Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography


The Decemberists

Prog Folk

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The Decemberists The King Is Dead album cover
2.92 | 92 ratings | 19 reviews | 7% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

Write a review

from partners
Studio Album, released in 2011

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Don't Carry It All (4:17)
2. Calamity Song (3:50)
3. Rise To Me (4:59)
4. Rox In The Box (3:10)
5. January Hymn (3:14)
6. Down By The Water (3:42)
7. All Arise! (3:10)
8. June Hymn (3:58)
9. This Is Why We Fight (5:30)
10. Dear Avery (4:52)

Line-up / Musicians

- Colin Meloy / vocals, guitars (acoustic, 12-string, tenor & baritone), harmonica, pump organ, percussion
- Chris Funk / electric & pedal steel guitars, banjo, bouzouki
- Jenny Conlee / piano, organ, Wurlitzer, accordion (1)
- Nate Query / bass, cello
- John Moen / drums, percussion, tambourine, shaker, backing vocals

- Peter Buck / mandolin (1), 12-string electric guitar (2), electric & baritone guitars (6)
- Annalisa Tornfelt / violin (1,4,7)
- Tucker Martine / tambourine (2), mixing & co-producer
- Gillian Welch / backing vocals
- David Rawlings / backing vocals (1,8,10)
- Laura Veirs / backing vocals (10)

Releases information

Artwork: Carson Ellis

CD Capitol Records ‎- 50999 9 47547 2 8 (2011, US)
CD Rough Trade ‎- RTRADCD656 (2011, UK)

Thanks to TheProgtologist for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy THE DECEMBERISTS The King Is Dead Music

THE DECEMBERISTS The King Is Dead ratings distribution

(92 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(7%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(28%)
Good, but non-essential (47%)
Collectors/fans only (14%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

THE DECEMBERISTS The King Is Dead reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by jammun

Down By the River: I shot my baby The River: At night we go down to the river Down By the Waterside: In the shadow of the cargo I take you one time Down By the Water: The lash-flashing Leda of pier nineteen

I got Mary pregnant. It was down by the river, down by the waterline, over by the old main drag. Man, that was all she wrote.

The Decemberists have a new one. Make no mistake, Colin is no fool. There's danger in trying to top The Hazards of Love...when yer rocking the waters, the shoals are always near. Not to mention a Siren or two to lure you into those shadowy rocks. Musical history is littered with the recorded shards of those who've attempted to go one too far. The smart ones...Dylan, Byrds, Beatles, Grateful Dead and many others...when they reach a certain point, they step back and reflect upon the musical soundscape that is their lives. The smart ones retreat, to a barn, to a backwoods house, to the uniquely American pastiche of rock/country/blues. It's about as close to nothing as one can's pure music, the sound of trees falling and horses [&*!#]ting and Mason & Dixon surveying, drawing that line. So it is with The Decemberists.

I crank the thing up. There's that pedestrian Neil Young beat and the annoying harmonica. Well at least we know where we are here, and it ain't no tricked up forest. No, it's Colin writing some good songs, and given his almost unfailing musical sense, he brought in Gillian Welch to harmonize with him. I might as well say it here Gillian Welch makes the album what it is. This is Emmylou territory, or Ian & Sylvia, or Neil and Nicolette. There's four strong winds imbuing these songs.

The melodies are timeless, if not original. It's decades of American music, with a bit of Fairport Convention thrown in. It's a deep well The Decemberists draw from on this album, and they are not simply copying this stuff. No, it's internalized, it's in their blood and has been there all along.

The keening pedal steel, the plaintive accordion, the incredibly crisp acoustic guitars, the rural backbeat. It's all here. The album is by turns rockin' (Don't Carry It All, Rox in the Box, Down By the Water) and reflective (Rise To Me, January Hymn, July Hymn). I listen and am transported back through the decades, hearing the music I've been hearing since I was a lad of ten years old.

We finally get to the penultimate track, the anthemic This Is Why We Fight. The song embodies all that has come before, not just on the album but before, as in the decades. Musically. Ideologically. This is why. It's a musical cauldron if drums and acoustic strumming and electric guitar. Colin's voice is clear and rides above all. There a point...the music stops:

This is why Why we fight, why we lie awake This is why This why we fight

Songs like this wound and anoint us. The music falls on our ears and the emotions wash over us. Some of us weep. I've probably said this before: it's for songs like this that we even bother to listen to music, that we even bother to care.

