Arcane Roots
Melancholia Hymns


5.0
classic

Review

by Mardorien USER (13 Reviews)
November 7th, 2018 | 16 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: 'Energy is Never Lost, Just Redirected' (or, 'rock band finds synthesiser')

When, two years prior, Arcane Roots released their EP Heaven & Earth, I don’t think anyone could have foretold the change in style Melancholia Hymns was going to bring about. From Left Fire onwards, they exhibited a knack for crafting contrasts; heavy to light and back to heavy, spacey vocals and acoustic piano entrances to ferociously screamed exits (‘If Nothing Breaks…’). One thing is for sure; 2015 saw them emphasise the emotion they had previously flirted with, which made Heaven and Earth the most compelling music they had composed. 2017 offered us a band who had realised their strength – not the mathcore- and prog-tinged rock of their previous album, but whatever feels right for the track. And if that sometimes requires synthesisers and virtually no guitars, so be it.

Known for their explosive openers, Arcane Roots opt for a subtler start here. ‘Before Me’ is the equivalent of the sea at low tide, advancing slowly up the shore, the polar opposite of the waves-crashing-against-rocks of ‘Energy is Never Lost…’. That’s not actually completely accurate – technically, both start with quiet openings. But past that quiet opening, ‘Energy…’ opts for a sudden change of momentum, whereas ‘Before Me’ accelerates slowly to a grander conclusion. Don’t get me wrong here though, as the album does have their signature crescendos; ‘Curtains’ builds from acapella quiet to metallic breakdown, as does the stunning ‘Arp’. Those climaxes and the intensity are used to a much better end; bringing highlights to the album, as opposed to constantly vying for the same label in previous records. That is the epitome of this album. Moderation. The ability to hold back, when required to.

What this album does see change is the time signature jumps: far rarer, they are less used for technicality’s sake (a la ‘Triptych’), only relied upon when demanded (‘Everything [All At Once]’). That means there is more room to experiment in other regards; no more forced breakdowns like in ‘Belief’, so the whole record has a lot more space to breathe, allowed to form fully without suffocating in extraneous technicalities and riffs. ‘Indigo’ benefits from this the most; verse after verse of emotional vocals before a refreshing climax that comes from synthesisers, not heaviness, before fading out to a heart-rending ballad at the end. The single repeated line makes a return here, but it doesn’t feel lazy, unlike in previous records.

The lack of heaviness was arguably the most risky thing Arcane Roots had ever done. Andrew Groves himself said in an interview that he was worried it would be received poorly: ‘rock band finds synthesiser’, ‘Arcane Roots discover keyboard’. And true enough, some fans (myself included) found it hard to accept this new change. What I was missing those first few listens was the depth of what at first seemed as shallow as those statements above. Take ‘Arp’ and ‘Firefly’: sat next to each other, these two risk blending together with a similar structure (as another reviewer has mentioned, the last half of the album is more formulaic than the first, but I don't think this detracts from the album very much) and maybe, if they were the other way around, they would. However, the breakdown in the former track is used almost as a full stop, a comma to indicate the switch.

It took me a while to think of the summary line for this review. I was struggling to round up the album, or this review, in a single sentence. Then, I realised that the perfect summary was staring me straight in the face; the cliché of using a track title. Of course. Because Arcane Roots really haven’t lost any energy, and it has been redirected to better uses. A band that was previously pretty good math-rock became exceptional prog-tinged rock, moving their efforts from overtly technical to subtle intensity, to an album of lows and highs, of synthesisers and painting scenery with them.

And that’s what makes a near-perfect album.



Recent reviews by this author
Arcane Roots Blood and ChemistryArcane Roots Left Fire
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user ratings (154)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
PistolPete (4)
Half the heaviness. Triple the emotional payoff....

SouthNortherner (4.5)
A musical journey from start to finish, executed with prowess and raw emotion....

RabbitSeason (4.5)
Refined contrast and beautiful evolution....



Comments:Add a Comment 
AfterTheSensesEscape
November 7th 2018


16 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I wouldn't say perfect, as a lot of this bored me a bit, but good review. pos

Krvst
November 7th 2018


426 Comments


Too many songs that take forever to actually go anywhere on this, but good review

Digging: Architects - Holy Hell

Ecnalzen
November 7th 2018


7488 Comments


I just started listening to this band. Haven't got to this yet, but I like what I have heard so far.

Lefondre
November 7th 2018


167 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review. Real shame these guys are calling it quits...

Dewinged
November 7th 2018


12106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Matter is godly.

Digging: Azusa - Heavy Yoke

Mardorien
November 8th 2018


65 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@Senses & @Krvst I get the feeling you two have a similar problem with the album. I've always loved the depth of the tracks on this, and the build-up isn't necessary for their music to be enjoyable. But to each their own.



@Ecnalez you're in for a shock when you hear this, and I await your thoughts on it.



@Dewinged Matter is definitely top five tracks on here (that riff is the best), but for me Curtains is higher.

JS19
November 8th 2018


6929 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

album is godly. band is godly. review is decent

Digging: Rafael Anton Irisarri - A Fragile Geography

AgentDeathbat
November 8th 2018


1664 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

not a bad record, might need some growing for me.

Hawks
November 8th 2018


62436 Comments


Menlancholia Hymns

Digging: Senses Fail - Life Is Not a Waiting Room

Mardorien
November 8th 2018


65 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@AgentDeathBat definitely grew on me - started off as a 3.5 and I ended up at a 5.0 a year later.

AgentDeathbat
November 8th 2018


1664 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Interesting...

Coast
November 8th 2018


542 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

hawksmen everywhere

Digging: Siege Column - Inferno Deathpassion

sizeofanocean
November 8th 2018


742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah Hawks you're omnipresent

sizeofanocean
November 8th 2018


742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Also sweet review! Pos'd dat shit

Ecnalzen
November 8th 2018


7488 Comments


@Mardorien

Yeah, I have heard this is a pretty big departure for them, but I don't mind a band doing a huge change up in style as long as it still sounds good. Nice write up, btw.

Mardorien
November 9th 2018


65 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks all for the positive feedback on the review - took me about two weeks to get around to finishing it, which is the longest I've ever taken on a review.



@Ecnalzen Might take a couple of listens to start appreciating this fully, depending on how open you are to this kind of change, but seems you've got the right mindset for it.



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