When a band have been going for nearly fifteen years, it’s much easier for a reviewer.
This is purely because there’s a back catalogue to compare the current work to.
As a result, it provides some form of framework for the reviewer to work with: fumbling beginnings dabbling in various sounds before streamlining into something much more succinct.
Hence why they often end up with lines like “(insert band name) are back with another album of their unique twist on rock. One for the fans.”
Not particularly interesting, or insightful, is it?
So I will avoid going down that route for this review.
Patchy At Best
Surprisingly prolific, Hey Colossus have put out twelve full length and split albums since 2004, with ‘The Guillotine’ being the thirteenth.
I’ve always found them patchy at best: for every album in their catalogue like ‘Happy Birthday’ (an excellent blend of doom, hardcore and drone), there’s a ‘Project: Death’ (an unfocused mess).
They’re a band I like the idea of, more than their actual output at times. This is down to the fact that they’re a hard working lot, who will occasionally strike genius with their LP’s. So I envisage their lesser works filled with songs with unfulfilled potential.
Sometimes, it can be a hindrance (bad production, less than competent playing). Other times, it’s the songs.
While they might be good, a fertile imagination can make them better: a chord change, a string section, bring the bass to prominence. It’s possible to imagine a world beater.
Even The Edge, when talking about U2’s ‘Zooropa’ has admitted that this can be the case by stating “…some songs are not all there, it is as if they still have their promise in them, you can hear their potential, and I actually like that…”
Unfortunately, that’s often not the case, as I’m left cold by Hey Colossus’ back catalogue at time. However, I would imagine that they make much more sense in the live arena, and it’s a shame that the Belfast show they were booked to play a number of years ago fell through.
But maybe ‘The Guillotine’ will win me back.
‘Honest to God’ is a mesh of post rock and doom which works surprisingly well.
The heavier riffs for the chorus (with the gentle guitar lines played over said riffage) give the song an edge that it probably doesn’t deserve, due to the post rock style guitar lines being rather bog standard. As an opener, it does the job of setting the tone for the rest of the album.
‘Back in the Room’ is very Melvinsesque: the four note riff, throbbing bassline, the hammering drums and vocals halfway between sincere and tongue in cheek. And it carries on building and building for several minutes, adding more guitar into the mix. Gloriously stupid, but still glorious. Easily the best song on here.
‘Englishman’ (supposedly inspired by ‘Invisible Sun’ by the Police) is a jaunty song/commentary about post Brexit Britain (the line ‘cuts himself off to preserve his soul’ is particularly biting). Maybe not the most noteworthy song musically, but it’s one that stands out due to it’s message and somewhat accessible nature.
The title track is a post punk influenced which has a cool atmospheric vibe thanks to the echo on the vocals (almost making them sound like chanting), but the build is too little, too late and ends the album on a flat note.
The rest of the album is made up with midtempo numbers which are nice in the context of the long player, but don’t stand up to repeated scrutiny and are a tad forgettable.
It’s not the most exciting album you’ll hear this year, but it does show that the band are moving in a certain direction, as opposed to simply regurgitating second hand stoner rock riffs like so many of their peers.
This certainly has to be commended, but what they really need to do would be to take inspiration from recent efforts like Gnod and White Hills, adding psychedelic riffs and post punk/motorik rhythms to their music. Then, we might get another amazing Hey Colossus album.
As it stands, it’s a solid, if somewhat unspectacular outing.
2.5 / 5 – Christopher Owens ::: 03/06/17