Ever wondered what it would be like if the Brothers Grimm mated with Yes? Even if you haven’t, it’s a worthwhile question, one which The Decemberists answer in bold form with the release of their fully realized, triumphant prog-rock progeny, The Hazards of Love. It comes replete with Colin Meloy’s deep romanticism with tragedy and love of the grandiose. This is the record they’ve been hinting at for years, and it signals their transformation from quirky prog-pop underground darlings to serious, if slightly pedantic rockers.
Despite the fairy tale elegance of this record, though, Hazards could alienate some fans who fell for the band via their swirling, highly melodic previous records. The lyricism hasn’t changed, but there are no catchy tunes here save a few, and even those are a stretch. The band has produced beautifully crafted arena anthems, but most won’t infect you; the sound is too broad to even lend itself to humming. That shouldn’t discourage anyone, though; the quality of the songwriting, structure and story line, along with the slinky, dreamy guest vocals from Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond) and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) should be enough to make you wish you had a lighter on you.
The Decemberists are still a band full of dark magic. That appears inherent to Meloy. But The Hazards of Love feels like a natural evolution. If anyone is surprised, then they were never really paying attention in the first place.
The Decemberists will perform at the Tabernacle in Atlanta Wednesday, June 3.
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