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The Decemberists

Prog Folk

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The Decemberists The Hazards of Love album cover
4.07 | 302 ratings | 44 reviews | 39% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2009

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Prelude (3:04)
2. The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the 3. Thistles Undone) (4:19)
3. A Bower Scene (2:09)
4. Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga) (4:07)
5. The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All) (4:26)
6. The Queen's Approach (0:30)
7. Isn't It a Lovely Night? (3:29)
8. The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid (6:27)
9. An Interlude (1:40)
10. The Rake's Song (3:16)
11. The Abduction of Margaret (2:07)
12. The Queen's Rebuke / The Crossing (3:56)
13. Annan Water (5:12)
14. Margaret in Captivity (3:08)
15. The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!) (3:22)
16. Wanting Comes in Waves (reprise) (1:31)
17. Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned) (5:57)

Total Time 58:40

Line-up / Musicians

- Colin Meloy / vocals (William & Rake), guitars (electric, acoustic, 12-string acoustic, Nashville), percussion
- Chris Funk / guitars (pedal steel, electric, tenor, baritone), piano, dulcimer, synth, bouzouki, mandolin, hurdy gurdy, autoharp, marxophone, banjo, drums, percussion
- Jenny Conlee / piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, Hammond B3, synth, accordion, harpsichord, drums, marxophone, strings arrangements
- Nate Query / bass, double bass, synth, strings arrangements
- John Moen / drums, percussion, backing vocals

- Robyn Hitchcock / electric guitar (9)
- Colin Oldham / cello (1,14-17)
- Adam Hoornstra / viola (1,14-17)
- Greg Ewer / violin (1,14-17)
- Keiko Araki / violin (1,14-17)
- Jim James / backing vocals
- Rebecca Gates / backing vocals
- Becky Stark / vocals (Margaret) & backing vocals
- Shara Worden / vocals (Queen) & backing vocals
- Clara Ell / vocals (Charlotte)
- Joseph Ell / vocals (Isaiah)
- Natalie Briare / vocals (Dawn)

Releases information

Artwork: Carson Ellis

2LP Capitol Records 50999 2 14710 1 8 (2009 US)
2LP Rough Trade RTRADLP556 (2009 UK)
2LP+DVD Capitol Records 5099921471018 (2009 US)

CD Capitol Records, EMI 50999 2 14710 2 5 (2009 Canada)
CD Rough Trade RTRADCD556 (2009 UK)
CD Capitol Records 50999 2 14710 2 5 (2009 US)
2LP Rough Trade RTRADLP556 (2015 UK & Europe)

Thanks to papaatto for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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THE DECEMBERISTS The Hazards of Love ratings distribution

(302 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(39%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(37%)
Good, but non-essential (17%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

THE DECEMBERISTS The Hazards of Love reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Negoba
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.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars It's rare that a recording captivates me in such a way that the music cannot be expelled from my head, even if I have only heard it once and cannot recite a single passage. Such was the case with The Decemberist's previous album The Crane Wife (which touched me on a visceral level), and such is the case with The Hazards of Love. This is a folk-rock opera in the finest sense. The deceptively simple songs almost all flow together from one to the next, themes are repeated throughout, and a coherent and captivating fairy tale is masterfully woven. It's also not often that progressive rock (or rock music in general) these days is blessed with such a phenomenal and smart lyrics. The words are coherent enough to understand without robbing the story of its air of mysticism or making speculation impossible (Could it be that William the shifter is actually Isaiah, the murdered son of the Rake?).

"Prelude" The low hum of bass rises to call forth drenches of organ, that ushers in the soft, gentle, feminine voice.

"The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles Undone)" The first song is heavily based on a twelve-string guitar riff, and does a great job setting the story in motion. Immediately, the erudition of the lyrics are shown to be an asset to this album. The instrumentation builds gradually, the drumming is interesting every time, and the bass is solid.

"A Bower Scene" The previous track gives way to an urgent main theme. The heaviest, almost destructive sounding bit comes in here, and brings in the next piece flawlessly.

"Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)" The first song to feature beautiful female vocals, not to mention an absolutely amazing chorus. The male vocals are a perfect contrast in the midst of the piece.

"The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)" A soft, genuine song about the simplicity of amorous love, this one should make men who are in love ready to shower their affections of their women.

"The Queen's Approach" Things suddenly get dark, as if a shadow looms over the scene, thanks to a harrowing synthetic sound and a lonesome banjo.

"Isn't It a Lovely Night?" Before the Queen can announce herself, however, there is time for a lovely waltz to guitar and accordion. The female and male vocals are slightly disharmonious, which initially put me off, but now seems beautifully natural.

"The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid" The longest song on the album is actually a compound piece. After the harpsichord part with the beseeching male vocals, the Queen sings over gritty guitar and Jefferson Airplane-like psychedelic blues rock.

"An Interlude" This interlude is a quiet and pensive acoustic guitar piece with some electric guitar and other sounds laid over top, like a blanket over a child just after dusk.

"The Rake's Song" Here is a boastful song with catchy music that should please any indie-rock fan. The lyrics are dark, as the narrator tells of how he disposed of his own children.

"The Abduction of Margaret" The theme of "A Bower Scene" returns, which establishes its nature as "the lass is in trouble" music, and it drives the narrative onward.

"The Queen's Rebuke / The Crossing" The Queen returns with the hard and bluesy entourage. Devilish guitars scream and wail throughout. The second part of the song is a more urgent rock song that sounds rather similar to Uriah Heep, with crunchy guitars and wild organ.

"Annan Water" Punctuated gasps of accordion and mandolin bring in the twelve-string guitar to this also urgent song. The folk music becomes a pleading over a lone organ.

"Margaret in Captivity" The twelve-string guitar returns as the Rake describes the captivity of Margaret; the female vocals are stunning over such grandiose music.

"The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)" Urgency once again follows as the climax of the story draws nigh. Guitars and organ work alongside each other, reproducing the theme from "The Wanting Comes in Waves" to introduce the haunting child-like vocals (the specters of the children the Rake murdered).

"Wanting Comes in Waves (Reprise)" This ninety-second track repeats the most magnificent part of the album, just as the title promises! It's a glorious segue to the conclusion of the album.

"Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)" The final song has a country flavor, mainly consisting of acoustic and steel guitar. True to his promise, William and Margaret sink to the bottom of the Annan Waters, but not before declaring themselves married with the waves as their witness. If a man hears this song and doesn't want to take up his girl and dance with her, he may have no soul.

Review by jammun
5 stars There comes along, once in a very rare while, a musician who risks it all, who puts him/herself out on a particularly dangerous ledge, to attempt a piece of music that will either consolidate or alienate, or as it were drive away old fans at the risk of acquiring new fans. We've seen it over the years: The Who's Tommy, Jethro Tull's Thick As a Brick, perhaps Pink Floyd's The Wall. These are albums that like that Icarus fellow, dare to fly close to the sun. The Hazards of Love is such an album, a legit rock opera, and that it should be delivered at such a time, during the supposed demise of the album, is all the more remarkable. This will be a long one: I will try to outline the story, for every opera, rock or not, tells a story.

Any sufficiently pompous prog album needs a Prelude, so of course The Hazards of Love begins with such, beginning with the low drone of a Hammond, or whatever passes for that in this era, until the drawbars slowly begin opening up, morphing into a full organ prelude. I would say this Prelude, musically, does not give the idea that good things will happen in the course of the album.

We get an initial iteration of The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles Undone), whence our heroine Margaret meets up with a wounded fawn (William) and as she tends to him, he morphs into a man, and for her effort has her loins compromised, as it were. Happens all the time; just ask that Leda. The music is folkish, with hints of Fairport and Fotheringay. The casual tempo -- suggestive of a walk in the woods -- is appropriate; the instrumentation becomes somewhat more complete as the deed is done.

A Bower Song follows, and we're in decidedly more rock territory; the ante's upped, music-wise, as it should be, for Margaret's waistline is starting to expand. The song has a pulsing beat, with the music echoing her sister's concerns: Who's the father? When are you due? Given this, Margaret decides to go back to the forest in search of William.

Won't Want For Love we find beautiful, yearning vocals from Margaret, searching for her William. The rhythm is more driven and incessant. And then comes a transition in the music, the basic rock instrumentation of the track transitions, as William calls to Margaret: Oh my own true love. The bluesy riff then continues, suggestive of Margaret still calling for William, for they are not together again yet.

Now a nice acoustic interlude follows, The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All), representing William and Margaret again joining together in the forest. The music is incredibly gentle, ringing guitars backing the vocals, and we come to understand that there is some risk in this for William, as he'd "wager all for the hazards of love", laying with his Margaret.

Well yes, he's wagering it all, for The Queen, his jealous, spiteful, adoptive mother approacheth, accompanied by a nonchalant banjo. If this were an Eagles album or a Ennio Morricone soundtrack you would well be justified in feeling a bit uneasy. Hey, it's just a little innocent melody, about 0:29 worth.

Isn't It a Lovely Night is basically a William and Margaret duet, with accordion and pedal-steel guitar for accompaniment. I never trust any song that includes a pedal-steel guitar. The aching sadness of those bent strings jerks at the heart. Being from Montana, Colin Meloy is fully aware of country music conventions. So the song advances the story: two people hopelessly in love, sharing their emotions.

