Hey Colossus

Black And Gold

This writer’s favourite memory of Hey Colossus has less to do with the band and more with the music. The scene is north London venue The Lexington and tQ editor John Doran is manning the decks between bands. Among the esoteric and various sounds that have come to be his calling card comes crashing through a humungous track that could easily be the sound of a squadron of tanks invading the dance floor of some infernal disco. It’s at once jarring yet beguiling, a massive slab of stomping power that crushes all before it and the sight of the big man head banging away, his long locks flailing in all directions is simply the icing on what is proving to be a most delicious confection.

Grabbing his attention, I yell through the maelstrom, "What the hell is this?"

"It’s called ‘Hot Grave’ by Hey Colossus," he shouts back. "It’s out in about six weeks. Fucking brilliant, isn’t it?" And in the blinking of an eye he’s back to thrashing his head about in time to the music.

He was right of course, and ‘Hot Grave’s parent album, Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo, was every bit as viscerally breathtaking as the track that preceded it. A huge, swaggering beast crushing all before it, this was heaviness in excelsis. Which is one of the reasons that Black And Gold, the band’s eighth album, comes initially as something as shock, before emerging triumphant to take its place as the best Hey Colossus album to date. But to fully enjoy Black And Gold‘s many delights, it should be understood that this is a journey with a beginning, middle and end, and one to be taken in a single sitting.

But that early shock? The celestial choir that ushers in the gentle – yes, gentle, an adjective you wouldn’t normally associate with Hey Colossus – opener ‘Hold On’ is at sharp odds at what’s go on before. Can this really be the purveyors of heavy volume we’ve come to know over the years? Are they having a laugh? Well, no. Because, as it happens, this is just the start of a bold move by Hey Colossus, a escalation of power and majesty that rises incrementally as Black And Gold progresses. ‘Sisters And Brothers’ is more of the same, only more so. Is that a murder of crows that circle overhead before giving way to a twisting bass line and eastern inflections? Yes, it is. Of course it’s recognisably Hey Colossus, but what we have here is the kind of progress that’s in all too short supply as the band twist and mangle their own sound to move forward into new territories.

Not that Hey Colossus have eschewed their fondness for power. By the time they reach the title track, Hey Colossus are moving into more familiar climes but they also pause to tease and caress with tender strums before building back up to throbbing and pulsing thrusts. If Jason Pierce were to lead a Viking raiding party, one suspects that the results would be something like this. By the time ‘Eat It’ arrives, the band is back at its bone crunching best. This isn’t to denigrate what’s gone before it; far from it. This is part of the journey’s natural conclusion, a howling climax that has been gradually and almost imperceptibly growing since those initial washes at the beginning.

This is an album of textures and layers, depth and breadth, light and shade and, of course, black and gold. Startling, daring and satisfying, this is, as the big man said a few years back, fucking brilliant.

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