Album Review: Arcane Roots – Melancholia Hymns

By Will Sexton  (@willshesleeps)rating 9

An almost cinematic epic, filled to the brim with an ever-evolving sound and beautiful elements, Arcane Roots return with their sophomore album Melancholia Hymns after a long 4 years, the album being written over the course of two of those years. The immediate change you’ll notice from their debut album is the large incorporation of electronic elements including drums, synths and pads. Andrew Groves (lead singer and keyboards) learned how to play the piano especially for this album to add an ambiance that had never been heard in their music before, and with some of the songs in the album being demoed more than 50 times, it shows the band has a dedication to their art. Learning new instruments and changing a band’s sound can affect bands greatly, and for the most part, the better, and in this case it’s for the better. Melancholia Hymns is one of the most cohesive and instrumentally rich albums that has been released this year.

Right from the start of the album you’re hit with a wall of synth, gradually building that fills your ears with beautiful chords. It’s an exciting beginning, anticipating the next move. Groves’ voice souring over this synth half way through the track reinvigorates you as the rest of the band kick in and bring a punch. The emotion and power are evident in this album, something that people are always attracted to. Something that people will reflect off of, especially in a live environment. Arcane Roots have been known for their energetic performances and amazing stage presence and with this album under their belt, it won’t be surprising if they start to make some serious noise.

Every song on this album leads into the next, mostly through synth interludes on the end of the tracks, a motif that carries through the album and it’s an appealing feature as the album feels like a continuing and growing art-form rather than individual songs about different things. Matter ends with the aforementioned interlude and the product that follows is the softer Indigo. The song starts with soft, clean vocals and it’s welcoming and warm. The climax of the 6-minute song is 3 minutes in with string sections and layered-synth to which it changes again and it seems like a whole different song which isn’t easily done so seamlessly.

There isn’t a moment on this album where you’re bored. It’s either gorgeous synths or a math-rock inspired breakdown and it’s really something to behold. The song Matter is truly something else. Incredible vocals and instrumentation give you this 5-minute masterpiece. A song that was written in anger about the mistreatment of the Earth, the passion of the song really shows the talent the whole band has: a talent for song writing and performing. The post-hardcore element of Arcane Roots really shines through this song.  For example, Groves’ screams, which only adds to the epic, emotional nature of the song. The big moments on this album stem from the layered instrumentation, whether it be the climax of Curtains, after being crooned at for 3 minutes it explodes and it’s a real goosebumps moment. There is also a hint of an indie-rock influence in the song Off The Floor with the guitar picking, and the post-hardcore style shows its head again with riff after riff after riff and a key-changed chorus.

Arp is the song that shows off Arcane Roots the most as an entire band. It shows their influences, their styles and most importantly that they are a band that deserves your attention. Gorgeous vocals and the growing and climaxing instrumentation are again features of this song, the breakdown at the end, showing a possible influence of Biffy Clyro, blows you away with this all out gorgeous wall of noise. Again, however, it’s the slick and easy transition into the next song that is the most impressive aspect. Fireflies croons away to you and you accept it willing into your ears and mind.

However, with all of this change and mastering other styles, the song Everything (All at Once) sticks to their roots the most and displays that they’re still masters on their guitars and drums. The alt-rock song is one of the most impressive on the album, again showing their math-rock prowess. Finally, it would be offensive to not mention the 7 minute epic that is Half the World, the song that closes off Melancholia Hymns. It’s emotional, as the band haven’t stopped indulging you into their world and their vision, that when the acoustic guitar is heard in the track, it does feel like it’s coming to an end. The song is uplifting, and closes this album with grace. This album can not be recommended enough, especially for anyone who likes alternative rock: it’s one of the most important albums of the year, without a doubt.

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Will Sexton

Singer-songwriter with a long love for all things musical!

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