The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid. The song is initially driven by a harpsichord, as William hears The Queen approaching. He cannot help himself: the wanting comes in waves. The lyrics are an apology of sorts, and then the song erupts into nice full-out rock instrumentation and Beach Boys' harmonies. The music takes a decidedly more metal aspect once The Queen shows up. In the end a bargain is struck: William shall be given one last night with Margaret, and in the morning he shall return to The Queen.

Given that the background of the story is now known, an Interlude is appropriate, for any sufficiently pompous prog album requires an interlude. It gives the listener some breathing space, a moment to contemplate what has come before, and what is yet to come.

The Rake's Song introduces a new character, The Rake. He is represented in the liner art by the Rat, and as it turns out is not one to balk at killing his own children. The song is another rocker, albeit acoustically driven. It's a simple I-VI chord progression, fitting of such a person.

The Abduction of Margaret. The music is a again up tempo, with repetition of the same musical motifs first heard in The Bower Song. The Rake kidnaps Margaret, but is unable to cross the river, Annan Water.

The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing. Musically, we are now back to The Queen's musical motif; she is now in cahoots with The Rake -- anything to get rid of Margaret -- and flies him over the river with Margaret. This song contains a particularly effective pure grunge guitar solo, worthy of Cobain at his best, followed by a nice romping piece of rock with a Emerson-esque organ solo, which I assume represents The Rake and Margaret being flown over the river.

Annan Water. Here we return to the acoustic musical world -- shimmering guitars, mandolins, acoustic bass -- with William offering a deal with the river: let me pass, to rescue Margaret, then you may have my body.

Margaret In Captivity. Interstingly, a more menacing variation of the musical motif and melody of Hazards of Love 1 provides the basis for this song. The Rake is getting ready to deal with Margaret, as he had dealt with his unwanted children. The music shifts to a 'Margaret' motif from Won't Want For Love, as she calls out to William.

Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!). Cue the music from The Wanting Comes Waves. William has arrived to save Margaret. Ah, but what's this, a children's choir? The Rake's three children are back, with revenge on their minds. The music here is a disjointed, almost hallucinogenic, take on Hazards of Love 1. I assume it is reflective of The Rake's demise.

The Wanting Comes in Waves (Reprise). William and Margaret head to River Annan, with appropriate musical accompaniment. "And I want this night."

The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned). William and Margaret marry, with the river acting as minister and witness, and drown. Frankly, the most beautiful song on the album, and one which I can barely listen to, given the subject matter, because it just rips out one's heart. The music is mid-tempo, perhaps a bit dirge-like, but also celebratory: we're at a wedding after all, albeit one where neither bride nor groom will survive. Meloy pulls out all the stops on this one: heartfelt vocals, sweet sweet harmonies, and of course a particularly bittersweet pedal-steel solo. "These hazards of love, nevermore will trouble us."

For anyone actually reaching this point, it's obvious I feel this is a 5. That's a given. What may not be so obvious is that the album is a particular fine blend of music, story, grandeur, risk, and a complete assimilation of the past, with regard to progressive music. I've not heard a better album this century.

Review by russellk
5 stars Occasionally in this life I am fortunate enough to encounter perfection, to experience the coming together of heart and mind to produce something beautiful beyond comprehension. THE DECEMBERISTS have produced a perfect artifact called 'The Hazards of Love'. After a month on high rotation it continues to entrance me.

THE DECEMBERISTS have been working towards this. Their previous albums have been becoming increasingly elaborate, harnessing their folk/indie-rock background and marrying it to strong rock sensibilities. With 'The Crane Wife' we were presented with something deserving of a place on these archives, a wonderful example of progressive folk-rock. But this, this is something else again.

'The Hazards of Love' is a folk-rock opera. It tells the story of Margaret, who falls in love with William, a shape-shifter. The romance progresses to the point she becomes pregnant, when the forest Queen, William's foster mother, intervenes. 'One more night,' pleads William, and his mother agrees, as long as he returns to her by morning. Up to this point it is standard fantasy fare, albeit beautifully portrayed in COLIN MELOY's inimitable verse.

But the Rake intervenes, a blackguard who had previously killed his three children in order to be free of them. He kidnaps Margaret and, with the Queen's approval, imprisons her in his fortress. William makes a deal with the water blocking his way to Margaret, and in exchange for delivering him to the fortress he promises to return and allow the water to claim his life. Meanwhile the Rake's three ghostly children deal to their father in a deliciously ironic scene. The opera ends when Margaret and William return to the water, there to be married in death.

This sort of material doesn't tend to play well in 2009. But, undaunted, MELOY provides some of the most glorious music to underpin this tragic romance. Bazoukis, acoustic guitars, accordions, JENNY CONLEE's thunderous Hammond, lap steel guitars, heavy metal distortion, an upright bass and powerful percussion are all part of the mix. Apart from the oddly tame first minute of the prologue, there isn't a wasted second in this hour of delight. In fact, I would have enjoyed a little more extension to some of the music. But wishes aren't fishes, so I'm content with spectacular segues from sedate waltzes to heavy rock, from multi-vocal songs to gentle instrumentals. THE DECEMBERISTS use guest vocalists for the female parts, and special mention must be made of the earthy, spine-tingling gift SHARA WORDEN brings to the album as the Queen. Oh my.

This is THE DECEMBERISTS to the nth degree. It combines MELOY's biting lyrics and obsession with personal tragedy with something like a cross between the Grand Ol Oprey, dewy-eyed folk and severe riffage. And oh, how it works. I cannot imagine any ardent lover of music failing to be completely captured by this triumph of an album. This is what the concept album should sound like; this is the standard by which all rock operas should be measured.

Review by The Quiet One
5 stars The Rock Opera of the 21st Century

Being mainly a combination of the simplicity and catchiness of alt. rock and the cleverness of 70's folk rock, this album(and band) is such a surprising and wonderful experience from the 21st Century. Having been mainly absorbed by the new wave of Symphonic Prog bands, it had never occured to me that such a tasty and unique band could exist nowadays, leaving all the ''modern'' instruments behind, the dominating instrument is the acoustic guitar, full-filled with a subtle organ, a bass, and generally a gentle drumming, in which all this acompanies the well-thought fantasy story which is ''narrated''(sang) by a wonderful couple of vocalists that suit there 'roles' very, very well.

The story is about, with Raff's own words: ''...a love story between a girl, Margaret, and William, a young man who is also a shapeshifter (he can turn into a fawn), and the adopted son of the Forest Queen - who is not happy with the thing, and tries her best (or worst?) to thwart the two lovers.'' As a whole it's very easy to understand through the lyrics, and like I said, the vocal duties, which are shared through male and female(depends on which character obviously), are magnificent and make this sort-of rock-opera album very memorable from that point of view. Having said that this is a ''rock opera''/concept album, you must expect recurring themes, however The Decemberists know perfectly how to add new and clever passages to revamp the old/main theme and make them even better than the original theme.

Also, if we are talking about a story-driven album, obviously, the music has to fit the story-line, and WOW!, it's done so majestically with the already stated mixture of alt. rock's simplicity and 70's folk rock cleverness. The band, however, does incorporate every now and then some pretty heavy sections, which are mainly the ones which feature The Queen's part/lyrics. The folkish songs are brilliant, full of fantastic melodies and harmonies, extremely worthy of mention are all the parts of the title track, specially the last one, Part 4(The Drowned) which is definitely one of the most moving songs from the last 3 decades.

To conclude, this album is something I have never expected from a modern band, the story and the music are really refreshing. It's not Prog in the way The Flower Kings or Dream Theater do it, no, The Decemberists dedicate mainly to delicate passages and to the wonderful lyrics and as a whole they create a splendid album throughout rather than focusing on creating a 20 minute explosion of all the 70's Prog bands.

This is indeed a masterpiece of an album.

Review by ClemofNazareth
5 stars I’ve been trying to write a review of this album for some time now; wanting to give it the eloquent and well-crafted literary praise it deserves considering the careful crafting that went into making it. But alas, nothing but writer’s block for me these past several months, something the Decemberists’ bookish band leader Colin Meloy most certainly did not experience when he sat down to pen this modern rock opera. To be more precise, he meant it to be a theatrical musical at first, something that was pretty evident when I saw the band perform the album in its entirety back in May.

The one thing I can say with certainty is that this album has spoiled for me, perhaps permanently, the entirety of the band’s back catalog. I first fell under their spell with the fresh and captivating ‘Castaways and Cutouts’ a few years ago; nine musical vignettes that, while macabre at times, revealed a literature and history nerd in all his dweebish glory. Tacked on at the end (“California One Youth and Beauty Brigade”) was the foundation of what would become an impressive string of Decemberists trademark songs; a composition that managed to inject just enough seventies and prog influences to capture one’s attention, while avoiding the overbearing weight of the progressive rock tomes that helped bring about the demise of the genre circa 1973 or so. Original, entertaining and respectful of the listener’s intelligence – what more could you want?!

