Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Album Review: Heretics - Wealth = Success

It's been close to two years since I chanced upon this duo, after a quick tweet from Klaxons if I remember correctly - but time has seriously flown. Soon after that, I was investigating any and all tunes that were available around Soundcloud or YouTube, wherever I could find them! This time, they made my job a little easier and posted a demo of a new track around every month, keeping me interested. (Obviously, the demos have gone now that the album is imminent) For this album, there's not so much change in the sound - it's still very dark electronic pop music - but the style has definitely changed and offers a slightly more varied collection of songs. So let's examine it track by track.

This song was the first snippet we heard from the new album, released as a single in the summer of 2011, and it seems that this one hasn't changed at all; they did change the weird intro that was present before - it's still there but cut down by about 45 seconds. The song itself is a perfect example of what you should expect on this album - from the dark lyrics - "in memory of my death, it'll be my last great work, my epitaph" - to the downtempo feel of it all. And as always, the duo show they have a skill with choruses - somehow feel-good and sometimes sing-along despite being mired in darkness. A strong opener.

One of the tracks released as a demo, Roulette is the one that has most significantly been updated. Whereas once it started with chimes and a reasonably slow pace, now it starts with an electronic pulse and a harder-hitting beat. It is on the more uptempo end of the spectrum for this album, but that's still a very subjective description! The lyrics head towards politics and governments wasting our money and then asking us to pay for it; nothing unheard of but a little different from the opening track.

A significant change on this album is the introduction of two instrumentals in place of full songs, where the pair get to show off their skills with the electronics. Starting with a sort of "aah-aah" sound created by a synth, and building on that, slowly adding bits and pieces until the powerful beat drops its way in. It pulses and glows in all the right places, and doesn't last too long (at just over 3 minutes)

"I used to be an engineer, but now I'm just an engine" goes the first line of this track over a basic synth line which slowly allows space for other synthy noises to join in. It's more minimal than we're used to, but the chorus brings out some bigger sounds, although the last note doesn't quite sit right with me for some reason. This song is perhaps at the weaker end of the album, but it's still good.

Starting on a slightly darker synth note than the previous couple of tracks, this one also keeps backing synths to a minimum, or at least at a lower volume, for the first half of the track, but then for the second part, it launches into an absolutely brilliant finale, with a fantastic synth line dominating the whole song. One of the greatest moments on the album, even if it takes a little while to get there.

Here's one (finally) that I haven't heard before! This one is perhaps the least dark-sounding of the album, despite the title, with its slightly more uplifting up-and-down synth line. The lyrics, however, remain relatively bleak, but I suppose we've grown to expect this! The chorus flows nicely in from the verses, and despite not being the greatest one the duo have produced, the song as a whole is up there with my favourites from the album.

A six minute epic in every sense of the word. A lone voice chanting 'aaah's gives way to a brooding backing synth and drum combination. It's a very slow track but that means that six minutes flies past as you're listening to it. In an interesting reversal, rather than bringing more in for the chorus, this time everything disappears more or less, to give the vocals room to shine. Then, at about three-quarters of the way through the song, you think it's all going to end, before a slightly more hopeful sounding tune joins in but fades away to leave the chants heard at the start of the song, to bring it all down back into darkness. Definitely an odd track, but a great one nonetheless.

Again, we have a lighter (well, less dark) tune taking lead on this song, and unbelievably, it seems like the lyrics are taking a turn for the happier, although it is temporary, as before long we move away from lyrics about enjoying "the feel of the grass beneath your feet" to building "a prison for yourself, like you can't handle the freedom". Still, it's a welcome change of pace, despite the song not being hugely memorable or mind-blowing.

Remember I said there were two instrumentals on this album? Well, here's number two. This one could almost be a dance-y track played at some more underground clubs, it's slow-moving but has a nice flow to it. At times it does feel repetitive, especially with no vocals to take point on the track. Well, I say no vocals. There appears to be some vocals at the end, although what is actually being said is lost in electronic meddling. It does sound fantastic, though. And again, the song ends before you get tired of it, albeit a little abruptly.

So, here it is. The final song. Another six-minute epic, split into two halves this time. The first half is mostly just one synth (which borrows from the synth riff heard in Epitaph's middle-eight section) and a vocal line, although it does build at times. It also features the album's title: "When your income is not the best, it's easy to feel like you've failed, because wealth equals success". The second half, is electronic madness, synths flying in from left and right, bringing the album to a huge close.

Well, to be perfectly honest, I don't think this one completely measures up to the duo's debut - it's still a very good album, but there's something missing on a few of the tracks this time round. However, they should be commended for being more experimental and trying out a few different styles of song - the instrumentals and even parts of songs that go without vocals (the endings of Strangers or Ambition, for example) are some of the best things they've created. That's not to say the vocals aren't good (apart from the one note previously mentioned at the end of Engineer's chorus), they fit the mood of the album perfectly. Overall, still going strong!

FAVOURITE TRACKS: Roulette, Obscurity, Ambition
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACKS: Engineer, Life Like This

PREVIOUS ALBUMS (as I would rate them now): Heretics (4/5)

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