Is it prog? Probably not. Should you listen to it? I've said what I've said.

Review by Negoba
2 stars Recent Darlings of PA Turn Their Back on Us

On THE KING IS DEAD, the Decemberists have intentionally moved away from their previous, most progiliciously ambitious work THE HAZARDS OF LOVE. Bandleader, lead vocalist, and chief songwriter Colin Meloy has stated that he was moving from an English folk influence to that of Americana. However, for those of us who immerse themselves in that genre, something is a little amiss. The principle influence for THE KING IS DEAD is R.E.M. (with guitarist Peter Buck contributing on several songs). And R.E.M. is not Americana, or roots rock, or folk rock, or country rock. It's college alt-rock, and this distinction is something that makes me want to call Shenanigans on this whole project. For the truth of the matter is that "back to our roots" for the Decemberists is not the Band, Neil Young, or the Flying Burrito Brothers. Instead, it's R.E.M, the Smiths, and frankly quite a bit of the Indigo Girls. (Whose music I must admit I've listened to for many many hours.) Meloy's identity, for me, has always been deeply entwined in the current nerd chic. Unashamingly pulling out the SAT vocabulary list, making allusions to obscure myths, and yes, even embracing prog, are what made the Decemberists have some identity. And while Wilco has successfully merged country and college rock into a viable music, Meloy is a very different songwriter than Jeff Tweedy. He makes a solid stab here, but clearly this fish has wandered up an alien stream. The move sees his voice sounding as honest as I've ever heard it, but musically he's a little out of his element. His harmonica playing is as basic as it gets, and not in an endearing way (at least to anyone who cares about that instrument). The project is an interesting sidebar for the band, and there are some places where the results are reasonable. But the band has set aside the elements that separated them from the crowded pack. All that's left are a few peeks of Meloy's English major whimsy.

There are quite a few too-close-for-coincidence musical allusions on THE KING IS DEAD, and it's fun trying to figure all of them out. Some are explicit and intentional, and some are not. "January Song" reminds me so much of the mid-90's alt hit by Deep Blue Something "Breakfast at Tiffany's" that I almost start singing along. The fiddle figure in "Rox in the Box" is straight from a song called "The Raggle Taggle Gypsy" which I ironically heard first from English band the Waterboy's record from the same era. The excellellent closer "Dear Avery" features a background vocal that intentionally quotes the sound of mid 70's Fleetwood Mac. Still not Levon Helm, but closer. The R.E.M. and Indigo Girls references are heavy handed and less smile-inducing, but I thought I heard a few sniffs of the Beatles. Maybe the band hasn't abandoned their English side completely.

Again, I must admit that there are some tightly written songs on this album, which Meloy is quick to point out can be just as difficult to create as epics. Favorites are the wonderful opener "Carry It All," and the previously mentioned "Rox in the Box," and "Dear Avery." The song "This Is Why We Fight" seems to be getting all sorts of praise, and it's good but not as powerful as some seem to indicate. The inclusion of a true roots musician, Gillian Welch, was a very fine touch, but she could have been used in a larger role. A few of the songs are just a bit boring, with "Down by the Water" being one of the most worn out lyrics ever. For a guy who can still pull out "Hetty Green, Queen of supply side bonhomie bone-drab" followed by "You know what I mean", the word "cliche" should not be part of the conversation.

This entire review comes from a long-time folk rocker who has heard so much of this style of music that I really wanted to like this album, but I also require a little more to be impressed. From that point of view, I'm looking at a 3 star album that I enjoy but doesn't stand out. Alas, this review is for Prog Archives, and frankly the band has intentionally turned their back on our section of the fan base for this one. That's their perogative, but they can't expect me as a prog fan to applaud them for abandoning their progressive side. Furthermore, since I will still be reaching for THE CRANE WIFE whenever I get my Decemberists urge, I think a 2 star rating really is appropriate. This is not recommend for prog fans in general at all. Decemberists fans will probably split on THE KING IS DEAD, but I suggest that newcomers check out other albums first.