The next couple of albums seemed to hover just below the surface of musical genius, with Meloy working hard to perfect his skills at penning thoughtful character sketches and impossible rhymes (who rhymes “fodder” and “daughter” and gets away with it anyway?). At the same he tended to play it safe on the musical side, combining his nerdy tenor with catchy acoustic guitar chords, thick Hammond bleats and a seemingly endless stream of harmonizing female foils, a trait that dates back to his days fronting his Montana college band Tarkio. All great stuff, but in retrospect not much more than very astute indie pop once you peeled away the captivating stories sitting atop the music. Sure, there were the occasional glimmers of greatness, including the epic-length and musically mature EP ‘The Tain’; the band’s signature modern folk tune “The Mariner's Revenge Song”; and the understated and underappreciated “The Infanta”. But mostly the band’s albums left me wanting more and not quite getting it. With ‘The Crane Wife’ the band got halfway there, weaving an obscure folk tale into a three-part and undeniably progressive epiphany; at the same time though, there wasn’t quite enough there for an entire album, and the band was left to layer in several interesting but unrelated bits to fill the whole thing up. Close, but not quite there once again.

Somewhere along the line I also picked up their DVD and realized quite quickly that this is a band that is at their best in front of a live audience, a conviction reinforced when I became part of that audience with the release of ‘The Hazards of Love’. In the end, the thing that makes this band work is that they are just flat-ass entertaining! And on that note, I can honestly say I’ve never seen a more eclectic mix of personalities, social classes, blends of generations and frankly such a geekish but well-mannered audience as I did at that concert. And nobody passed out drunk or started a fight, as near as I could tell. Can’t think of the last time I saw that at a concert.

Anyway, like I said all those old albums are now on the back of my shelf. Hopefully not permanently, but definitely at least for a while. This one takes the cake for now at least. The Decemberists have finally managed to put together a true musical epic, nearly flawless from start to finish, just the way they delivered it to our ravenous live audience back in May. We cheered together in shared happiness for Margaret as she was poetically deflowered by her beastly lover; worried for her as she faced the sobering reality of the morning after:

“And when young Margaret's waistline grew wider, The fruit of her amorous entwine inside her;

And so our heroine withdraws to the Taiga!”

And we collectively shuddered at the evil and boorish Queen, who set upon the young lovers like a modern-day Wicked Witch of the West while at the same time marveling at Shara Worden’s powerful pipes and magnetic presence. The studio version does her no justice by the way, and I have no doubt there is a DVD for somewhere along the band’s tour forthcoming. When it comes out – BUY IT!

Every rock opera needs a pinnacle, and the band delivers to expectations with the thundering and drum-driven “The Rake's Song”, a despicable horror of infanticide and depravity that somehow manages to get your toe-tapping anyway; damn that Meloy for dragging us all to Hell!

In the ensuing madness of our young lovers’ impending demise comes an absolutely lovely acoustic folk ballad bemoaning the ‘Annan Water’ that both separates the two lovers, and promises to be their undoing. As an aside, this is not a new musical theme, something my fellow Montanan Colin Meloy is undoubtedly well aware of. Johnny Preston first presented the tale of two young beaus split by a cursed river and meddling parents and who ended up perishing in that same river ("Running Bear" in 1959 – look it up). This was a big hit in the American Northwest and I’ve no doubt Meloy’s parents had the 45rpm in their collection at some point in his childhood. But back to the album…

Toward the end the band does manage to indulge in a rather hackneyed rock opera cliché, the employment of a choir of children’s voices that is both gratuitous and unnecessary. But hey – the Rolling Stones got away with it, so que sera, sera.

Much like on the band’s debut with “California One…”, this one ends on a laconic and somewhat wistfully depressing downbeat, the anticlimactic “The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)”. Our young lovers are gone, and along with them this absorbing and memorable tale. What a poignant and completely appropriate end to another Meloy- penned chronicle of The Struggle. And with a little pedal steel and synthesized strings that would have made Don Henley proud. Mushy and highly satisfying at the same time.

Every time I hear this band I see in my mind the concert on the band’s DVD, with Colin Meloy standing on a small wooden stage at the end of their 2005 tour in Portland, Oregon in his cheesy suit-jacket and big black birth-control inducing nerd glasses passionately bleating out his affirmation hymn “I Was Meant for the Stage”; a rejoinder written to his unapproving parents who never thought the guy would make it in the music business. Back in the seventies Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero” and Ian Hunter’s “Irene Wilde” gave me the same sort of goosebumps. And that’s why I love these guys, no regrets and no apologies. These guys are destined for greatness if they manage to hold it together for a few more years at least, and I’ve no doubt that a decade from now this album will appear on many a ‘Greatest Rock Albums’ list alongside some of the other legendary rock operas in history. Take advantage of it now – you can say then that you knew this music ‘when’. A masterpiece by any definition as far as I’m concerned, and a solid five stars since that’s all I can give it. Turn it up to11 and don’t be afraid to sing along; your soul will appreciate the fresh air!


Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars "The Decemberists" were doing better and better. Releases through releases. At least I feel so. Some female vocals on some tracks do convey some sort of a "Mostly Autumn" feel to the music featured on this VERY elegant "Hazards Of Love".

Powerful vocal harmonies (more felt when the boss is taking over to tell the truth) like during both parts of the title track are the best of this album IMO. A lot has already been said about this album (not in terms of amount of reviews, but the band isn't the most popular on the archives), but in terms of raving reviews.

Some can say that I am not the most excited reviewer available on PA, which is true, but I ALWAYS tell my genuine feelings about an album. And this one is very good.

Some useless and very short moments (three of them) are combined with their so particular prog-folk music. So special?and fantastic like during the splendid "The Wanting Comes In Waves Repaid" which is one of my fave from this work. At times, their fantastic crescendo sound reminds me of the great "Talking Heads" (like the fresh and jumpy "Abduction Of Margaret"). One of my highlights for sure. Fabulous vocal harmonies are the key and frankly, if you don't succumb to these: you might well come from another world. But, I'm just human?

This album features plenty of very good songs: one of my fave is the passionate "Annan Water". These guys are really incredible! It is such a pleasure to listen to their clean, straight forward music. The wonderful "return" of "Wanting" is so typical, so personal of their style which is quite unique; but still: "Talking Heads" are not alien to some of these sounds?

Just some slight deception with the last two sections of the epic "Hazards Of Love" which was cut into four short pieces and randomly placed on the album.

Still, there are WONDERFUL moments to be experienced with this album. Four stars with no problem. I am dying to see them live over here, in the old Europe. Come on guys: get a plane and play over here!

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars My daughter ("Starsdie" on this site) recommended this band to me a few years ago. I had some fun with her a few weeks ago, she didn't know that I had this cd, and I knew she didn't own it yet, so as we were all going out for dinner I turned the cd player on in the truck with this cd in it. Soon she's saying "Dad who's that playing ?", I didn't answer. "Dad that's THE DECEMBERISTS ! I know his voice anywhere". Haha. There aren't many cds these days where i'm rocking out to a song the first time I hear it, but this happened several times during my first listen to this record.The guy can write a melody, and the lyrics are such a blast. A concept album that I really like, now there's a novelty. This album was inspired by an EP called "The Hazards Of Love" (shocking I know) released in 1963 by British Folk singer Anne Briggs. I do really like Colin Meloy's vocals but also the three guest female singers are simply a pleasure to listen to. Amazing vocals on this recording. Some good variety and I like the way melodies are recalled throughout.17 songs that all blend together making it feel like we're listening to a story uninterupted.

"Prelude" opens with what sounds like a low hum, organ after 1 1/2 minutes and strings late. "The Hazards Of Love 1" opens with acoustic guitar as Colin comes in vocally followed by bass. Drums after 2 1/2 minutes. "A Bower Scene" has such a good rhythm to it. This sounds incredible. Male vocals join in as the guitar comes and goes. "Won't Want For Love" has a heavier beat as female vocals join in.This is great ! Male vocals 2 1/2 minutes in are brief then she returns. They slow it down for "The Hazards Of Love 2" with reserved male vocals. This is so uplifting and moving as light drums, acoustic guitar and organ help out. "The Queen's Approach" features some banjo. "Isn't It A Lovely Night ?" opens with acoustic guitar and accordion as female vocals come in. Male vocals follow then we get a duet. The steel pedal gives this a Country flavour. "The Wanting Comes In Waves / Repaid" opens with what sounds like harpsichord as male vocals arrive. It kicks in with drums a minute in. My God ! Love the female vocal melodies too. A change as this really good rhythm takes over with female vocals.Themes are repeated. Hell ya !

"An Interlude" is just that, an acoustic break. "The Rake's Song" is the funniest track ever. Male vocals and I like when he sings "Alright, alright, alright". Strummed guitar and drums lead the way here but it's the lyrics that steal the show (haha). "The Abduction Of Margaret" has such a good rhythm. Here we go ! Male vocals too. "The Queen's Rebuke / The Crossing" features female vocals and a heavy soundscape. Some nasty guitar 1 1/2 minutes in followed by some angular guitar ! Lots of organ late. "Annan Water" has some strummed guitar that eventually takes over as male vocals join in. Organ comes in when it settles then it kicks back in. Great, great track. "Margaret In Captivity" has acoustic guitar and male vocals early, female vocals come in when it becomes more powerful. Contrasts continue. Just a beautiful sound to end it. "The Hazards Of Love 3" is upbeat and uptempo with a children's choir. "Wanting Comes In Waves (Reprise) is just that. I like it a lot. "Hazards Of Love 4" opens with acoustic guitar and male vocals before drums join in. Some steel pedal 3 minutes in as well.

