Review Summary: Sometimes there's warmth in the coldest places...
Every now and then you’ll stumble across an album that you remember listening to a while ago, listen to again, and then have totally different feelings about. Sometimes it’s the conditions, sometimes it’s your tastes at the time, your mood or even who you’re with. Recently, sitting in a cold bedroom huddling snugly in my blankets while snowflakes slowly inched their way towards the ground, this album began to play. It was a familiar sound, and the first track was suitably named for the situation. My thumb circled shakily around my click wheel to send the volume up, and I felt a small bit of warmth, despite the circumstances. I instantly loved Daniel Änghede’s voice; it was so soft and inviting, playing over a soft electronic melody with an unwavering relaxing tone.
Despite the name, Hearts of Black Science has a very welcoming and soft tone, and I’d say that they are in fact very accessible. The band themselves come out of Gothenburg, Sweden, almost exclusively known to the music world as melodic death metal capital of the world, which may be why they are so unknown. Unfortunate too, considering the quality of music that they are putting on the table.
Just from looking at the album cover, there is a lot to be learned about the album. A gear on the left being reminiscent of a machine, similar to the factory-like quality of the instrumentation of the album. The blue outline gradually becoming darker or lighter is a symbol of the entire sound of the album being one single tone, but with some differences that are just enough to create a subtle gradient. The heart being both a part of the band’s name and several of the song’s lyrical themes of love or feelings. Copper clouds over a black backdrop cover up what would be a dark mood with a brighter one, though not quite bright enough to actually shine.
As a warning, if you aren’t a fan of the first couple of tracks, there really is no point in going much further with the album. The album is very similar throughout, and when it does stray from its overall sound, it’s never for very long. The music is very keyboard-laden with a distant drum beat tapping away patiently in the background. The vocals however, front the sound indefinitely. All of the sounds on the album feel very robotic, very electronic, and bear an ever so slightly distorted quality to them. Drums have a bouncy bass, and oddly crisp cymbals, keyboard lines almost have an ambient quality at times but can be more energetic too; there are a lot of Depeche Mode type beats to be found. I found the unchanging tone of Änghede’s voice to be a very attractive quality to the album, having a very friendly sort of mellowness to it, though others may find it drags or sounds depressing.
Material on the album will be familiar to anybody with prior exposure to this band, as the track list is comprised of only four songs not found on either of their two EPs. There are even two songs featured on both EPs that make a reappearance here, “Revolvers” and “Empty City Lights.” Tracks 4, 5, 8, and 10 will prove new to followers and fit seamlessly into the album, showing no less time or effort than any other song and again holding a very similar overall sound. “Miles” is a more upbeat track with a faster beat and more energetic vocals, but still remains painfully similar to the much more mellow “Fading Evening Star” which has a considerably slower beat and a flatter vocal range. Again, sticking around for the whole album is worth it, but there isn’t a very great level of variety to make the 48.5 minute journey worth it to all.
The Ghost You Left Behind
is a very solid electronic experience, but stays in a comfort zone so compact that it’s difficult to justify it being anything more. There is a lack of experimentation evident from the start, and when there is it can usually be found somewhere else on the album. The similarity of the album makes it predictable at times and serves as its greatest downfall in the end, but the material it sticks to is all strong. Really, the biggest thing to hope for is that future releases don’t follow the same pattern.