Review by lazland
4 stars Well, what to make of an album and a band that have, absolutely intentionally and advertising the fact widely, turned their back on what we would call prog-folk, and gone back to a stripped back sound, with a curious mixture of rock and traditional folk?

I gave The Hazards of Love a five star masterpiece review, and its predecessor album, The Crane Wife, a strong four star review. This is a great band, and, I think, certainly in terms of commercial sales and success, an important band.

So, as previous reviewers, with varying degrees of opprobrium, have pointed out, this is not a prog folk album. It's not in any way a progressive rock album. Does that make it a bad album? Well, of course not.

After giving the CD a spin a few times now, the first thing that strikes me is just how much more accessible and listener friendly both the lyrics and music are. Whilst I love the two previous efforts, it is not going too far to state that they can both be hard work and, at times, very emotionally draining. Meloy has very purposely moved away from this, and, in doing so, has, in fact, emulated many of the classic prog artists of yesteryear. Not every album can be a Thick As A Brick, The Lamb, or Dark Side Of The Moon, and neither should we expect them to be.

Some of the music here is exceptional. Both January Hymn and June Hymn are quite lovely, both understated and rather uplifting in their obvious reflection. The latter has Dylan's influence painted all over it, and is all the better for it. Further, of course, the REM influence is strong, especially given the fact that Peter Buck plays on the album. Down By The Water could appear on any mid period REM album, and, guess what, I like it.The longest track on the album, This Is Why We Fight, takes this influence to a further level. With this, as with much of what happened before, my toes are tapping relentlessly. The album closer, probably the closest they come in terms of texture to the predecessors, Dear Avery, is gorgeous in its simple use of guitars, bass, piano, and vocal harmonies.

It is my honest opinion that, in year's to come, American music fans and critics alike will look upon Colin Meloy with as much respect and affection as they do with the likes of Paul Simon & Bob Dylan now. In fact, with his use of words as tales, there is much of both of these in him.

So, how to rate it? Well, I think it's an excellent album. I would recommend it strongly to music fans who are able to appreciate that there is a world out there not exclusively prog driven. No, this is not an epic tale. No, it bears very little relevance to progressive rock or folk-prog. However, what it is is a mighty fine piece of modern American folk/indie rock from a band who still, musically, play like a virtuoso prog band, i.e. very well.

Four stars. An excellent addition to any music collection.

Review by russellk
2 stars All you need to know about THE DECEMBERISTS' 'The King Is Dead' is contained in Colin Meloy's avowal that he has gone back to his Americana roots. The consequence is that the progressive rock sheen so integral to the success of their last two five-star masterpieces ('The Crane Wife' and 'The Hazards of Love') is completely absent. Further, the beautiful English folk motifs prevalent on all previous albums are gone.

So what is left? I'm not really sure. I'm no aficionado of Americana, but if these represent American folk music, I'm not tempted to delve any further. The music may well be excellent - in fact, I'm sure it is - but it leaves me cold. I can't express my disappointment strongly enough that Meloy and co. have chosen this route. They've done short folk songs better in the past on 'Picaresque' and I fail to see the point of this. If someone had told me this was their long-lost debut album I'd be tempted to believe them, so far back into their past have they reached.

At this point I have to ask myself: am I being hard on the album because it's not what I wanted? My honest answer is no. I have a wide musical taste and would happily have been introduced to something new. But this? This is old.

Review by Conor Fynes
1 stars 'The King Is Dead' - The Decemberists (2/10)

The biggest musical disappointment for me in quite some time.

My first experience with the music of indie rock band The Decemberists was a few years back, when I was lent a copy of 'The Crane Wife'. Needless to say, I was highly impressed by the tight, but really emotional and inspired throughout. The 2009 follow-up album 'The Hazards of Love' only impressed me further; a full-fledged masterpiece of progressive folk rock. The band had really found a fan in me; much of what I had heard from this band to date had been interesting and well worth the experience. With a string of great albums leading up to 2011, it is understandable by this album is such a let-down. Instead of the heartfelt and tastefully dynamic songwriting I had begun to take for granted from this band, 'The King Is Dead' turns out to be a rather dull and uninspired collection of lackluster alternative country music.