An excellent record that will be on many peoples best of lists for 2009.

Review by Prog-jester
4 stars You know what? THE DECEMBERISTS are great. No, seriously, I mean it. I heard "The Crane Wife" and that 20-min long song/EP from them, and still love it, so when the new one came out, I've decided to grab it as well. What did I expect? What one can expect from a band whose leader covers Smiths/Morrisey stuff? It's like wearing a t-shirt with "yes, I do have a perfect taste" print! They didn't fail this time as well. Melodes are enchanting, voices are fairy-like, harmonies are well-crafted, musicianship is top-notch, etc - if you like THE DECEMBERISTS, you don't even have to read all of this, don't you? If you don't know a single song from the band, begin with this one. Just don't expect THAT MUCH PROG, and you'll be satisfied, believe me. Highly recommended!
Review by TGM: Orb
2 stars The Hazards Of Love, The Decemberists, 2009

Firstly, let me say that this was my introduction to the Decemberists, I had previously heard a lot of praise for them, and that may have ended up influencing my not-quite-appreciating the whole thing (for the record, I've since heard The Crane Wife, and I thought that album was generally very good). I don't know. What I do know is that I'm not really half as impressed by this album as the other reviewers here seem to be. On the positive side, I recognise that it does have a few very good songs (the instrumentals and the Wanting Comes In Waves and Repaid sections), memorable main melodies and a boldness in developing and reprising a few melodies across the album (more of a melodies-stalking-characters-to-create-one-musical-and-lyrical-entity thing: Peter And The Wolf rather than Thick As A Brick). My grievances are basically two-fold: first, that lots of the content just doesn't seem to be adding anything to the table; yes, slight variations on established themes are appreciated when they can offer something new to the feel or mood of a piece; some of the embellishments here seem to me to simply be things that happen alongside the established themes, rather than actually altering or adding character to them. Secondly, the lyrics are a wreck and the vocals don't help: ye olde disingenuous woodsy poetry with indiscriminate alliteration aplenty, telling a fairly loose and light story (one where things happen and that's it) driven by a gaggle of stereotypes. To me, it appears imitative (of an idea rather than a precedent), uninteresting and thrown together with no sense of a poet's discrimination. Now, the vocals are equally an issue: not the basic sound of the singers' voices, but simply the fact that the parts they're singing don't appear to have much material. Essentially, the singers' parts are the melody (which can vary from great to not that great) and trying a bit harder when you're looking for a way to resolve the current bit. I like vocalists who actually contribute to the songs, have unique voices, are willing to show development from one verse to the next, who'll throw themselves into the emotions of pieces rather than playing safe, and few of the vocals on the Hazards of Love manage any of those. Now, for a rock opera, those problems are serious. For an album driven by a story, if you don't make the story itself fascinating, it should probably have interesting characters, be well-written, be sung by great voices, take look at important issues, be advanced continually by the music or simply be so bizarre, strong and bold that picking apart individual pieces feels wrong... The Hazards of Love doesn't seem to me to manage any of those, and for that, rather than a lack of good musical ideas, it really suffers in my eyes.

Prelude is exactly what you'd think it'd be, if you expected a bit of typical atmospheric brooding based on a dark organ sound. Just about non-descript enough to work as an introduction, and it sounds alright, but it doesn't really add a huge amount to the album (other than expanding the opera references). The Hazards Of Love 1 is a fairly nice Strawbsy acoustic-driven piece, with odd percussion adding a bit of flavour to a banjo and acoustic piece, and some of the vocals I described in my introduction. It does expand really nicely after its first couple of harmless minutes, with a neat drum part coming in. It's a fairly good song, even if I'm not a huge fan of the vocals and lyrics.

A Bower Scene has both the album's most awkward bit of tension-creation (I mean, it doesn't seem to be done in a remotely interesting way, with ambling guitar and thick organ) and that heavy blues explosion after which is just right.

Won't Want For Love is a real consolidation on that one, with a moody heavy blues sound emphasised by low piano notes (I have a thing for crisp, low piano notes) contrasting with a healthy female vocal and a really sweet chorus... I mean, the lyric is not something I'd admire, but the melody is very pretty and the drums provide a sort of continuity. William offers a suitably yearning response; Very neat indeed. The Hazards Of Love 2 is, fairly obviously, based on the original piece of the same name, and with some more nail-biting lyrics and vocals, as well as one really awkward melody seemingly driven by the perennial alliteration fixation of this album ('and we'll lie 'til the corncrake crows'... rhymed with 'clothes' and complimented with the vocabulary choice 'bereft' and a bit of basic metonymy seems to me a very, very awkward line... at the time you least want it), it's really not my favourite of the Hazards parts.

The Queen's Approach is an appropriate half-minute instrumental interlude with a lone banjo over a subtle, melancholy keyboard. It sort of fits as a quick characterisation. The following piece, Isn't It A Lovely Night, is just horrendous. Aside from a limp acoustic, and horrendous accordion, the female vocalist inhales audibly before just about every line (something that can annoy me in very slow-paced songs) and is following through an irksome singsong line (later on, you have a choppy and bland waltz following on from the same melody); a mildly redeeming, yearningly Gilmourish guitar part is the only feature I'd say I actually like of this one... and the lyrics are the most gallingly untrimmed yet ('and here we made a bed of barbs and thistle-down, that we had found... to lay upon the dewy ground'... erk, a lesson in not setting too much stock in your rhyme scheme).

After that, thankfully, the album's best piece washes out the aftertaste. The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid is a merging of the two songs... the fawn William taking a harpsichord-introduced, then pop-rockish, verse and chorus (with a really nice watery female vocal harmony) followed by the queen's magnificent response (for the voice and a killer riff, and the lyrics just about work well enough for this). Both the longest and the best piece on the album.

An Interlude does what it says on the tin. But it does it really nicely (huzzah for mandolins). The Rake's Song is unabashed pop-rock, which isn't bad, unless, for instance, you put the chorus as 'alright, alright, all-right'. I mean, there are moments of severe cool-folk-rock syndrome, and then that chorus pops out again or I get bored of listening to the lyrics, which clearly suggest: this is the bad guy/menacing Act II begins!

The Abduction Of Margaret begins the trend of the second act imitating the first, with a slightly harder take of A Bower Scene complete with some gnarly guitar. The Queen's back again for the next piece, with her incredibly neat motif and some supporting female vocal harmonies and splintering guitar. So, the Queen, as a rather over-protective mother, helps the bad man (boo!), and with much fairly blues organ solo, ends her second song as still the most musically appealing character of the album.

Annan Water takes us back to our bold, if slightly randy, anthropofawnic hero, in a more subdued mood and cutting a quick deal with the river. Aside from unimaginative vocals and a chorus with a slight hint of cheddar (organ does not make everything OK), it's a good, reflective piece with a subtle churn in it. Margaret in Captivity is a moody and slightly threatening reprisey piece alternated with the clarion call from Won't Want For Love.

The Hazards Of Love 3 (Revenge). Following a Wanting Comes In Waves bit which clearly shows our brave and amorous hero giving the baddy a well-deserved thrashing. Immediately, thereafter: Singsong children's chorus, and if I were being analytical, I'd say the harmless uplift of their playground harmony (again, it's a Hazards Of Love theme after a somewhat needless wanting-comes-in-waves instrumental intro) was meant to contrast with the threat implied in the lyrics, and the notion that this fun condemnation to his children's mercy and mockery is a crueller punishment for the Rake even more than unspeakable violence and torture would be. Alas, since I'm not, it's certainly a cruel punishment to listen to it. Blech. Anyway, that offence to taste overshadows the truly excellent experimental and edgy work (and harpsichord) that fills out the end of the piece.

The Wanting Comes In Waves (Reprise) does what it says on the tin. Not entirely sure that it's really needed here.

The Hazards Of Love 4 rounds off the story and is perhaps the most uninteresting thing on the album. The lyrics don't work for me, the bass part is incredibly bland and I can't say I find anything in the drums or the string additions, or the harmless positive chord it decides to leave us on. Without the nice tonight...tonight...tonight harmony and the delicate guitar solo, I'd be harsher on it, but those two components probably make it worth getting past the blandness that characterises this romantic conclusion. Not bad, per se, but I'm a firm believer in the principle that to produce a moving and touching piece you don't have to all but abandon the creativity which The Decemberists often do show. Well, it's obvious that this is not my favourite album ever, and though there are some very nice songs on it, a fair percentage of it (say, 25%) sets off my *yech, don't touch me* sensors for one reason or another and I really don't follow the story emotionally, which seems to be the album's basic aim: so, it's a two rather than a three. Anyway, if you want to start your acquaintance with The Decemberists with a good album, I'd recommend The Crane Wife, because I'm not completely convinced that this is one. Rating: Two Stars

Favourite Song: The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid or something like that.

