Review Summary: Initially underwhelmed, I have grown to love "Last Poem/First Light" in all of it's resplendent Kirk Douglasian glory.
After two warmly received EP's it was only a matter of time before New York's So Hideous would unleash their debut album upon us. 2010's "I Balance Daydreams On The Tip Of A Knife" and 2011's "To Clasp a Fallen Wish With Broken Fingers" were incredibly dynamic affairs that took several genres, some more disparate than others, and put them into a kettle. The genres were meticulously stirred and when the recipe was finally finished the concoction was further experimented on. The product was left to dry out and then and was toyed and tinkered with until it was just right. The finished product became it's own entity. These two EP's reshaped and redefined what heavy intense music could be so when news of a full-length reached my consciousness I was pretty ecstatic.
The news of So Hideous working with a orchestra in addition to a lot of recent media attention given their way made me a bit nervous. It's a tough situation to be in when you're a young band with only two EP's under your belt. To have the spotlight immediately thrust upon you with the expectations of boom or bust. We saw how the New York Jets franchise was unfolding before the season even started. It looked like the Jets were doomed before the season even started yet they pulled it all together and have been playing competitively ever since. Standing above five hundred, just one game behind the once invincible Patriots. Like the Jets, So Hideous have pulled it together and released a solid record.
First things first, "Last Poem/First Light" is not better than it's predecessors. That is not to be taken as a insult because despite not being as top tier as their EP's it is still a really enjoyable album that presents a legitimate starting off point for the young talented band. The individual and collective talent, the heart, the soul and the ambition of yesteryear's releases can still be found here it's just that some of the emotional warmth that so defined those releases have been substituted for sheer grandeur. "Last Poem/First Light" is still an emotionally gripping affair that oozes melancholy but the addition of the orchestra and the accompanying songwriting has made the music sound less personal and more distant. The music sounds more magnificent and larger than anything So Hideous Has ever done. The pained screams, the crescendos, the instrumentals, the epic atmosphere, it has all been magnified to an unprecedented level. Instead of sounding personalized for a man or woman to reflect upon it sounds like a soundtrack that was designed for a large scale movement of people who were committed to making the world a better place at the cost of their own lives. The tragic foreshadowing that this album gives off is not a bad thing, it's just kind of different than what I expected.
Musically, this album has been exceptionally performed by all of the musicians involved. The orchestra who performed for this record play a pivotal role in the music's resplendent atmosphere without ever overpowering the core members of So Hideous. The harmony between the orchestra and So Hideous sounds incredibly natural throughout "Last Poem/First Light's" six track affair. There is never a moment where something sounds forced or out of place. It all gels together. And through the mutual cohesion sparks had flown through my heart. "Last Poem/First Light's" is both breathtakingly good and incomparable to it's older brothers . After several listens it went from being great to exceptional. My opinion had changed after the course of several listens and now I see "Last Poem/First Light" in a different light. "Last Poem/First Light" doesn't invoke the same emotional response from me that the EP's did but now....I don't need it too.
The post-rock element of the band's sound has been increased all the while their trademark blackened screamo intensity surges furiously ahead. The band's intensity is one characteristic that has stayed consistent over the past couple of years and the music is all better for it. The screamed vocals are passionate and biting, complimenting the underlying tremolo picking chords and percussion perfectly. The guitars drive the music with it's blend of triumphant melody and sorrowful aggression. The dynamism of So Hideous has increased in several aspects. Aggressive sections blend into slower more mellow interludes before erupting into a combination of the two. The songwriting of "Last Poem/First Light" has been carefully blended with the varied instrumentation for maximum effect. The rhythm section plays a backing role to the orchestra and guitars yet it's presence can be felt the whole way through.
I've come across some responses from acquaintances that this album isn't as exiting as their EP's. Bland even. I would have to disagree with that assessment. With every listen I enjoy this album even more. I find new things every time, I feel new things every time. And despite the relatively brief running time of "Last Poem/First Light", this ultimately is the full-length So Hideous album that I've been waiting for so long. I think that if you don't go into this recording expecting a full-length of their previous two EP's that you'll be pleasantly surprised. Then again, I went into this record expecting to hear "To Clasp a Fallen Wish With Broken Fingers" 2, came out disappointed and then had a change of heart. So anything's possible really. This record should be enjoyed by every So Hideous fan....that is if you're willing to put the time in to fully absorb this music. As for those who have never heard So Hideous and enjoy classical, screamo, post-rock and in general aggressive music with depth than I recommend this album to you.