Album Review: Melancholia Hymns by Arcane Roots

In December 2012, I was dragged along to The Old Blue Last, there was some live music and some fine beer, so I went along. The first band that played, was an experimental rock group called Gallops and they had their drumkit and handheld keyboard player actually on the floor amongst the audience (there weren’t many people there). They were OK for a few minutes, but quickly became overwhelmingly “experimental” and I prepared to leave. However, a friend bought me a pint and, during that pint, Gallops finished and another pint appeared, so I though “What the heck” and stayed to see the headliner.

I’m glad I did because that headliner was Arcane Roots.

I was absolutely blown away by this massive band on this tiny stage, my hair stood on and and I though “ermehgerd, this guys will be HUGE”. Fast forward several years and I’ve played “You Are” from Left Fire four million times to as many people as I can. I’ve drooled my way though Blood & Chemistry (and completely missed the 2015 EP release, Heaven & Earth, not sure how I did that).

Then circumstances transpired to bring me when step closer to the band. A friend of mine (whose daughter is in the same class as my son) regaled me with a tale of the time he saw them in a tiny hall in Oxted (his wife, taught the lead singer, Andrew Groves’ Dad to dance!). He then won tickets from XFM to a festival in Loch Ness (yeah, remember when XFM was good?), decided not to go and gave the tickets to Andrew (whom, I’m told, promised my friend he’d “sort him out” when he’d hit the big time. “Well, I’m still waiting!” – my friend Glenn.)

Anyway, they came back onto my radar in time for me to hear the single “Curtains” released in 2016 and I fell in love with them again (although, clearly not enough to notice the EP I missed).

So, here it is, Melancholia Hymns, the second studio album from the Kingston Upon Thames trio, Arcane Roots and it’s a cracker. It’s exceptionally well written, but does require more than one listen to really get into it – it’s a new sound, not entirely different from their previous work, but different enough to keep you in suspense. The trademark Groves vocals are all over this album, like sugar on a donut and they give me shivers, especially when he sings things like “Half the world is keeping me whole, I know A symphony to keep you in the dark, I know” from “Half The World” and the incredible “Matter” – “Watching the pieces fall now, And witness your word, See how the faces fade”.

It starts slow and quiet and builds and build the length of the album. This is a step up from their previous releases, it’s grown up, it’s complicated and it makes me feel good. “Before Me” is a beautiful song and a microcosm of the rest of the album, giving you a taster of what’s coming. The stand out track though is Indigo, Groves hit his groove here (see what I did there?), it’s an epic track and will be one that I keep coming back to. It’s not single material, it’s much, much more than that.

If you’re new to Arcane Roots, this might feel a bit watered down. For example, in “Matter”, there’s a screamo bit, but it’s not over-powering and you’re left wanting, but that, my friends, is the beauty. LISTEN AGAIN and you’ll hear more, LISTEN AGAIN and you’ll be there with him. There are some beautiful drops in here and some incredible, singing, heartfelt guitar lines that draw you in like a harpy, then rip your guts out, but you’ll love it. Case in point is the beginning of Solemn

The album closer, “Half The World”, is a proper album closer. Not only are the songs perfectly well crafted, the order in which they’re presented is also. These boys know how to close out a record. It’s giant, cinematic and leaves you with that feeling you get when you’ve finished a good book

Arcane Roots are not math rock anymore, I’m not sure what they are actually (I flatly refuse to call it post-rock) – there are some poppy overtones (the beginning of “Arp” although, there’s some tasty bass work from Adam Burton here) – they come through in some of the vocals, but mostly in the electronica which, on the first listen put me off (although, I wasn’t listening hard, a cursory first pass to get a feel). This album is not for everyone, because some of you are lazy, don’t be and be well rewarded. This isn’t an album you can play on random, or put on in the background. Approach this album with the intent to listen and you will forever be converted to an Arcane Roots fan.

Find the band at buy this album.

Oh, and Andrew, you still owe Glenn for those Loch Ness Festival tickets. 😉

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