While it was clear from before listening to this album that the music was going to be a return to basic songwriting for Colin Meloy, I was still expecting the same memorable melodies and class from other Decemberist works. Instead, the songs here feel rushed, boring and unimaginative in just about every way possible. The songs have few, if any memorable hooks to them, and the performance of the music is even less impressive; a fairly bland take on American country music; fiddles, harmonicas and all.

While I am not necessarily opposed to country music, the removal of progressive and rock elements for old-timey country flair does nothing for me. However, a few songs on the album do stand out, although none can be considered truly great. My favourite tracks here is the 'Calamity Song' (which employs some clever wordplay from Meloy; something he has always been good for) and the closing ballad 'Dear Avery', which averts a fair deal of the tacky country elements the band uses throughout most of 'The King Is Dead'. This handful of enjoyable songs is not enough to save the album however, and what is left is a fairly disappointing experience that leaves me wondering if the band is still worth following.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
3 stars The Decemberists is a band that is loved by many. They are noticeable because of their immense talent in song-writing, always elegant and intriguing. Their zenit was probably the brilliant 2009 release "The Hazards Of Love",the album that turned everybody on. Here we are in 2011, and do we have? "The King Is Dead", basically a big turn-back to the band's roots. After such an ambitious album, I can't help being disappointed with this one.

I don't remember the Decemberists being THIS basic. All the progressive influences are gone, giving place to the country/folkish ones, there is no type of experimentation in the album, just an extremely plain an simple country album. This is the thing that disappointed me and many others. We in fact find typical country instruments along the album, such as the fiddle and the harmonica. Some might even describe this abum annoying and pretty much useless, and it does have a lot of dull and pointless moments, where you just want to skip to the next track. This probably because personally I'm not a huge country music fan, but I usually would be able to appreciate a good piece of this genre.

"The King Is Dead", despite having a lot of boring songs, has some good ones. "Don't Carry It All", even though it's extremely country is one of my favorite songs of the album. "Calamity Song" is another song of which I can't help liking the melody. "This is Why We Fight" is a catchy and provocative tune, very intriguing and melodic. However, I can't find anything that comes to these levels, that, let me make it clear, I really wished were higher.

An album with some good moments, but isn't really worth listening all the way through. One of those albums that will be forgotten in between all the albums that will be released in 2011.

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars To tell the truth I hadn't been thinking about the Decemberists' latest studio album much these past few months. Like many fans I anxiously awaited its release following a stunning 'The Hazards of Love' album and extensive supporting tour (of which I was fortunate enough to catch the Kansas City date). And I was a bit surprised by the lack of a central theme and stripped-down arrangements compared to the previous three records. But really the sound isn't all that different from the group's first two studio works, and let's be honest ? this is an indie band at heart despite the impressive ambition shown in their songwriting and lyrical themes.

Most artists seem to find their way back to their musical 'roots' at some point. Whether it's Joe Jackson cranking out modernist classical compositions or Rod Stewart lobbing R&B covers like a skeet-shoot machine or even the Boss taking time out from his perpetual celebrity to interpret a baker's dozen of Pete Seeger folk standards, musicians seem to have a penchant for nostalgia once they've managed to establish themselves in their own right. The fact that the Decemberists managed to score their first and only #1 album doing so is really just a bonus.

But Colin Meloy's announcement in last week's Rolling Stone (#1127) that the band will take an indefinite hiatus following their current tour really threw me for a loop. And after hearing he's focusing on cranking out a couple children's books with his wife Carson Ellis (the Canadian artist who produced all the band's album covers) as well as some plans to collaborate on a cartoon film with Ellis and possibly some musical theater work; well, it's rather obvious Mr. Meloy has more likely just been bitten pretty hard by domesticity of the artistic sort.

And this certainly isn't a new phenomenon. John Lennon turned into a veritable lap- husband after hooking up with Yoko Ono. Ritchie Blackmore abandoned metal for Renaissance folk after Candice Night got her hands on him. More recently (and closer to the indie world) Dawn McCarthy hitched up with Nils Frykdahl (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Idiot Flesh) and turned him into a freak folker accompanying her in Faun Fables. The two of them of late have dialed down the touring schedule considerably and focused more on their growing family than on music.

