to contemporary electronica and scoring work than anything else. Still, given Arcane Roots’ long-standing popularity among the math- and post-rock fraternity – and, in turn, that scene’s long-standing love of electronic textures, ambience, and atmospherics – there’s no doubt that even this unpredictable turn of events will ultimately be accepted, admired, and embraced.

Melancholia Hymns is still another nail in the coffin for genre boundaries and those who continue to cling to them. It also makes Arcane Roots’ creative future look brighter than ever before. They’ve begun (deep breath…) to explore areas occupied by everyone from Bjork to Bon Iver, Tycho to Four Tet, and even Karnivool – and when you consider all they’ve not yet incorporated from those fresh palettes alongside the now-classic Blood & Chemistry-era sound, and then dig back into the techy Muse/Biffy love child that was Left Fire…(another deep breath) and bear in mind that until the singles from Melancholia Hymns popped up it sounded like Arcane Roots were aiming for a relatively more mainstream rock target…you get the idea.

Nothing is more boring than predictability in music – and Arcane Roots are officially one of the least predictable bands out there. Sing along with Melancholia Hymns, and rejoice.

LTK RATING: 100% (Essential Listening!)

What do you think of Arcane Roots and Melancholia Hymns? Leave a comment, follow me on Twitter, and let me know! 

Melancholia Hymns drops September 15; pre-order it on iTunes here.

Posted on 23 August 2017

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