“Hymn To The Immortal Wind” – ‘Mono’
This has been a rough week for us-guys at ‘Highly Evolved’. I don’t think I underlined the fact enough that we’ve been having trouble finding decent albums. You always know what to expect, when I write these introductions for my reviews, because either things have been good or bad. I’ve been holding onto only a couple of albums for situations like this where I might find myself in a bit of a pickle. “Armistice” was a gambit that I think paid off because I found a track on there that was just sublime, and when I look to this album today, “Hymn To The Immortal Wind”, I’m immersed in this epic-soundscape that embodies all the eccentric qualities of goth-rock, post-rock, instrumental-rock and otherwise. It isn’t so much an eye-opener as it is a refreshing drink on a hot day.
But I think I’m beginning to fully understand what my partner was talking about when he reviewed ‘War Tapes’ and found that it was oozing so much epic that it was just too epic. I know, what am I saying? If you want my opinion, sometimes an album is just trying too hard. “Hymn To The Immortal Wind” brings the best of both worlds together to create an acoustic-melodrama – and by that, I mean not in genre, but in sound: this kind of music suddenly transcends the physical limitations of that sound and becomes something else entirely. So here we go:
When I tried to get any background information on the artist for you guys, I was stumped when I came across the fact that there are – no joke – eight artists with this exact name. You’re probably wondering:
“… But it shouldn’t be too hard to pick which one this album belongs to: how many instrumental/post-rock bands with this same name can there be?”
I don’t think that’s what matters at all. I’m here to talk about the music, the album on a whole, and it’s up to you to follow up on all those details if any of the things I’m talking about strikes a chord. I touched briefly on genre in my introductions, and that just generally sums up what you can expect from “Hymn…”, it has the basic elements of post-rock, you’ve got your elec. guitar/s, you’ve got your percussion, and in this instance, some wonderfully-strung violin and rarely seen-of flute. This all works harmoniously to create a sound-scape second only to ambience. I haven’t heard instrumental-rock this good since ‘Mogwai’s’ “The Hawk Is Howling”, and that was because that album had some hints of experimentation. “Hymn…” seems to take the dark, drawn-out aspects of goth-rock to its extreme, combining it with loose forms of post-rock minus the ambience, creating an intriguingly distinctive sound. These contrasting lows and highs make for both explosive and implosive music. Crescendo’s aren’t just emphasised, they’re laced with emotion, power, and that makes them that much more believable. Because there are no real visible-chorus’, it means that these songs have to remain interesting for the listener.
Instrumental-rock tends to baffle some listeners – I suspect – because they get overwhelmed in simplistic repetition, or overly outdrawn tracks that last for ten-minutes or longer. “Hymn…” does have this aspect to it – tracks are very long, and with only seven of them, it’s imperative that they each either be of great significance or length. The failing for the latter are those same baffling elements I just spoke of. Great-significance, in context with “Hymn…” is all about giving each track an extra element of emotion, more-often-that-not, sadness or struggle in this case. Five tracks included on “Hymn…” top the ten-minute mark, with one unfriendly twelve, one six and another four. So if you’re the kind of music-lover who likes their music to stay within the boundaries of the standardised four-minutes, I suggest you steer clear from “Hymn…” altogether…
… So, for those of you who are still with me, this album does length for about an hour, but it won’t feel like that. Tracks are static, rhythm is at an all-time low, there is no pace to the album, there is no up-beat sense, it is all pessimism, it is all misery, it is all sadness. By the time you’re halfway through the album, there’s thirty-minutes of your life gone that you won’t get back. Time stands still, basically.
I wouldn’t look at these tracks from an individual perspective [which I’ll soon attempt to, nonetheless] because this is one of the albums which needs it’s track-counterparts. This album flows like a book, so when a track ends, that’s the cliffhanger for the following chapter, and when the book ends, that is the be-all-and-end-all of the album, the pinnacle, the climax, the everything. In this sense, you can judge this book by its cover because if you can’t make it past “Ashes In The Snow”, the opener, then there’s no hope.
What the hell is it with post-rock/goth-rock taking all these cool names for track titles? Let’s see:
“Ashes In The Snow” – that sounds frickin’ awesome, man!
“Burial At Sea” – cool.
“Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn” – takes some hints ‘Jarvis Cocker’, you could learn a lot my man.
“Pure As Snow (Trails Of The Winter Storm)” – wow!
“Follow The Map” – okay, I guess a little obvious
“The Battle To Heaven” – epic!
“Everlasting Light” – melodramatic, nonetheless, but still pretty awesome.
So I’m going to take a look at the track “The Battle To Heaven”, because it would have to be my favourite, and it opens with the scratch of ambient-guitar, elec. leads, solemnly opening. Two leads follow you through this whaling ambience, and the riffs are repeated over and over until the opening beat appears, and that’s just plain, simple acoustic percussion. So, as far as repetition goes, this persists for as long as two-minutes. Finally after this we get a break-away guitar, something that takes the highs, and the deep, painful strum of cello/violin, accentuating this. We reach some kind of chorus where everything begins to work in harmony, building, building building. We’re at the 3:25 mark, and this is where that powerful goth-rock aspect starts to kick in, everything becomes a struggle, each and every instrument is vying for dominance, the ambience gets louder. An implosive chorus appears at the fourth-minute, and this is where we get that lo-fi ‘Mogwai’ guitar that just scratches incessantly in the background. All the while, things are just repeating over and over again, just building. Much the same way “Tubular Bells” does, this is just putting one layer on top of the other.
And you know what, it works. It’s appropriately titled because it really does feel like a “… battle to heaven…” complete with apparent victory, inevitable defeat, isolation with the death of instrumentation. It’s easy to sit back and imagine a clash between enemies, a “be-all-and-end-all” fight between good and evil. I suppose some might frown on this melodrama, but music that can inspire such a reaction as this without the need for lyrics is in itself amazing. When it comes down to a rating, I’m content to give it a four because I just like it – I haven’t had any post-rock/goth-rock like this for a while, so it’s a nice change from the usual ambience or indie.
The Enantiomorphic God