Hear ye, hear ye, good people! London art-rock band HMLTD presents its second album! It’s a theatrical epic, cabaret-prog-opera-rock style, featuring a medieval England, anachronistic, which is devoured by… a huge worm? And a hero named Henry whose task is to kill this worm? Yes, that’s right. No wonder such a project is currently having its moment of glory in web music communities (such as the Rate Your Music site, for example), whose members are salivating over the enigmatic esotericism of Neutral Milk Hotel and the brain-melting jazz-rock absurdity that is Black Midi.
No doubt, the wacky concept of this album may make it stand on its own at first listen, but one notices quite quickly that it has much more to offer. The atmosphere is grandiloquent and the production is immense: some fifty musicians have lent their hands or their voices in one way or another. So the scale of the enterprise is felt. It is obvious that this is a project taken very seriously by its craftsmen. But does all this spectacle overshadow the substance? Not really. In fact, the spectacle here is so great that it becomes the substance. And underneath the surface, the themes are still human. As the album progresses, we learn that the worm that consumes England and the world is inside all of us, and is called capital, anxiety, hatred, envy, ego… An apocalyptic scenario, not so much fictional as that.
If not the most subtle of metaphors, one must appreciate the simple intransigence of this group. In this case, the sheer scale of the effort and the path we’re going through is enough to impress. In any case, there is enough musical variety in the journey to keep us firmly in place.
Combining post-punk, prog rock, Queen-like rock opera, jazz-rock and chamber music, this album leaves us guessing with each song what it will become. It’s hard to tell, considering that even within the songs, there are these changes of direction. Even the songs twist! But what might seem completely dizzying is fortunately not, since the path between the tracks is well defined. The structure is solid, and there are even moments of narration and history to anchor us even more in this strange world. Obviously, an album about a huge earthworm would not be complete without a few well-placed earworms. It is a conceptual obligation.
So, if you like crazy ideas, don’t hesitate. Amateurs of atmosphere, of immersion, of well-constructed fiction, dive in! If you like orchestration, try Liverpool Street and Lay Me Down. Skeptics, finally, get acquainted with the world of Saddest Worm Ever and the title track, and measure yourself against this creature.