Hey Colossus


Hey Colossus hammer it out once more – with a newfound nimbleness to their telepathic interplay

When I first encountered Hey Colossus, somewhat late to the party in 2013, the band had just reached lofty new heights with the psych-sludge rager Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo. The lysergic ferocity of that record left an indelible imprint on my 21-year-old soul and led me to question what ‘psychedelic’ music could or should be. Menacing, brutal and vibrant, its brown-acid intensity hit me square in the third eye.

The Hey Colossus of 2020 is a different beast. Recent releases have seen them ditch the lumbering savagery of old in favour of a slicker, more agile sound. What we are left with now is a highly proficient, well-oiled machine capable of not just sheer force but moments of quiet beauty and introspective bliss. Across the 75-minute double LP Dances/Curses, they weave a rich sonic tapestry in which the wealth of ideas, clarity of vision and keen eye for detail makes for a highly rewarding, consistently unpredictable and at times utterly transcendent experience.


Opening track ‘The Eyeball Dance’ unfurls gradually with droning feedback and a tight, considered riff complimenting a monotonous bassline. The simple melody serves only to add colour to what is primarily a rhythmic introduction, a slow entry into the album’s psychic atmosphere. The interweaving guitar flourishes on ‘Donkey Jaw’ are more prominent but control is deftly applied and the tension never boils over into all-out frenzy. It’s clear at this point that the telepathic interplay of previous releases has not been lost. There’s an ease and confidence to the compositions that one would expect from such veterans but the sense of catharsis so integral to their music remains. The impression of some spiritual trauma being hammered out in the recording process is palpable. 

There are nods to the Hey Colossus of old. The anthemic euphoria of ‘Medal’ with its irresistible hook and hedonistic vocal refrain (“I found an easy way down”) would sit comfortably on a setlist with the pit-ready material of albums past. However, it’s when the band switches gears on the 16-minute kosmische odyssey ‘A Trembling Rose’ that the subtleties of their songcraft shine through. An exercise in restraint and timing, the track shares more in common with the insistent grooves of Neu! than Melvins-inspired doom riffage. Lush lead guitar lines shimmer over a set-in-stone rhythmic foundation and it’s not until nearly 12 minutes in that the full weight of the band is felt in an ecstatic moment of release. 

The album’s latter half sees Hey Colossus languishing in a steamy head-space, luxuriating over the sumptuous slide guitar intro of ‘U Cowboy’ and wallowing in the sickly-rich vocals of longtime fan Mark Lanegan on ‘The Mirror’. What marks out this half of the record is its spaciousness. Slo-mo tempos and roomy arrangements offer the listener the opportunity to bask in the album’s textures and meditate on its emotional resonance. Everything melts and comes to a halt on ‘Blood Red Madrigal’ then gears up again for one final thrash with the world-ending riff of ‘Tied In A Firing Line’.   

Refinement is so often an obstacle to authentic expression. As bands age and move away from the primitive experimentation of their youth, raw intensity is frequently shunned in favour of demonstrating ‘serious musicianship’ or bids for commercial success. Hey Colossus have undergone stylistic changes over their life-span that one could certainly equate to refinement but what makes this shift not only palatable but altogether welcome is that the band’s noble intentions are evidenced in the results.

Dances/Curses – just like Four Bibles and The Guillotine before it – is neither a band flexing its technical muscles for the sake of it nor attempting to break into what remains of the mainstream music industry. It’s a distillation of the cumulative experience of a staunchly DIY band with nearly two decades of hard graft under their belt. It’s a honing of their considerable abilities in crafting a nuanced, detailed record that carries all of the weight, urgency and emotional pull of their early work while continuing to push inexorably forward into invigorating new territory. 

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