This isn't to say Ms. Ellis is another Yoko; far from it, I think the latest chapter in the Meloy/ Decemberists saga is being scripted heavily by Colin himself. And given his connection to literature is as strong as to music (he majored in English in college and his sister is also a writer), his current interests make sense for a thirty-something guy with family obligations and a child to raise.

But due to this turn of events I find myself listening to these songs in a completely different light now. Certainly Meloy discovered a stash of Levon Helm records somewhere along the line, and has definitely taken more of an interest in American folk history of late than the British sort that seemed to bring most of his inspiration on the first five records. But more importantly he has become pragmatic in his songwriting, putting together ten tunes that each stand on their own and can live on through radio as easily as on the stage as might be his wont over the next few years. For that I give him a nod of admiration and respect.

But at the same time I can't avoid a melancholy feeling from the bleating harmonica on tracks like "Don't Carry it All", or the gentle 12-string of "January Hymn", or the sappy steel guitar of "Dear Avery" and "Rise to Me". This record feels more like a tearful farewell than it does an Americana throwback album, and I'm going to miss these guys if they disappear altogether in the coming years.

At least if that happens they can say they went out on top, scoring an improbable but well- deserved #1 album after a decade perfecting their affected charm through energetic touring and debate-inducing studio releases. I hope there's a comeback in the near future, but if not ? what a way to go out!


Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The funny thing is that I started listening The Decemberists shortly before The Hazards of Love was out. So I followed the learning curve of increasingly "getting better" albums, where by better I mean complexity. THoL culminated these tendencies and I foolishly expected even better album with this, foolblindly avoiding all counter-signs (that this album will be simpler).

Once you get accustomed to its countrier and simpler sound, it's not bad album at all. Emotionally, I would rate it as high as 4 stars, but from Prog point of view, it's obviously worse.

3(-), to be honest, I like it. It's one of these weird moments, where I rate something I like with low rating, because it's the way I feel it should be. At least here on PA. So I like it, my girlfriend even love it and I'm sure that many.

There are glimpses of better times though, hence this rating.

Review by Andy Webb
2 stars Don't carry it (along)?

The Decemberists, recent lovechild of ProgArchives with their highly praised prog folk classic The Hazards of Love, seems to have abandoned any sense of progressive rock. With their last effort, the band showed an incredible progression towards a tasty fusion of progressive folk and progressive rock. On their most recent album, The King is Dead, they seem to have abandoned this sound for a much more traditional folk rock sound. Although this is not "bad" per se, it really isn't good either. Consistent with pleasant folk melodies and nice folk guitar riffs and simple rhythmic backings, the album is definitely a good folk album, but nothing in the terms of the progressiveness I am looking for in a good Decemberists album. In short, this album is a pretty big disappointment. I got this album expecting a tasty blend of the stuff the band had been putting out for the past five or so years, but rather got a stripped and marginalized folk album.

I have never been a huge fan of folk rock, even in the progressive sense. The music, to me, is too light and flowery and usually doesn't contain the density that I look for in a good album. This album certainly fills my definition perfectly. Each track is much more designed for pop radio than a prog rocker's collection, with many more steady Americana folk riffs and love-inspired lyrics (and not the creative type, as seen on the band's last album) than their previous material. With a heavy country influence, it deters me even more, and overall I am not all that attracted to this release. In the end, this would pass as an exceptional folk/country album, but not as a prog album, in my book.

Overall, the abandonment of The Decemberists' old style is really a downer for prog fans like me. On tracks is rolls along like a river, with heavily folk and Americana inspired riffing and country-esque string and accordion work, but in the end I see this album as a pretty big fluke on the part on the band. Of course commercially the United States disagrees with me, for this album peaked at #1 on the Billboard, making this album the band's most successful (commercially) album yet. In my opinion, however, this album is easily one of the worse albums they have put out thus far. Hopefully the band hasn't sold out permanently. 2 stars.

Review by VanVanVan
2 stars In my own personal opinion, this was a very disappointing album. With this release the Decemberists have seemingly abandoned the prog folk grandeur of "The Hazards of Love" and parts of "The Crane Wife" in favor of a much more stripped down, immediately approachable sound. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but this is nothing close to prog rock and even the pop here isn't as good as things they've done in the past.

