In Blood is the group’s 14th album and the follow-up to 2020’s critically acclaimed Dances/Curses (Album Of The Year – The Quietus, Top 10 International Albums – Irish Times). It was typical of a band so well-known for stellar live performances to release their most successful album at a time when they were unable to back it up on the road. As was the case for many, lockdown changed the band’s lives in unexpected ways. Some felt a form of cabin fever at not being able to continue to make music (diverting their energies elsewhere - founding Wrong Speed Records for starters) whereas others relished the peace and quiet, perhaps questioning whether they wanted to return to the life they had before. Gigs (so long the lifeblood of the band) were booked, postponed, and cancelled. Things began to unravel and perhaps for the first time since the band formed in 2003 it was hard to see how it could continue. A plan was hatched to attempt to re-energise and reassemble the band: they would begin work on a new album. They would approach this as though a Somerset version of The Desert Sessions – members old and new and guests would contribute as and when time and restrictions allowed. Lyrically, British folk and ghost mythology provided the starting position for the song themes ranging from mutated stories of grief and loss written in the 14th Century (Perle), spiritual reawakening by ancient apparitions (Avalon) to the growth of nature after devastation (Can’t Feel Around Us, Over Cedar Limb), a metaphor also for spirit and body renewal and rebirth after trauma. The results sound free of any genre shackles and it suits Hey Colossus. They have taken the expansive anything-goes approach that made Dances/Curses so successful and fine-tuned and shaped it into an 8-song single album that never treads water or fills time. The prominent vocals steer the listener through the music, defining it as opposed to punctuating it (or being buried by it). The album is a calling card for the band in their 20th anniversary year. As odd and challenging as long-term fans would expect or hope for, but somehow more accessible and to the point than ever before. It is the closest the group have ever come to a pop record, radiating positivity through the murk like a small ray of light in some very dark and very weird times. Music can never entirely negate these feelings but, like the natural world referenced in the lyrics and sleeve, it invisibly bonds people together, lifting us up if we choose to let it.
RIYL: PJ Harvey, Sonic Youth, Dead Can Dance, Black Sabbath, Depeche Mode.
Available on red vinyl