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The Decemberists - The Hazards Of Love CD (album) cover


The Decemberists


Prog Folk

4.08 | 272 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Ambitious Medieval Fairly Tale Prog Folk Rock Opera (phew!)

The Decemberists' Hazards of Love has been my introduction to a band that seems to be gathering a lot of steam lately. Their new album is a continuous story that is near an hour long and really should be experienced in its entirety. It is a strange project in the download age as being able to follow the lyrics is absolutely essential to enjoying the album, and not all of them are easily deciphered on first listen. It was only after finally getting the storyline straight and learning the majority of the lyrics that I could handle the whole work as designed.

Here is where the strength and weakness of this album lie. The music to this album is often brilliant. The title song (Hazards of Love, part 1) is a luscious piece of folk complete with stand-up bass and harmonies that is everything I love in the genre. (In fact it's one of the few songs that holds up by itself without meticulous lyric attention, though clearly it is not intended for that.) Amazingly, a heavy palm- muted electric guitar line follows, descending further into a dirgish minor horror riff. And it is not only seamless but beautiful!!! Multiple singers play the parts of the different characters in the story to great effect, a wide variety of instruments are used, and some great, memorable melodic elements enter one by one.

By the second half of the album, however, writer/singer/composer Colin Meloy elects to employ repetition and variation on the musical themes presented in the first half. And here is where the problem lies. If the listener is not yet able to follow the story and lyric line well, there just isn't enough variety to maintain the energy. I felt a little beaten forcing my way through the second half before I went and did my lyric research. Even now, I think the end of storyline is not as compelling as the beginning though it does work in classic tragic fashion.

There are plenty of proggy elements here with dramatic tempo shifts, the obvious extended structure and ensemble composition, intelligent and literate lyrics, and strong musicianship employing many instruments. It's not complex like the great symphonic bands but it matches most of the true prog folk acts. Furthermore, it succeeds as well as any of the great rock operas, and perhaps maintains its focus better.

This is one of the best new albums I've heard in a long time. It pains me not to give it a five star rating. For a lyrically-driven piece, however, I think the story is just not going to be powerful enough to lift it to classic status 5 years from now. In addition, the degree of repetition is a little heavy-handed, enough to preclude a masterpiece rating. Still, the album gets 4+ marks, certainly excellent.

Negoba | 4/5 |


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