A decade successfully spent within a band trying to make a career out of being a musician is no small feat to endure. To reach this unassuming milestone usually requires a handful of albums and a large amount of touring. It’s surprising then that the English based Arcane Roots have managed such longevity with only one full length album and a handful of EPs. Blending alternative, math rock, and even a little ambiance, the three-piece have created a unique progressive signature that feels modern and accessible. Now, after four years and a single EP, they are finally bringing out another full length album: Melancholia Hymns.
The foremost noteworthy element of the music that Arcane Roots crafts is how well they blend the various elements of their music. At its core, you can call it progressive rock and feel comfortable in that description, but beyond that it manages to elicit this feeling while using otherwise non-progressive sounds and instrumentation. There is a prominent dichotomy present between the ambient or synth sounds and more aggressive math- or post rock stylings on nearly every song. Whether it’s the keyboard heavy intro and modern pop chorus of “Fireflies”, to the frenetic patterns and vocals of “Matter”, nothing seems out of place and it contains a cohesion that effectively conveys a unique sound that is distinctly their own. This allows for highly approachable music to people who usually find prog music to have an inherent barrier to entry, while not sacrificing a whole lot of depth in the process.
In an interview with Victory Amps, guitarist/vocalist Andrew Groves discussed how it was a challenge to his playing and writing to accommodate a sound consisting of only three members when attempting to keep it full and engaging. This sort of approach has lead to an album free of guitar solos and thematic riffs. Instead you’ll hear a balance of atmospheric space between the ambient parts and surprisingly full and powerful chording during the euphoric moments. This is often effectively accompanied by a drum performance from Jack Wrench that is simply brimming with life. When these two pieces reach a crescendo, such as in the ending moments of “Everything (All At Once)”, it’s impressive just how full and evocative the music can be.
The other side of the coin here is the more ambient and pop driven moments. The keyboard plays a prominent role in a number of songs, and this approach, in combination with some calming melodies and the restrained drum patterns, feels very much like something from an alternative record you would hear on a top 40 chart. This contrast provides an important balance to the more aggressive moments, allowing them have more weight than they would otherwise might, but they also serve to create moments of interesting songwriting that would be absent in their stead (see the ambiance of “Arp”). These pieces may be a bit of a deterrent for those looking for something a bit more ‘prog’ or complex, but those willing to invest into the style they were going for will be rewarded for their time. Furthermore, the unique sound present on the record is one that I could easily see providing commercial success for the band.
With an effective blend of alternative rock and light progressive elements, Arcane Roots have crafted a very approachable record, while still retaining depth and atmosphere throughout its near hour long runtime. Melancholia Hymns contains a healthy diversity in tone and instrumentation that keeps it engaging, and its lighter elements do a great job of appealing to modern pop sensibilities in a fresh way. The ‘melancholy’ in the title does a good job of evoking the kind of emotion you might feel when listening to the album, but within that are some truly beautiful and powerful moments. This is an easy recommendation to make, and while it may not change your life, it is most definitely worth your time.
Notable Tracks: “Everything (All At Once)”; “Arp”; “Matter”
FFO: Biffy Clyro, Circa Survive, Black Peaks