Review Summary: Haunting, ominous, and beautiful...all at the same time.
I’m not well-versed in the realm of avant blackened post-hardcore, but something about So Hideous’ third LP – None But a Pure Heart Can Sing
– feels special. Maybe it’s the way they incorporate both blistering intensity and cinematic orchestration in equal measures. Perhaps it’s how this thing can feel so breathtakingly gorgeous in one moment, but then anxious and deeply unsettling in the next. Detractors will question how well they blend
these aesthetics into a structured commodity, which is fair, but the opposite magnetic pulls on display are also part of what makes the experience so jarring and unpredictable. None But a Pure Heart Can Sing
comes at you from all directions, and you’re never quite sure whether So Hideous are about to usher you to a safe haven or shove you over a cliff ledge. The uncertainty is exhilarating.
Such dichotomy is immediately on display with ‘Souvenir’, which comes roaring in like a barrel of TNT via Christopher Cruz’s tortured screams (atop some particularly dissonant electric guitar riffing) before it all plunges into a sea of electronically-washed percussion and eerie synth melodies. The song’s harsh beginning boomerangs, returning after a slight lull with even greater force only this time accompanied by a powerful string section. None But a Pure Heart Can Sing
is largely driven by such pendulum swings – whether it’s ‘Motorik Visage’ going from black metal to string swept experimental drumming or ‘Intermezzo (3)’ abruptly fading into adrift, meandering pianos halfway through its runtime. The best integration of all the band’s strengths probably occurs on ‘The Emerald Pearl’, which commences with the soft glow of acoustic guitars before launching into a propulsive rhythm section, a full-blown orchestra, and even a saxophone solo which is accompanied by gut-wrenching screams and a barrage of black metal-styled drums. It’s every bit as weird as it sounds, but it’s all so well-executed and dynamic that it never alienates the listener. That’s basically So Hideous’ calling card – they’ll take you out of your comfort zone, but never without taking you somewhere even better in the process.
There’s a fine line in experimental music that artists must toe in order to be successful. When things become too jumbled and incoherent, the “art” loses what made it music in the first place and it becomes work to listen to. The best forward-thinking musicians learn where that line is and consistently tease it, grazing the threshold with tantalizing outside-the-box concepts while anchoring their craft with something cogent. I believe So Hideous achieve that temperate balance here, thus yielding a product that feels unique on its face without sacrificing the joy of being able to put a record on and simply rock out to it. None But a Pure Heart Can Sing
is a little bit post-everything, but at no point is it ever past the point of being enjoyable.