The album starts off on a fairly weak note, as "Don't Carry it All," to my ears, sounds fairly amateurish by the Decemberists' high standards. "Calamity Song" is much better; very catchy and, in my opinion, very good lyrically. "Rise to Me" is a bit slower and sounds very country. "Rox in the Box" reminds me quite a bit of their early material, and it's probably one of my favorites from the album. "January Hymn" is another slow one, and like "Don't Carry it All," it simply doesn't sound worthy of the band performing it. Same with "Down by the Water," which is easily my least favorite song on the disc. "All Arise!" is another country sounding song, and, while not bad, it's pretty forgettable. "June Hymn" is much better than its January counterpart, and it has very good vocal harmonies, unlike "Down by the Water." "This is Why We Fight" and "Dear Avery" are good, but for the Decemberists they're fairly cliched and bear none of the lyrical brilliance of earlier Decemberists work.

Overall, if you like the Decemberists for their prog, you will find nothing of value here. If you enjoy them for their intelligent pop, you might find this a three star album, but you're still far better served by listening to "Castaways and Cutouts."


Review by Tarcisio Moura
3 stars With apologies to Andyman, and the others who put this album down, I disagree with what they said. I had the Hazards Of Love CD and like it too, but I dont think they sold out. Much on the contrary, I put The King Is Dead in the same league as their previous work. Ok, I reckon it is much simpler, not really progressive in the way Hazards Of Love was in terms of complex structures and elaborate lyrics. However, simpler never meant worse for me. In fact, to keep it simple and still manage to come up with pleasant melodies and convincing tunes itīs an art that few people can handle. And The King Is Dead is surely a very melodic and pleasant record for the ears. And original too, by the way (just show me anyone that makes the same kind of music nowadays).

So why the three star rating? Because as much as I love this album, this is more a country record than a prog record as far as labels are concerned. And PA is a prog site. Iīm glad this band is in the site because they are really progressive in the way progressive rock was meant to be originally, I.e., it expands the original musical language it came from. So, for a country rock CD, the King Is Dead is quite progressive, even if it never really reachs the heights of the acclaimed (and much more difficult to digest) The Hazards Of Love.

Itīs funny how I really rather hear this one to their previous, more famous, efford. Itīs music that touches the soul. The production is quite good, the performances of the musicians are excellent and the songwriting is top notch. I really loved the tasteful arrangements that enhances the already fine tunes with lovely subtleties. Some tracks may be better than the others, but there are no real fillers. And songs like Rise to Me, Down By the Water and Rox In The Box are really divine, inspired tracks that make me hit the repeat key several times.

This band is still surprising me. And they reached the supreme objective of any muscial project: to deliver somenthing full of power and energy, something that strikes a chord emotionally. And The King Is Dead does the job. For a country rock record, 5 stars (a real classic). For a progressive work, 3 stars (excellent, ok, but not really essential for the prog collector).

If you like just good music regardless of the genre, go for it!

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars Even at their most musically ambitious, the DECEMBERISTS have remained primarily a folk rock indie band. While their prior 3 albums blended a compelling progressive penchant into this mix, they never came close to forgetting their debt to British, Irish, and, indeed, American roots music. Going back further, their "Castaways and Cutouts" was almost entirely of this ilk, and the closest in style to "The King is Dead" from this group's growing body of work. Yet it is also utterly different from that early disk in mood, conviction and group dynamics, which it actually possesses this time around..

While the pendulum has admittedly swung to rural USA, what makes "The King is Dead" so fascinating is that is the work of an American band sounding like an Anglo band sounding like an American band. The sublime "Don't Carry it All" is a ringer for LINDISFARNE circa "Dingley Dell", while "Rox in the Box" picks up where the WATERBOYS' classic "Room to Roam" left off, down to the excerpts from "Raggle Taggle Gypsy". Sure, the stylish and incisive "Down by the Water" could pass for a more enthusiastic REM, but its accordion deployment suggests worship of the OYSTERBAND and even THE MEN THEY COULDN'T HANG, both from the elite of outlaw UK/Irish celtic rock. I hasten to add that it's all spun through Meloy's unique vision into a new American paradigm of folk rock, one with a Masters in Communication rather than a C-average in high school.

