By Karum Cooper
I’ve been following Arcane Roots for quite a while now – they’ve always fascinated me with the way they splice together segments of math rock with banging anthemic choruses and their signature sounding octave riff vibes.
After hearing first single off the album ‘Curtains’ – I was pleasantly exposed to some Radiohead-esque synth wizardry, percussive samples and a beautifully memorable vocal hook. To hear this kind of sound from a rock band really excites me! Not enough modern bands are brave enough to journey out of their musical comfort zone, and those that do often venture into the ‘commercially acceptable’ territory; often leaving fans feeling alienated and unhappy. At the time of hearing this single, I could not wait for the album to follow – simply to hear the direction in which Arcane Roots would go.
Opening track ‘Before Me’ gets off to a slow start and, unlike many of my favourite alt rock records, didn’t seem to thrust me into the world of Arcane Roots. After listening to the entirety of the record though, I’d definitely say it was the best choice in opening song; It allows the listener to gently descend into the new (almost unknown territory of ‘Melancholia Hymns’) whilst still intermittently throwing in those signature, familiar Arcane Roots characteristics. The track was a soft gentle touch lulling me into a comfortable trance, whilst ‘Matter’ was the slap around the side of my face – leaving me very pleased to hear such hard hitting, visceral riffs reminiscent of old school Arcane Roots.
There’s an extremely prominent, underlying textural concept – heavily down to the thick analogue synth drones that seem to weave their way in and out of almost every song. I also noticed a very clever, not to mention extremely catchy vocal motif courtesy of vocalist Andrew Grove; particularly noticeable in the choruses of ‘Curtains’, ‘Off The Floor’, in the intro of ‘Matter’ and again toward the end of the record in ‘Half The World’.
My only issue with this album is the production quality; I feel that with the new direction – Arcane Roots have chosen to take the slightly more produced sounding route (especially prevalent in the almost overly punchy and compressed sound of Jack Wrench’s drum kit). It seems like the band have deliberately left behind the raw and superbly energetic production style we heard on of ‘Blood & Chemistry’. Thankfully this new, more polished sound works really nicely with the some of the more emotional songs on the record; songs like ‘Arp’ and ‘Fireflies’ (two of my favourites on the record) that really cement the current direction that Arcane Roots’ sound is taking.
‘Melancholia Hymns’ is an incredibly mature sounding record and really stands above many of the other alternative Rock albums to come from UK bands this year. As the third full length LP from South East UK Alt Rockers; it is the most thought provoking and incisive release by far – I’d go as far as to say this album sets the scene for what is to come. Leaving the edgier alternative rock tag behind and moving Roots up the ranks as a solid Progressive Rock band. Every single track exists as an entity in it’s own right – each with unique characteristics and beautifully crafted melodies (that make the record for me) all whilst carrying a very definitive and conclusive concept throughout.