Review by horsewithteeth11
5 stars I normally hate when people use the metaphor of "desert island albums", but I can't really think of another term to describe my feelings for this wonderful record. I'd also like to make a shout-out to a certain someone who has been nagging me endlessly to publish my review on this album. You know who you are, and my message to you now is "Here you finally freakin' go, you (insert foul name or insult about said person's mother here as a joke)." Haha.

Anyway, down to business The Hazards of Love is arguably one of the most well-thought-out concept albums ever, and one of my personal favorites. Unlike most progressive rock fans, I don't really find concept albums all that appealing anymore. Too often it feels like bands are trying to copy some formula found on a nearly infinite number of concept albums from the past. I guess everyone has to have some exceptions, and for me this is one of them. While I'm sure others can explain the story better than me, and many others will be certain to do so, I feel Besides being one of the best releases I've heard so far from 2009, I also got the pleasure of seeing the entire thing performed live in Louisville back in August of this year. The live performance removed any doubts in my mind about the emotional charge and sheer power that Colin Meloy put into this story. He said the name comes from a 1966 EP of the same name by Anne Briggs, and most of the album was influenced by the 60s folk rock movement. Although besides lots of lush acoustic guitar ballads, there are all the other trademark Decemberists elements: heavy use of Hammond organ, fairly economical but well-used bass and drum work, and the other obvious ones. But the one thing that is added is thundering hard rock riffs, some that almost border on heavy metal territory. Think bands like Sabbath or plenty of other 70s hard rock acts here. To be honest, it adds a nice, new dynamic to the band's sound. Becky Stark and Shara Worden both sound absolutely fantastic as guest vocalists on this album as well. Although Shara blows me away whenever I hear her voice, and she really fit the performance well, especially in a live setting. From the organ buildup in the "Prelude" to the bluesy acoustic riff in "Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)", this album just echoes bliss to my ears.

Besides being one of my favorite releases for 2009, this album almost seems sure to go down as one of the premier rock operas of the modern era of music. And it well deserves whatever honors it receives. A musical masterpiece through and through, and it receives a well-earned 5 star rating. Hopefully The Decemberists continue in whatever direction they are going in, because it seems to work wonders so far. Personal favorite song is probably The Rake, and when they performed it live, everyone in the band except Colin was playing drums, which was incredibly badass if I do say so myself.

Review by J-Man
4 stars A contender for album of the year 2009!

Here's an album that grew on me a lot. It was my introduction to The Decemberists, and when I first bought it I really thought it was an overrated album. I didn't see the album everyone else saw. I heard an average acoustic album, nothing more, nothing less. But after many repeated listens I began to understand what everyone else was seeing in The Hazards of Love.

What I now see is a beautiful concept album proving that progressive rock isn't about over-the-top complexity, 30 minute songs, and never ending noodle-fests. This is about simple arrangements, beautiful melodies, and lush harmonies. If I could describe this album in one word I would say this album is beautiful. It has some heavier parts in the vein of Deep Purple (though these are scare), and they are excellent as well. I love the use of the male and female vocals, and it really portrays the characters in the story excellently. The story here ranks up with one of the best I've heard and this album is superb lyrically. I'll explain each song in more detail next.


"Prelude"- The album starts out with a low note that gets louder until we have some organ chords. There are some vocals and then there are some excellent chords from the strings. I really think this is a great opening.

"The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles Undone)"- After the fairly brief prelude an acoustic guitar riff opens up the second song. It builds pretty well, and has the excellent use of acoustic instruments that will be used throughout the album. This immediately shows you that you're not in for your typical prog rock album.

"A Bower Scene"- This song open up with the main repeating theme to the album. It has a really nice guitar riff and light organ. It has a section that screams heavy rock bands like Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. An excellent song!

"Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)"- After the previous song ended with some heavy riffing, this begins with a light guitar riff and a nice drum beat. Female vocals are in this song, and it really is a nice song. It has some great progressions and is very catchy.

"The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)"- After the previous song ends, the fifth song opens up with acoustic guitar and a light percussion. This features the male vocals on lead and beautiful female vocals singing back up. I love the organ on this song, and it really adds a nice touch.

"The Queen's Approach"- This song is a banjo riff with the use of strings as well.

"Isn't It A Lovely"- This song originally didn't appeal to me at all, and I actually found it pretty painful to make it through. It grew on me a lot, and I actually like the mood this song sets up. It has nice use of the accordion, and the male and female vocals together are really nice. The main riff is pleasant as well.

"The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid"- This has to be my favorite song on the entire album. It opens up with a really great harpsichord melody with male vocals singing the same melody. This melody is my favorite from the entire album for sure. It then builds excellently into a beautiful chorus section. We are then followed by an excellent guitar riff with female vocals. That section sums itself up, and we go back into the opening harpsichord melody. It builds again into the beautiful section with the choir. This goes back into the heavier riff, and the song really ends itself well.

"An Interlude"- After the previous song ends on a heavier note, we have a light acoustic melody. An electric guitar enters as well, and t makes for a beautiful interlude.

"The Rake's Song"- Some repeated guitar chords open up this song. The male vocals are used here, and it soon builds from the acoustic chords into the same chords with heavy percussion and distorted bass.

"The Abduction of Margaret"- A guitar and drum beat opens up this song, and it is then followed by the theme used in "A Bower Scene". It builds very well into a heavier riff.

"The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing"- This opens up with the riff that ended the last song. It continues the riff with female vocals. This goes into a great chorus, and uses the same riff for all of the verses. The song uses an excellent riff with great use of the organ near the end. This shows The Decemberists' heavier influences.

"Annan Water"- After the heavier previous song, the thirteenth song here opens up with some majestic acoustic guitar chords. The male vocals come in, and it builds pretty well. It does die down into a nice section with just vocals and organ. It eventually goes back into the main riff, and then goes back into the organ section. Overall, this is an excellent song with some excellent vocal melodies.

"Margaret In Captivity"- This opens up with the 12 string guitar that is present throughout most of the album. I like the vocal melody a lot, and it has a really nice string section near the end.

"The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)"- It opens up with the same riff used in The Wanting Comes In Waves. It is followed by harpsichord chords with children singing.

"Wanting Comes in Waves (Reprise)"- This opens up with the riff used in the original song, except far more upbeat. It has all the magic the original song contained, and the ending is incredible. I love the string melodies against the rest of the band. An excellent reprise of n excellent song!

"The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)"- It opens up with acoustic guitars in contrast to the previous song. It builds excellently into beautiful choruses and strings. The use of the male and female vocals here really adds a nice touch. This is truly a beautiful song, and an excellent way to close this excellent album.

As I conclude this review, I'm still debating whether I should give this album a 4 or a 5. I'm not the person who should like this album at all. I'm a prog metal fan as well as a symphonic fan, so an album like this is not one that would usually appeal to me. Yet I find it to be an excellent album that should be heard by any progressive rock fan. I don't think it's quite a masterpiece, but it is very close. Since I usually only save my five star ratings for true masterpieces, I'll give The Hazards of Love a four, though I could definitely change it to a five in the near future. All ratings aside, get this beautiful album and you will not be disappointed!

4 stars.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I suppose that everyone hears it clearly here that this is unique folk music. Nothing casual, that we heard hundreds of times, no dear ladies and gentlemen, this is new, original and interesting, if you can at least to some extent appreciate folk music. Other prog characteristic will make their turn then.

These "lastmonthinyear guys" are special in another thing. They're incorporating many elements and genre influences into their music, so this is another way that good prog can be made. I don't dare to guess all their sources, this is job for others, I can just say that I like it.

There's one negative thing, I don't like woman vocals on Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga), it sounds quite unpleasant here, but later on, it becomes bearable. No, higher pitched voice she does not handle well. But this album at all is simply great. Masterpiece of modern folk music. What else can be better these days ? I don't know about anything from this genre.

There are even melodies, not repeating all along (as I've heard in many bands today), or even without melody at all (also heard), but combining forces of melody and folk, creating something bigger. And I though for a long time that synthesiser and folk can make better music, as a good background, bringing rock element more forward.

5(+), because to be honest, this is almost without flaws.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "The Hazards of Love" is the 5th full-length studio album by us, Portland based progressive folk rock act The Decemberists. The album was released through Capitol/Rough Trade in March 2009.

"The Hazards of Love" is a concept album where all 17 tracks seque into each other and thereīs a conceptual story in the lyrics. While most tracks follow an ordinary vers/chorus structure thereīs still an undeniable progressive edge to the album. There are re-occuring themes that serves as the glue that binds the albumīs concept together in addition to the lyrical concept. In that way "The Hazards of Love" kind of remind me of The "Incident (2009)" by Porcupine Tree.

The music on the album is centered around the memorable song lines and strong vocal performance by lead vocalist/guitarist Colin Meloy. He has quite a few guest vocalists to help him out though and Iīm especially fond of some of the female vocal performances on the album. Just take a listen to a song like "The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid". That is attitute if I ever heard attitude. I was almost reminded of good old Jenny Haan from Babe Ruth when she was in her prime. The mix of male and female vocals on the album is really a great asset to the music and works well with the story in the lyrics too. The instrumentation is a mix of folky instruments like banjo and accordian and more traditional rock instrumentation like guitar, drums and bass. Thereīs quite a bit of organ and some synth on the album too. The album features a bit more electric guitar and slightly distorted sections compared to earlier albums by the band and that suits me fine. It brings some good variation to the music. The music is still folk rock though. Itīs just a bit more rock oriented than folk based this time. I really think thereīs a great flow on the album and the 58:36 pass by in a second. I rarely find albums that I think are perfect in length but "The Hazards of Love" certainly applies.

