London rock trio Arcane Roots have released their second full-length album, ‘Melancholia Hymns’. Though slow to start, the album quickly begins to impress. Tremendous rhythm, combined with a breadth and depth of songwriting, take the band soaring to new musical and emotional heights, allowing them to create a quite unique blend of serviceable and very listenable prog pop.
To the uninitiated listener, the first two songs may serve as a slight turn-off to the concept as a whole. Overcooked opening track ‘Before Me’ holds down both single notes and expectations for a good few minutes before a weak pay-off, as though the band had been at their drawing board and had scribbled “write a Biffy Clyro intro” as an attempt at getting some early points for sincerity.
Lead single ‘Matter’ doesn’t quite grab the attention either, and feels quite a bit disjointed and slow despite the ferocity of the rhythm driving it, like pedaling uphill in the wrong gear.
However, things change quickly, and thankfully for the better. Thanks to the musicianship, there’s an addictive cyclical rhythm to each song which is primitive and almost circadian – something which makes the ponderousness of the opener all the more frustrating. It’s a trope that they play with against varying intensities and grit.
‘Off The Floor’ feels like a car chase embodied in a song, and shows that they can achieve the same effect in a three and a half-minute long song as they can a six-minute one. ‘Solemn’ is atmospheric and doom-laden in a way not heard since 2000s era Coheed & Cambria. ‘Curtains’ is a quiet and introspective number that sits in your ears for days, thanks to the haunting lyrics, “Lately, can you feel your pulse wanting to leave? / The hollowness feels like a friend / You have no need to grow old / Your muscles will seize / Your organs frozen like meat.”
The album touches, somehow, on a King Of Leon-style lilt, a The Mars Volta-esque attention to math rock, and the wounded deer vocals of Sam Smith, which means it does the near impossible task of being extremely palatable to everyone without sounding like a cynically manipulated cash-in. Nowhere more so than in third track, ‘Indigo’, which starts with a swagger, like any respectable Radio 1-friendly, sad boy synth song, but quickly bares its fangs and progresses healthily while retaining a crispness. Like the rest of the album, it’s highly enjoyable, catchy, and thoughtful.
Written by Chris Yeoh (@Chris_Yeoh)
Founder & Editor for DEAD PRESS! | Atheist and antitheist. | Judge of the quick & the dead since 1989.