Those who accuse the DECEMBERISTS of progressive treason are not without justification, but, as I said, they've done this all before here and there, never woven into anything like the brocade here before us. Whereas in prior releases the diminutive giants "Eli the Barrow Boy" or "On the Bus Mall" squeezed like Napoleon between the progressive suites, here we have a chorus of peers, birds of a feather sweetly imparting their typically weighty insights, making it more challenging than ever to pick a few highlights. Still, "January Hymn" and "June Hymn" are a bit more precocious than the less ecclesiastical numbers, and "this is Why We Fight" is perhaps the band's sharpest commentary both musically and lyrically to date, which is saying something, saying a lot.

With an ever more imposing canon and a willingness to forge fashion rather than follow it, the DECEMBERISTS have all but assured that they, like the proverbial king, will survive themselves. Their best overall effort to date.

Review by Prog Leviathan
3 stars The King is Dead is the Decemberists celebrating their indie/folk stylings more than their prog-folk artistry. This really shouldn't be surprising, considering that at the time of this album's release, 3 of the band's 5 records were more indie than prog. However, it's also not surprising that the Prog Archives average reviews shows that we as a group favor those 2 albums that lean more towards prog than indie. The King is Dead isn't the follow-up that some of us wanted after the excellent Hazards of Love, but it is an enjoyable example of the Decemberist's thoughtful blend of rock and folk.

In fact, the King is Dead is probably the best example of the band's "total package" to date. It's heavy parts are heavier; it's softer parts are more tender; the vocals sound more experienced; and the instrumental moments are very well executed. The band plays with a more electric sound then they have in the past, with fewer antique and acoustic instruments in the mix. Query's bass stands out as being more prevalent throughout, as does the vocals of Meloy, which come across as more mature and steadier. None of the songs cut as deeply or as powerfully as we heard in Hazards, but this is a different kind of album. It's a mix of mostly mid-tempo tunes that stand well alone or when taken in as a group.

The songwriting and tone doesn't even tip-toe into "progressive" territory, but that doesn't make the King is Dead bad, just good but not essential. Recommended right behind the more artistic Crane Wife and Hazards of Love.

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

Latest members reviews

4 stars "The Crane Wife" was my introduction to The Decemberists. I remember being particularly captivated by the catchier, poppier aspects to songs like "O Valencia", "Summersong", and the Crane Wife trilogy, and less by the prog side of the album (though, I admired the GG-like counterpoint of "Sons & D ... (read more)

Report this review (#564380) | Posted by Tombo2 | Tuesday, November 8, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Much has been made of The Decemberists' 2011 album The King Is Dead. In some circles it has been considered a return to their folky roots. Meanwhile, on it (as of this writing) holds the lowest rating of any Decemberists album. It's easy to see why this album may polarize some. ... (read more)

Report this review (#561140) | Posted by FunkyM | Tuesday, November 1, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars With their sixth studio album in a nine years spam (quite impressive for today standards), The Decemberists had the almost impossible mission to outdo the previous ambitious masterpiece, The Hazards of Love. Well, by the average rating that it's receiving in this site, it is clear that they've faile ... (read more)

Report this review (#418354) | Posted by matansaldi | Saturday, March 19, 2011 | Review Permanlink

1 stars I'll be short about this one. Wether you loved the Decemberists' more proggy side in "The Hazards of Love," or their more indie-rock albums before that, this album is crap. Going the way of Wilco, the decemberists have decided that the time is right to throw some of their artsy pretense aside ... (read more)

Report this review (#391084) | Posted by Cayafas | Monday, January 31, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I really started to fall in love with The Decemberists about a year ago when I decided to pick up "Hazards of Love" due to many positive reviews. I was blown away. It was a concept album full of simple beauty and clever lyrics. Typically, the kind of music I like is much more complex and fits fir ... (read more)

Report this review (#384984) | Posted by natewait | Saturday, January 22, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars First of all i should say i was expecting more from this great band and this album is not good enough! The King Is Dead is an average modern folk(country) rock album with american pop music influences and i can assure you it doesn`t meant to be a progressive album at all (despite the two previous ... (read more)

Report this review (#360274) | Posted by sorcerer kermes | Wednesday, December 22, 2010 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of THE DECEMBERISTS "The King Is Dead"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.