The musicianship on the album is excellent. Great vocals and great interplay between the musicians. The production is also excellent and suits the music perfectly. All in all "The Hazards of Love" is a really great and interesting album by The Decemberists and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars The art of condensing a significant story into the confines of an hour or so of music is not simply a matter of furnishing a compelling storyline and delivering it with lyrical grace, although both are required. The real challenge is to provide musical accompaniment that avoids overshadowing the tale without sounding rote or add-on. It must give a sense of propelling the proceedings forward, reflecting the plot twists and mood changes. In their earlier work, the Decemberists had trouble doing this even with short stories, but on "Hazards of Love" they have produced one of the better full length musical narratives in recent memory.

Clearly an analysis of this disk cannot consist of a track by track breakdown, so interwoven are the musical and lyrical themes. Colin Meloy has wisely chosen to include a cast of major characters, even guest vocals for the various roles, which all add variety to what is actually an archetypal folk rock collage, sometimes acoustically driven, sometimes riff based, sometimes 1960s harmony oriented, sometimes orchestrated or choral. The melodies are functional and rarely of much complexity, but they drive the work to its climax remarkably well. For me, the gentle acoustic "An Interlude" and the caustic "The Rake's Song" stand as highlights, and, unlike most of what's here, could be plucked out and be quite happy on their own. Likewise, "Annan Water" might be the most progressive piece here, with a haunting folk melody and strummed backing that can easily distract me from the overall flow, but that just means hitting repeat a few more times!

Only "The Queen's Rebuke" seems to need a rebuke of its own, as it succumbs to hard rock cliche, but considering how often this album looks to be doing so only to save itself, this is a thin bone to pick. In addition, the last couple of tracks drag like a movie that would have been perfect if it ended on such and such a scene. Sure, the story isn't over, but the teller lost his touch 15 minutes earlier.

With this significant release, the Decemberists have negotiated all hazards remarkably well. It's not your typical progressive fare, but for those who enjoy modern folk rock with a decidedly progressive attitude, "hazards" is a safe bet.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The Hazards of Love is a pleasant and mature folk-rock concept album that will please many fans of the genre. The Decemberist sound like a contemporary take on classic folk rock, mixing influences ranging from REM via Jethro Tull to psychedelic rock. Due to the male vocals they sound like a 2009 incarnation of Fairport Convention fronted by Syd Barrett.

I hadn't cared much about the previous Decemberists albums. An occasional song aside, I found it all fairly predictable, docile and formulaic. On this album they stretched their ambition a bit and it has certainly paid off to some extent. The thematic unity of this album does enhance the individual songs, which stick to classic folk rock formulas with an occasional heavy blues riff.

My first reaction was very positive. I even considered 5 stars. But I've put off my review because the very immediate appeal of this album had made me suspect that it wouldn't survive repeated listens. And indeed this has proven to be true. While I would have initially rated it higher then Porcupine Tree's Incident, a weekly listen made me grow tired of it rather quickly. There are a number of reasons for that.

It lacks a bit of substance for me, especially musically. While the songwriting is very consistent, it all sticks too much to basic folk rock & blues songs. Also the 4 variations on the title track get tiresome after a while. Despite a number of excellent 5 star songs such as 8. The Wanting Comes In Waves, 11. The Abduction of Margeret, 12.Queen's Rebuke and the beautiful 16 Horsepower derived 13. Annan Water, most tracks are fairly average.

Also the vocals are not entirely satisfying. The plaintive voice that Colin Meloy uses is competent but lacks the real emotional turmoil that Sandy Denny from Fairport Convention or Gabriel Yacoub from Malicorne had. The vocals are too uninvolved, flat and cool for this kind of music, they miss intensity and attitude. The female vocals work a lot better actually.

I generally don't care much how 'prog' I think an album is to appreciate it, but I sure do miss some characteristics in this album that I would normally associate with prog. I miss excellence, poise, challenge, originality and one or other striking feature that shakes the ground I'm standing on. That is not present here.

I think I should really start to listen to what my wife says. Right from the first time her reaction was "Bwah da's maar flauw zulle", which would translate to something like "What's that lame stuff again?". Repeated listens have proven her right, again. Damn! I hate it when that happens :) 3.5 stars. Still, don't miss this album if you are a folk fan.

Review by Conor Fynes
5 stars 'The Hazards Of Love' - The Decemberists (9/10)

Even though I had been mildly impressed by the band's last album and hearing great things about 'The Hazards Of Love,' it still exceeded by expectations. The Decemberists take on a much different sound than many of the cookie-cutter prog bands that are coming out today, and what is being called by professional critics and typical listeners alike as one of the greatest albums to come out this year certainly deserves it's praise.

'The Hazards Of Love' is no jaw-dropping spectacle of musicianship. Nor is it heavy on strange sounds, or weird effects. While I've probably listened to more mind-blowing music in my time, it's rare that an album with this warmth comes along; especially considering it's a concept album revolving around creatures of the fantastic.

Like many concept albums, 'The Hazards of Love' flows as if it could be a single composition, with no gaps in between the segments of music. There are interludes and all one would expect from a rock opera; the story of which I haven't been able to decipher quite yet. From what I can ascertain however, Meloy and company tell the story of a woman named Margaret, and her quest for love. She meets a fawn named William and things start to get interesting from there...

The lyrics in this album are genius, perhaps even more so than the music itself. While it's hard enough to write a story in poetic form as it were, Colin Meloy fits in so much wordplay and rich imagery into his words that it makes reading the lyric booklet alone an enjoyable experience.

Due to the fact that the album works as a single song cycle, there are alot of recurring themes in the music. Almost too many, as at times; it feels like one is listening to an alternative take of the first half of the work. Even so, I can surely understand this and it does wonders for the cohesion as a piece. That kept in mind, it's an album that must be listened from start to finish to enjoy it completely.

This is definately one of the best musical discoveries I've made in quite a while, and for anyone that dismisses this band of talented musicians as simply a typical indie folk band should check this out. Total masterpiece.

Review by TheGazzardian
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.

Review by Prog Leviathan
4 stars A modern triumph, lush with thoughtful composition, performances, and emotive resonance, "Hazards of Love" is a unique winner.

From the ominous introduction to they fey whimsy of its poetic lyricism, "Hazards of Love" exudes style and a handcrafted feel. The songs are rich, varied, and dynamic, carrying the listener along through the narrative's numerous events and emotions with class. There are sweeping highs giving way to baleful electric intensity, changing back again all to the acoustic strumming of the band's "folksy" instrumentation; beautiful ballads interchange with the occasional driving rock beat. The group's playing is largely understated, making "Hazard's" charms subtle ones, discovered only when one is ready to experience the album as a whole.

Lyrically dense, Meloy's vocals tell a delightfully disturbing tale of doomed love and murder. There are rich variety in the vocals, with memorable rhymes, melodies, and harmonies which keep the narrative moving excellently-- much more so than some other concept albums.

The end effect is one which will likely stay with the listener, and make "Hazards of Love" an oustanding piece of art. Highly recommended (don't be scared off by the "Indie" rep)!

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Great at first, fades over time

My first encounter with The Decemberists was not a pleasant one, purchasing The Crane Wife right after it came out. I sold it within a week or two which means I was pretty unimpressed, although I don't remember the specifics anymore. So I had no intention of buying this album until I started to see all these "masterpiece" ratings being awarded, when I figured the band deserved another shot at my ear. I'm very glad I did as I gained a fair appreciation for the band, but one that only goes so far.

This "folk-rock opera" as perfectly described by Russellk is a nice mix of contrasts: acoustic music with some rock sections, dark themes against sometimes upbeat and sunny melody, male and female vocals (sounds just a tad like an updated Comus although not nearly as interesting musically.) Actually it remind me more of Neil Young's "Greendale" storybook album from a few years back, which incidentally was Neil's finest work since the '70s. "The Hazards of Love" is a sweeping work with musical motifs that resurface throughout the 17 tracks to give the work a true conceptual feel. It is immediately accessible and you will be attuned to the melodies before your first play is even finished. Delightful folk melodies with crisp acoustic instrumentation, pedal-steel providing a nice country feel in a few places, rich character vocals, even some well placed strings and Hammond. It can be a very enjoyable listen especially in the first half of the album. Lyrically the album is as dark as it gets---did you think Comus was dark? How about killing your kids because they're a pain in the ass? Well that's a big part of the story and a side of the disc which just leaves me indifferent. Dark can be great when it feels genuinely necessary or is handled just right, but here the storyline just never felt like more than awkward melodrama. The best parts for me are the female vocals of "Won't want for love" and "Isn't it a lovely night." They have this lovely lilting modesty to them, haunting, ethereal, and absolutely perfect. In an album that is overly wordy and featuring a male singer who overstays his welcome, these female vocals are a breath of fresh air. There is the amazing track "The wanting comes in waves" which is just brilliant, with these perfectly constructed melodies and choruses---absolute folk rock gem track.

