†Hymns† - Cardinal Sins / Contrary Values
†Hymns† are a self-styled ‘athiest’ rock band, and despite that suspiciously pretentious label they’ve given themselves, their debut double album Cardinal Sins / Contrary Virtues is a brutally dark and inventive collection of tracks. These guys may just be a guitar and drums duo, but the anger in their progressive post-punk assault is completely palpable, though it never overshadows just how intricate and detailed the music can get.
That attention to songcraft probably comes with the band taking inspiration from composers such as Steve Reich and Arvo Pӓrt, musicians known for their at times difficult compositions. Here that ingenuity is fed through noisy, angular riffing; percussion that seems to have a mind of its own and raw, urgent vocals courtesy of ex-Blakfish member Samuel Manville. There’s a sense furious loss of hope on the Cardinal Sins half of this double-header, though thankfully this translates into a brilliantly cacophonous noise. ‘Repent & Rebuild’ is an anthem of dread for people who have lost all hope in a high power, while there’s something malevolent and murderous about the pointed guitars of ‘A Punch To The Temple’.
Contrary Virtues begins on a marginally more upbeat note on ‘Miracles’, with monumental church organ and lyrics that while still downbeat, seem to have a more rational grasp of the futility of life as Manville shouts “we’re only human after all”. This half also sees the duo reigning back the noise a little, whether it be to make way for folky finger-picking on the beautiful ‘Honesty’ or the gothic music-box magic of ‘Diligence’. There’s certainly a far wider palette of sounds, showing the trove of ideas that †Hymns† have to offer. This is a remarkable debut, especially considering they are a duo and are capable of capturing the listener’s attention for the entire double-album duration. About as much joy you could possibly take from a record that revels in a feeling of gloomy despair.