Earlier this year, Hiram released their second album, See The Thing Within The Thing. It's tremendous.
It has been met with a varied critical reception, from the negatively indifferent to the voraciously gushing. That's all well and good and, considering the nature, tone and delivery of the music along with the expansive song structures and durations, to be expected. I'm not much of a fan of music reviewing, particularly the reliance on comparisons with other bands and how a good review is generally based on the reviewer's opinion of the bands they discern as influences/reference points and how well the songs fit the preconceived template of the style of music they see them as aiming for. I'm being overly harsh towards music reviewers and criticism as a discipline, but their part in providing some kind of official validation of a band and the way bands so unashamedly chase them and subsequently hold aloft good reviews and waft them in our faces with greater enthusiasm than they play the music is a bit gross.
While I know it's all part of the game and the established step in garnering wider listenership and interest for a band, it saddened me to see Hiram pushing for and then reacting to reviews, particularly negative ones or the few that seemed to have missed the point entirely, with disappointment and a little indignation. So, with the intention of explaining why it saddened me and what I think of Hiram and their album See The Thing Within The Thing, here's my non-review.
Hiram are not a typical band. They've been going for a long time (8-10 years?) and almost exclusively under the radar. During this time, they have been consistently practicing, writing and recording material. To me, they exemplify musicians as artists whose craft is the beginning and the end and the all. It is not a career in music, it is not a leg-up to a big gig, a tour or label deal, it is a lifelong artistic endeavour. It is a desire to create a body of work as complex, meaningful and worthwhile as the ideas, beliefs and convictions that inspire it.
From my vantage point, counting members of the band as my closest friends, I'd say they're successful in that goal. Their work is inspiring in its ambition and execution. There are elements that don't do a great deal for me but their work thrills me. That is the crux of it. Art is something to be lived through, to be experienced. It connects with you on a personal level. It should, by its very nature, resist judgements of good or bad and instead offer only the question: does it thrill me?
I'm totally aware that I may have been fooled by an illusion of artisans toiling in obscurity to create art for their own edification and in satisfaction; when in truth, they were constantly chasing popular approval and the standard definition of making it, but were just too shit to get picked up. But I doubt it.
This album is the next evolutionary step for a band that, for me, are encapsulated by a single performance that will stay with me for a very long time. Earlier this year, they played at West Street Live in Sheffield. The gig setup gives three/four bands an equal set time of 30 minutes. We're talking local bands playing a pub in the centre of Sheffield, with no door charge on a Sunday night. And they opted to play a single, 30-minute song: Love's Lock. You can listen to it here - http://hiram.bandcamp.com/album/2011-loves-lock - to see what I'm talking about. It was outstanding. They took me somewhere and I came out the other end a different person. For a large part, the audacity of playing this single song, where the vocals don't come in until around the twelve minute mark and the last ten minutes are world's end crush and cacophony, swept me up and floored me. I remember giggling to myself at the balls of it. Here was a band marching only to the beat of their own drum and delivering exactly the performance they wanted to give. No pretences, no bullshit, just a potentially alienating 30-minute opus of claustrophobic, unsettling build-up, bleak rage and wisdom, tied up with devastatingly heavy riffs.
The album continues that evolution through further developed musicianship and ability, and the desire and consummate capability to paint yet more shades of heaviness into their thoroughly metal canvas.
There's little point in further attempts to try to describe their sound when you can just as easily listen to it for free and download for whatever price you like here - http://hiram.bandcamp.com/album/2013-see-the-thing-within-the-thing
In my, admittedly short-sighted, idealised and completely untenable world, there would be no need for Hiram to submit their music for review because all reviews are meaningless and only detract and divert from the art, but I get it. I've probably shit where I eat in writing this but I couldn't resist showing my brothers some love.
Run, do not walk to http://hiram.bandcamp.com and furnish yourself with their entire back catalogue for the price that suits you.