Review Summary: Don't judge an album by it's cover; this isn't your average post hardcore record.
Eleventh He Reaches London's sophomore record 'Hollow Be My Name' is certainly a tough sell. Half the prospective audience will notice the 'post-hardcore' label and instantly click away to something less filled with angst and depression. And it's most likely the other half will see the 'post-rock' label, and recoil at the prospect of no easily identifiable chorus and verse structures. It's also most likely that the few remaining will take one look at the album cover's rather dull depiction of colonial conquest and click away to something brightly colored and shiny. Now I'm not suggesting here that the reason this will never hit the mainstream is that most judge an album by it's label and cover. However if you do pass up listening to the music as a result of one of these reasons, you're truly missing something special; It's brooding, it's dramatic and it's brilliant. Although their last album was an engaging listen, the problem was it didn't sound like it was finished, and everything hadn't quite fallen into place yet. However this five piece from Perth, Australia have managed to pull all the elements together for 'Hollow Be My Name' perfectly.
It's a diverse mix of songs that comprise this album and I can suggest no better place to start than with 'Oh Brother'; essentially a campfire jam, which needs to be watched with it's accompanying video to get a real feel for the music. Taking you on a journey back through time, it builds up slowly with a mellow muted guitar riff setting the rhythm, giving plenty of space for the subtle guitar melodies to work their magic. The three guitars utilize a wide range of sounds here, providing a thick texture and there's even a banjo thrown in to spice things up! Lead singer Lenton's voice has certainly improved since the last release, delivering the bleak lyrics with raw emotion, while never detracting from the music; the vocals are always kept quite low in the mix. Then after an ambling guitar solo, the big finale comes in the form of a whole band singalong, interweaving guitars and frantic, crashing and clashing drums. The title track 'Hollow Be My Name' is also an obvious standout, with a basic rock beat and simple chord structures. It's based around one simple progression however it's stretched out to almost six minutes. This is one thing the band does well, and it's the reason for a comparison to post rock; it's not about the instant gratification of a chorus such as with modern pop. It's more about the journey and the way the tension builds until the climax is reached, where the listener is bombarded with a wall of theatrical noise, taking their breath away, before gently easing off the throttle and fading away.
The influence of traditional folk ballads in Eleventh He Reaches London's music remains present throughout the album; two prime examples being 'Son, You're Almost An Orphan' and 'Death Is My Holiday'. With the the latter you can almost picture a group of raggedy bushmen huddling round a campfire and signing in an off key unison. However the band's best showcase of traditional Australian tunes is shown in their take on the ancient ballad 'Botany Bay', where they breathe some much needed life into the classic. And if the convicts destined for Australia all those years ago had guitars and drums available, then they would certainly have sung and played this from dawn to dusk to provide comfort on their long and terrifying voyage. Overall it's a wonderfully written album, and indeed one of the best to come out Australia in recent years. It's driven by passionate songwriting, a thoughtful approach to instrumentation and a level of care taken in writing and recording the music that's rarely seen in modern music today. I think there's certainly a few bands that could take a lesson from Eleventh He Reaches London.
Hollow Be My Name