London three piece rock outfit Arcane Roots have so far, in their ten year period released two mini albums ‘Left Fire’ (2011) ‘Heaven & Earth’ (2015) and a full length record ‘Blood & Chemistry’ in 2013. They have consistently proved their song writing prowess through front man Andrew Groves’ technical and heavy riffs, angelic yet soaring voice, Adam Burton’s driving basslines and now Jack Wrench’s ferocious and versatile drumming. Whilst ‘Blood & Chemistry’ showcased a streamlined refinement to their technical sound producing criminally underrated rock anthems such as ‘Resolve’ and ‘Slow’; the chorus driven ‘Heaven & Earth’ EP leaned further towards the potential of wide spread commercial success whilst still retaining its heavy edge and huge sense of scope. Whilst most bands at this point in their career, opt for the more accessible approach to their second LP, Andrew has expressed at length the bands’ desire to expand their creativity and produce something entirely different – “We already felt like we could do rock music, and the last record we put out was the shiniest, most polished record we’d made” (Upset Magazine)
The level of care taken in the band’s new direction is exemplified through Andrew taking time to learn both the piano and violin, which takes on a far larger role than one would expect on a traditional rock album. The resulting project of ‘Melancholia Hymns’ is something with far more in common with the likes of Pink Floyd and Bjork than the predicted contemporaries such as Biffy Clyro and something that sounds far larger than any three piece band has the right to. They are taking a giant leap and a gamble with this more mature sound, and risking losing a casual rock audience; but it is their lack of fear that is admirable as they are clearly creating this record for their own enjoyment of experimentation; and the result pays off in spades.
Opening track ‘Before Me’ feels like the grandiose establishing shot to an 80’s sci fi movie through its swelling synthesizers before building into a post rock powerhouse with straight played drums and luscious vocal harmonies. The use of synthesisers play a major role as they seamlessly transition each piece of this record together; ‘Matter’ opens in similar fashion before breaking out into more traditional territory of monster sized riffs before retreating back to synthetic glitches in the manner of Aphex Twin. ‘Indigo’ is perhaps one of the records most emotional moments which showcases Andrew’s great ear for haunting vocal melodies as he sings of hiding away from troubles backed by some brilliant building percussion and dancing subtle synths. The middle section is a stroke of genius portraying the sense of isolation as his vocals “just say the word, I’ll go if that’s what you’re saying” are buried under the mix of a delicate guitar, drums and glockenspiel.
‘Off The Floor’ was a wise choice of single for this record as it showcases the band firing on all cylinders. The song title is fitting as its use of crescendo is exhilarating as it literally and metaphorically takes off into some of the albums most impressive riffing. The technicality of Andrews’ guitar playing paired with his vast vocal range is something that begs to be celebrated, even if it is not the staple of this record. In stark contrast, the first snippet of the bands’ new sound came in the form of ‘Curtains’, a tune that is incredibly simplistic on all fronts, but accompanied with orchestration resulting in epic scope, begging to be played loud. Opening with a single distorted chord that sounds like impending doom: ‘Solemn’ manages to be one of the bands’ slowest burning moments of their career that demonstrates Jack’s interesting use of beat. Whilst it revolves around a repeating idea, it’s build up in texture keeps it from ever becoming stale and also harkens back to the bands’ earlier days with a rare moment of screaming.
‘Fireflies’ demonstrates Andrew’s strength through his falsetto vocal, serving as an additional level of instrumentation rather than the leading charge of the song and is the calm before the storm of ‘Everything (All At Once)’ – perhaps the most literal named song of all time. For any of those in preference to the heavier side of Roots, the second half of this song will satisfy all of those itches as the final minute of this track throws monstrous toned riffs, synths, blistering drums and ambience at you all at once. Fittingly for an album that opened so tastefully, the closing track ‘Half The World’ is a seven minute epic ballad that book-ends this record perfectly. The song is packed with emotion that builds up and down seemingly giving advice to those struggling to keep a grasp on life: “Be yourself when you’re full of doubt, hold on to the reigns”.
Arcane Roots exemplify the importance of taking your time as artists when exploring a new sound. Not only does this record surpass all expectations of a band that have deservedly gained a huge following in their career so far, but it does so with heaps of confidence, maturity and flair. This record is consistently fascinating, exciting and inspiring; and the fact that it is delivered from a three-piece band only makes this LP more impressive. If you haven’t checked out this band until now, now is absolutely the time to do so, to help this band get the credit they truly deserve.
A colossal new direction executed with flair.