Sound — 9
The album starts with a pulsating hum, building more and more, then transitioning into an ominous church-style organ ringing over synthesized chords. This is the "Prelude", introducing us to the tone held within The Decemberists new album "The Hazards Of Love." This intro is a good sign you will not find any hook-laden pop-ballads to beloved girlfriends. This is a dark album. I have heard some recount the sound of some tracks as tettering on metal. Listen to such head-banging tracks as "A Bower Scene", "Queens Rebuke" and "Won't Want For Love." These are some drop-D diamonds, a more rough and seething sound The Decemberists have not dabbled in during previous albums. And I must admit, they do so successfully. At the same time, this album contains plenty of tracks which warmly remind us why we love The Decemberists in the first place. For instance, "The Hazards Of Love 2(Wager All)" strums a simple yet hauntingly eerie chord progression that has the Decemberists signature style, while "Isn't It A Lovely Night" has that old-fashioned folksy accordian-filled tempo that only Colin Meloy could pull off. So have The Decemberists created the first folk-metal album, maybe (one listen to "The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid" might make you consider it). But maybe this was just the next step in the adventurous and pioneering sound The Decemberists are constantly developing.
Lyrics — 10
Where does one start when trying to describe Decemberists lyrics? Just as in Crane Wife, Colin Meloy sticks to the story-telling structure for "The Hazards of Love". Also, as in other Decemberists albums, these tracks contain some quite disturbing and macabre imagery within their lyrics. Overall, the theme through most of the songs appear to do with just what the album title implies, all the bad things that happens when we resign ourselves to love, however, all based in a historical fantasy background. For example, in "Annan Water," the character dismays on his potential death while trying to reach his loved one, embodied in the lyrics, "you may have my precious bones on my return." Meanwhile, in "The Rake's Song," we are presented with a comedic telling of one mans frustration with his wife having so many children, one of which killed his wife in child-birth. So the "humble narrator" recounts how he came to murder each one: "Charlotte I buried after feeding her foxglove/ Dawn was easy, she was drowned in the bath" This must be the most catchy song on infanticide I believe there is. Additionally, we are privy to the back and forth frustrated conversation between mother and son in "The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid". Dearest mother anguishes, "How I made you/ I wrought you, I pulled you/ From war I labored you." Definitely a testament to motherly love. All around, this album has some fun, creative and inspired lyrics. Though you may not find any songs lyrics to personally relate to, whether they be songs about archiac psychopathic baby-killers (Rake's Song) or evil villians hiding away beautiful heroines, you will still definitely have amazing journey doing so! While some complain that Colin Meloy needs to grow up and leave behind his obsession with convoluted story-telling and fantastical costumey drama lyricism, these aspects of his albums are in fact one of my favourite parts of listening to him.
Overall Impression — 8
Admittedly, "The Hazards of Love" is a a very ambitious project. Meloy's major label success has more unleashed his over-active imagination rather than reigned it in. I will confess that this album and direction The Decemberists are heading in is not for everyone. This album lacks sing-along happy tracks like "July-July", "Sixteen Military-Wives" and "O Valencia!" from previous albums. Additionally, some may feel all the guest vocalists are overdone and the guitar shredding a bit out of place, but these would be people expecting a regurgitation of "Castaways And Cutouts" or "Picaresque." I will not say that this is my favourite Decemberists album, but I admire the inventive direction and sound Meloy seems to consistently deliver.