Arcane Roots’ debut album Left Fire is one of our highlights of the last decade: loud, ambitious prog/math rock with tons of melody. Follow-up album Blood and Chemistry ditched the melody in favour of more complex but less tuneful prog, with some screaming thrown in.
This new album reels back on the full-on prog but does not re-introduce the melody (with some exceptions, such as the chorus of Half The World). If Left Fire was brilliant and Blood and Chemistry a disappointment (to us, non-prog fans), Melancholia Hymns is somewhere in the middle.
Clearly, prog is a profitable genre to play in and Arcane Roots are skilled musicians, and we guess the more typical fan likes the complexity more than the melody; Arcane Roots are probably wise to play what they play if they want to sell albums and tickets.
Still, if this new CD does not contain massive tracks such as You Are, even Left Fire had more standard prog on, such as Million Dollar Question, and this new work is a progression rather than a change.
Opener Before Me kicks off gently and is more like the melodic stuff (more Sigur Ros than Dream Theater) but Matter, after a vaguely Rush-like intro goes into Muse-like commercial prog, and much of the album is solid prog. Songs such as Indigo and Off The Floor are more melodic with layered vocals, and there’s less screaming than on Blood and Chemistry.
Despite the criticism, Arcane Roots really are bloody good. This is a well-crafted and exceptionally well played album combining prog and melody, appealing to those who like the sprawling, intense sound of pure modern prog and those who want something more tuneful. At some point, Arcane Roots will quietly rise to the level of a stadium band without the outside world noticing.