"Hazards" is a very good album but that's as far as it goes for me. I cannot put this album with my top 5% masterpiece classics, nor can I even convince myself it belongs in 4 star company when I compare it with some of those titles. My problem with "Hazards" is that the first couple plays were the most enjoyable. After that it becomes a tedious affair for repeated listening. The second half drags considerably over time and the experience of playing it becomes cumbersome. Still I believe it earns 3 stars and could easily win over fans of ambitious folk-rock music. Musicianship is top notch, some nice melodies, but far from the best progressive titles in your collection.

Review by jampa17
4 stars Alternative rock with folk elements and nice melodies. Very good.

I have just discovered The Decemberists and I'm enjoying a lot their music. I have always like folk music, but most of the times I found the fusion with rock very lame and not organic, just like a nice addition but in the case of this band, the approach is just what I have always wait for.

The singer kept my attention right away, he sounds like a "clean" version of Eddy Vedder and his voice fits great with the songs, sometimes rocking without being heavy and then sounding very good with the more clean parts. I like how all the instruments have a lot of life and space in this album. The organs are very organic, the acoustic guitars are very fresh and the "heavy" parts are good, not just a wall of distor. The moods are very fresh and I find the music excellent to relax a bit but also to enjoy, because it doesn't lack of energy. I love the female singer lead vocals, I just found it wonderful and the vibe of the music, very enjoyable, really.

People can describe this is just conceptual Alternative rock, and maybe they are right, but the music is good enough to enjoy without labels upon it. I think the goal of music is to make you feel something, rather than make you think about something, and this is the best example of that. There's a lot of emotion and the vibe most of the times is smooth, but the intensity of the playing and the concept of sounds building up emotions is what I love of this kind of music.

The folk instruments used in the album, like Cellos, banjo, accordion and others just help to build up the space and made the music very organic.

Now, I have two things to point out: folk music is not "old" and you will find a lot of interesting elements here and it surely worth the listen. Especially if you are a regular alternative rock listener, this will be a winner for you.

The second thing, I don't know if someone can help me but I found the acoustic guitar in "Margaret in Captivity" is a total reference (mean a total rip off) of the acoustic guitar in the end of Jeremy of Pearl Jam. Did anyone else notice it?

All in all, this music worth the listen, totally, is just that I'm not sure if it could be a Masterpiece in this subgenre, but I can assure you that is an excellent addition to your collection. Don't miss this please, if you really want music with a lot of sense, conceptual, well composed and played and with a lot of soul, this album worth the listen. You will like it. 4 stars.

Review by Sinusoid
4 stars The Decemberists on the surface don't sound like a prog band; more of a folk rock band with heavy alternative and indie rock influences. Their songs are self-reliant on delicate acoustic licks, catchy melodies, colourful, descriptive lyrics and the occasional rock outburst. Where's the prog, you ask?

HAZARDS OF LOVE is a seventeen-track album that really doesn't function like an album made of multiple songs. Even if I can't figure out what goes on lyrically, I can smell the conceptualness musically. The reoccurrence of themes and ideas is here, notably in the tracks titled ''Hazards of Love'' (Parts 3 seems to recycle Part 1 themes) and ''The Wanting Comes in Waves''. The progness lies there.

Colin Meloy has not the most impressive voice ever, but he has this quirk that makes his voice enjoyable. The guest vocalists don't make much of an impression on this reviewer as both are too ordinary sounding. Although typical rock band instruments are used, the employment of hammered dulcimers, accordions, hurdy-gurdies and bouzoukis give HAZARDS OF LOVE a certain charm.

With the way that the album flows and revitalises themes, I say this is a pretty good prog album and one of the better ones of recent times. This isn't a bad album to acquire if you want prog folk outside of Jethro Tull.

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I have persevered with this album for a long time, always re-returning to see what all the fuss is about. Each time I have to admit I end up even more perplexed than the last time. Yes there are elements of folk to be sure, with tons of alternative/indie nuances. Yes it is a throughly well thought out conceptual work with a great storyline reminiscent of one of those great 70's band that sang about hermaphrodites and Salmacis, and finally, yes, great musicianship. As far as the album goes it is far too predictable, cliched and a tad bit plagiaristic. I ask myself how did 70's/80's bands manage pompous storylines, in your face pretentiousness and downright self indulgence. The simple answer is: Musically superior. Hazards of Love whilst being an OK work just does not hold up musically in terms of depth. Reading some of the reviews it is obvious that this reviewer is in the minority. Oh well, we can't like them all.
Review by lazland
5 stars Up until I purchased this album, I had not really ventured beyond the shores of the United Kingdom for either folk or prog folk music, excepting, maybe, the timeless classics of Simon & Garfunkel. This was purchased on the strength of a number of reviews on the site, and I fell in love with it virtually straight away. Since then, I have bought The Crane Wife, and will very soon complete my collection of this incredible band's material.

This album puts a complete end to the fiction that to qualify as folk music, a work has to somehow qualify for inclusion on the Cropedy Festival, run by Fairport Convention each and every year, and that proper folk music is, somehow, akin to a bunch of people merely playing instruments that haven't been seen commercially for a hundred plus years.

This is not merely a great American folk album, it is a also a rock opera/concept album of the highest order, telling as it does the compelling and, ultimately tragic, love story between Margaret and William, a fawn.

Colin Meloy tells his story with great aplomb, and is backed by some quite incredible female vocals along the way. Instrumentally, there is a bit of everything thrown in, from accordian to banjo to organ, but all along the way, the music accompanies the story in the very best traditions of operas. At once symphonic, at others folky, at others ambient, to some passages which remind one very strongly of the finest classic rock - for this, check out The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid, which features a great riff.

This album contains modern folk and rock music at its absolute best, and, if its purpose was to get the listener to explore such music out of the comfort zone of one's own country's artists, then it has absolutely succeeded.

Five stars for an album are meant to signify an essential album, one that qualifies as a masterpiece, and one that every decent prog collection should include.

Well, looking at the prog folk sub genre, there are some mighty fine albums there. I adore Tull, I love Mostly Autumn, I think Blackmore's Night are a superb act. All of these names will be, I think, familiar to many readers of this review.

If, however, you have not ventured beyond these familiar and comforting names, and wish to explore a great nations folk tradition updated to the 21st century, then this album is utterly essential.

A monumental work, and fully deserving of the perfect five stars.

Review by The Truth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The winter album.

I always love listening to this album but for some reason I always got the best experience in winter (I guess it's why they're called The Decemberists). I bought the album in December of last year and it sort of became my Christmas album and now as winter draws nearer I'm having those awesome listens again.

The album itself is an amazing little prog-folk opera that includes a wide range of soft folk parts, haunting little pop rock melodies, and some just plain heavy riffs. It's wide variety is what makes this little indie band from Portland a true prog band. That and the incredible narrative that's told within the album (which I won't go into to much detail with as of now).

The album also does a very nice job of sharing vocals between the wonderful lead singer Meloy and his many lady backing singers. Each song is incredibly well crafted and although they're just little pop songs the fact that they're all connected and their many reprises make the overall listening experience an epic one.

Gotta love these guys, I can't help myself.

For a nice snowy night: 4 stars.

Review by m2thek
3 stars Story telling in forms other than books and films haven't quite reached the level of quality that these two have been enjoying for years. Telling a story through music in particular can be a feat, especially when having to convey plot and characters in time, and pitched. The Decemberists, however, are not intimidated by this, as proven by their 2009 album The Hazards of Love. While the music takes a back seat to the story, the band manages to tell a compelling and succinct tale.

The plot of The Hazards of Love is the main draw here, and luckily it can hold the album up on its own. If you hadn't already judged by the title, this is a love story, and the troubles that come between a couple. The male lead, Will, is a fawn who lives in the forest who can take the form of a human. The female lead, Margaret, finds Will trapped as a fawn in the forest, and rescues him. The two fall in love, though Will's mother, the Queen, along with her evil Rake assistant, work to prevent the two from being together. The story is well told, has a very logical progression, and a satisfying conclusion. My only complaint with it is the Rake's side story, which doesn't add much, and doesn't pay off nearly as well as the overall story. This doesn't take up a lot of time however, and doesn't detract much from the bigger picture.

A good story is nothing without good story telling, and like the writing, the vocals are one of the strongest points of The Hazards of Love. The singing, in a style similar to Indie-Rock, is great, and very clear, with no words being obscured or made difficult to understand. There are three singers, and each character is personified with a different voice, which makes them distinctive and easy to pick out. There is great interplay between characters, almost becoming dialogue, without getting too formal or wordy. Unfortunately, Will and the Rake are both played by the only male singer, which is disappointing because their voices end up being quite similar, especially when the band makes such an effort to differentiate the other characters. Each character also has a little musical motif that they can be recognized by.

While the vocals and story are the focus of the album, the music is nice at best, but gets repetitive quickly. The lyrics may be Indie, but the music is more folksy. There are a lot of acoustic guitar lines, subtle organ chords, and even some accordion. The music plays along well with the story, being heavy during scenes of conflict, and soft during love scenes. There's nothing awfully complex going on, and most songs only have one or two ideas that are repeated underneath and in between the vocals for a few minutes. The musical themes are very easy to grasp, and you'll recognize them instantly when they pop back up after their introduction. A choice that works in terms of the story telling, but not the music, is the re-use of themes, and even entire sections of music, with new vocals over them. This is neat on the first few listens, and provides a cool mirroring effect, but once the story and music has sunk in, becomes tiring. Though not terribly complex, everything is at least tight and well played.

