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


The Decemberists


Prog Folk

4.08 | 271 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Spoiler warning: in the following review, I will be discussing the plot of the album. If one would wish to listen to the album and absorb the plot on their own, then perhaps reading a different review would be preferable.

The album starts off innocuously enough with "Prelude", which is a very quiet song that takes some time to build up in volume. I think that the band did this on purpose, so that listeners would turn up the volume, and listen to the music louder.

Either way, once the album starts in earnest with The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles), the listener is in for a real treat. This concept album tells the simple but strangely dark romantic tale of love between a fawn/spirit/man and a pregnant woman, and the intervention of "The Queen" (aka, the spirit of the forest and the fawns mother) and "The Rake" (a dastardly man who killed his own kids to be free of them). The music is simple by prog standards, often involving mostly an acoustic guitar, although the vocal performances are wonderful and the album has some really intense parts as well instrumentally.

We go through the first half of the album without even meeting the villainous Rake; instead the groundwork for the romance between William (The fawn) and Margaret is laid out. As such, the music in the first half is more romantic and acoustic than it will be later. Right before the Interlude that marks the first half of the album ending, we are introduced to The Queen, and learn that she rescued William from death by giving him the form of a fawn. We also learn that she has some sway over William, for he must ask her for permission to spend the night with Margaret. When she is present, the music takes on a more aggressive, electric sound, nicely giving her her own character instrumentally.

The Rakes Song introduces us to the despicable Rake, where he confesses not only that he killed each of his three children, but that he feels no guilt over the act and is glad to be rid of them.

After that point, the second half of the album runs as a single song. It reprises themes from the first half of the album, most notably "The Wanting Comes in Waves" and "The Hazards of Love", so it will sound a little familiar, but it does so in such a way that I feel works strongly in the benefit of the album. (In fact, if this album had been marketed as a single song, this coherence would have me claiming the album was more effective at this than either The Incident or The Whirlwind.)

The reason for the second half being so smooth is that it is runs as a single scene, that is actually rather quick. The Rake captures Margaret, but when trying to escape, finds a river blocking his path. The Queen aids him across, claiming that Margaret is merely a distraction for her son William and being more concerned about that then what she knows the Rake will do to her. William reaches the river just after the Rake crosses, and tries to cross, but the water is too strong and he cannot make it across the river. The Rakes dead children return from the grave as ghosts, killing him and freeing Margaret, who then jumps into the river, and she and William decide to marry each other, before they drown. Definitely a dark twist to this love story.

The music that accompanies this is magnificent, and matches the increased pace and tension of the story. The songs flow into each other quite smoothly, and the mood of the music really provides a lot of emotion. William's reprisements of "The Wanting Comes in Waves", somehow, really enforces his desperation to get Margaret back (especially after he used up whatever it was that the Queen owed him to have this night with her). But the highlight, for me, is "The Hazard of Love 3: Revenge!". This is the song where the Rake's children return, and the childlike singing and vocals sound really eerie, making it quite easy to imagine these child-ghosts re- appearing to kill their father.

Sadly, although it fits the story, The Hazard of Love 4 does not stand out as strongly after the 7 strong songs that preceded it, so the album ends on a bit of a relatively low note (although it is still a good way to end the album).

This year we seem to have been granted a bevy of great concept albums, and this is one of the better ones. 4 stars.

TheGazzardian | 4/5 |


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