The music doesn't get in the way of the story telling, but it doesn't propel it much either. As a result, once you've had your fill of the story, there's not a lot of reasons to come back to The Hazards of Love. It's is like a good book, in that it's really good the first or second time through, but you only go back every once in a while after that. Regardless of its longevity, this is a nice album, and if you can find it easily enough, go ahead and experience the story, because it's definitely worth those few listens.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars Another album that has taken me a LONG time to get to know in order to write a review of it--partly because I am not particularly attracted to this kind of music--let's call it the modern version of BIG BROTHER AND THE HOLDING COMPANY. Great production, cool concept album, but boy do I get tired of feeling like I'm sitting round the campfire after the long day's work cattle ranching or prospecting under the hot sun. And, excuse me, but I was never, am not, a fan of JANIS JOPLIN. Plus I get very tired of that electric bluesy bass riff spouting off every four beats for four to six minutes ("Won't Want for Love," "The Wanting Comes in Waves," The Queen's Rebuke," etc.) By the way, call me crazy or something, but, isn't the music on this album just good ole standard rock and roll? My three favorite songs rely on sounding like classic rock proto-prog groups from the 1960s: "Prelude" (PROCUL HARUM), "The Hazards of Love 1" (TRAFFIC "John Barleycorn") and "Margaret in Captivity" (RENAISSANCE [and later, PEARL JAM]), and the others like JANIS and her HOLDING COMPANY. Not my favorite album. Not one I particularly enjoy. I understand the 'goodness' of it. I just don't like this music.
Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Iīm glad Iīve been following the ever wise advice to all who listen to prog music: never let the first impression fool you. Prog music is deep, with several layers of music that you should take your time to listen to. I was quite curious about this american band for a long time. The high ratings and the constant praising spurred my curiosity even more. But when I did finally listen to this CD I was not amused. It sounded quite bad and Iīd probably have written a bad review. But fortunatly I decided to postpone it until I had listened to it several times to confirm my opinion. But, to my surprise, every time I heard The Hazzards of Love I liked it more. So in the end I had to accept that most reviewers here were right.

I had never heard of such thing as country-prog, but thatīs pretty much what you get here. Ok, the alternative elements are also very evident, but country music is the base of it all. The song structures and the narratives are deeply rooted into that tradition, even if the modern sounds and influences are all over place. Not since Pocoīs A Good Feeling To Know Iīve had listen to something so country-ish also being so daring. This concept album has a very interesting story and the music follows the feelings and moods of every part. So if you really want to appreciate this CD in full, youīve got to read the lyrics or at least pay close atention to the words. If you donīt youīll probably miss the point.

Others reviewers have written about the story plot and I thank them. Itīs very interesting and I guess it was quite hard to fit the music into the concept, but they did it. So itīs really hard to point a highlight. There are several quite different moments and it depends on the listenerīs taste. Mine points to the beautiful closing track Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned). This is the recordīs peak and has a stunning beauty that is hard to match. I just wish this song could be a little longer, though. Production is perfect, while the band really shines through it all.

Conclusion: an exceptional record that some prog listeners will take some time to really digest and win over their prejudices of country and alternative (like I had to). However, it is also a labor of love and truly a magnifcent piece of prog music. Itīs full of power and conviction. This is definitly a grower. Final rating: 4.5 stars.

Review by Warthur
3 stars This is the only Decemberists album I've really found myself to be enthused by, perhaps because it's the one album of theirs where they do the most to dial back the affected tweeness that frequently irritates in their other work - though ultimately they aren't able to suppress it entirely. A gothic folk melodrama concept album revolving around deadly feuds, fatal consequences, sinister crimes and supernatural weirdness, the Decemberists create a jagged sonic world which runs with some of the grimmer themes indulged in by the likes of Comus, albeit with a vastly more accessible musical backing - for instance, The Rake's Song is the catchiest, happiest sing-along prog folk song about murdering your own children I've ever heard. Probably the best of their material, but... ah.... I just can't get over those vocals.

Latest members reviews

4 stars This is a progressive/folk rock-opera masterpiece. The individual songs are immediately accessible, yet they flow into one another to tell an epic captivating fairy tale. Musical themes are repeated throughout the album (the title track is broken into four parts, once to introduce the story, ... (read more)

Report this review (#442777) | Posted by BobVanguard | Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Decemberists' fifth opus, "The Hazards of Love," is undoubtedly the greatest album of 2009 that I have heard. What better way to close the decade than with an epic concept album in the vein of Jethro Tull's classic "Thick as a Brick?" Telling a story of two lovers and their determination ... (read more)

Report this review (#359800) | Posted by Lord Krodius | Tuesday, December 21, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is one of those albums that I wasn't really expecting much off of, but really suprised me. This is really something spectacular. Mixing alternative rock, new prog and folk doesen't seem to be the easiest fusion, but it really does work. This is a concept album (or rock opera as Wikip ... (read more)

Report this review (#288739) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Wednesday, June 30, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars One of the best albums of the 2009. Certainly in my top 10 Prog/Non Prog albums. When it comes to modern Prog, this is the one of the hippest, most well known of all the bands (outside of Radiohead or Tool). And the only Prog'ish band ?-- that a young shy alt.rocker would know. They sta ... (read more)

Report this review (#273566) | Posted by akajazzman | Monday, March 22, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars What a brilliant work this is ? Following up their previous fine album, "The Crane Wife", could not have been an easy task. However, these guys and gals just keep coming up with new and interesting material. The Decemberists expand their palette considerably on this new of ... (read more)

Report this review (#266103) | Posted by Progfan1958 | Sunday, February 14, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars On their previous album "The Crane Wife," the Decemberists began experimenting with longer songs and extended concepts, and on "The Hazards of Love," it appears that the band has done their homework, creating one of my favorite concept albums/(folk) rock operas. It's got all the trademark signs of ... (read more)

Report this review (#262169) | Posted by missinglink07 | Saturday, January 23, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars 1 listen was all it took. In the 10 times I have heard this album I was stunned and shocked amazed, again and again and again. I could not describe that feeling ever since the moment I heard "A Bower Scene" on the Jango music website until the moment I had tried to learn the Hammond organ ... (read more)

Report this review (#246497) | Posted by The Runaway | Tuesday, October 27, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is a strange album to me. Everything together weaves a series of songs that are at once beautiful and catchy. To be honest, I don't care for the female vocalists nearly as much, though. I much prefer the girl singing on the duet from The Crane Wife, and kind of think they should have gott ... (read more)

Report this review (#240346) | Posted by Fat Bottom Girl | Saturday, September 19, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Where can I begin with this album? The Hazards of Love was the the first album I bought from The Decemberists. And I absolutely love it. The continuation of the songs, it was like listening to an audio book but only more interesting. My brother told about this album and I was kind of u ... (read more)

Report this review (#239125) | Posted by Dani_B1794 | Sunday, September 13, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars What do you get when two fall in love? You get the hazards of love. What do you get when the fair last becomes pregnant with child? You get the hazards of love. What do you get when the father is a woodland creature once a young man, who was found by ?Mother Nature? who saved his life just bef ... (read more)

Report this review (#217500) | Posted by mothershabooboo | Friday, May 22, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Oh the hazards of love! This must be a real labour of love from CM and the Decemberists. An hour long Opera comprising doomed love, abduction, infanticide, revenge and suicide (pretty typical Decembeists fare to be honest). I find this album darkly beautiful but flawed. It is a difficult listen b ... (read more)

Report this review (#214795) | Posted by roooegg | Monday, May 11, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars What Colin Meloy has done with The Decemberists over the course of the past eight years is nothing short of astounding. What started as an EP in 2001 has evolved into something wonderful, majestic even. Rooted in indie rock but with obvious folk and prog influences, the band's craft has become i ... (read more)

Report this review (#212758) | Posted by TheOutlawXanadu | Tuesday, April 28, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The Decemberists have made a slow but steady progression over time, from Indie Pop to Folk Prog. The wonderful the Crane Wife was a sign of what was to come, and with this album they finally deserve their spot on this site. This is a concept album, similar to Genesis The Lamb Lies Down on Broad ... (read more)

Report this review (#210469) | Posted by Malex | Sunday, April 5, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars THE DECEMBERISTS latest offering takes them more distinctly into prog-folk territory and further from the alternative rock sound. 'The Hazards of Love' tell a folk story with multiple characters, each accompanied by their own theme. The instrumentation is still alt-rocky as previously, but the arr ... (read more)

Report this review (#208505) | Posted by Cayafas | Tuesday, March 24, 2009 | Review Permanlink

2 stars For being back to the basics it's awfully bloated... This dainty album grew out of frontman Colin Meloy's fascination with 1960s British folk music. Eschewing the elaborate, often convoluted arrangements on THE CRANE WIFE, The Hazards of Love blends to-the-roots folk compositions with near oper ... (read more)

Report this review (#208014) | Posted by FlowerA | Sunday, March 22, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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