Hazards of Love
For what is undoubtedly their most spectacular work so far, The Decemberists released The Hazards of Love, a progressive rock-opera. With previous works like The Tain (2004), an 18-minute non-stop retelling of an Irish folk story, and the title tracks of their previous release The Crane Wife (2006) weaving a Japanese fable, front man Colin Meloy is no stranger to the art of the raconteur.
Then comes this album — with the recounting of a medieval tale of an outraged queen, a woman named Margaret and her shape-shifting lover — that raises the band to a whole new level. Featured guest artists Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond and Becky Stark from Lavender Diamond as the Queen and Margaret, respectively, made a huge contribution while Meloy, as the narrator (known only as The Rake), provides all the male voices.
The true brilliance rests in the way the album functions both as a single entity as well as a collection of songs that have the ability to stand on their own. It is quite easy to enjoy the wide variety of musical styles, which range from a folksy waltz to heavy metal. Diehard fans pour over lyrics, dictionaries in hand, attempting to decipher the many layers within.
Ultimately, this album is on track to outshine its predecessor and leave fans and critics alike wondering what the group could possibly conjure up next. As of now, they are on tour performing the entire album as intended. Surely a stage adaptation will show up soon but, in the meantime, the mp3 download, CD or doubly vinyl will have to do. The Hazards of Love is available in stores and online from Capitol Records as of March 24.
As a testimony to how involved this album’s story is, the group even admits offers a digital booklet online if you wish to read through the entire story. To give a listen, you can find a stream of the album here. The Decemberists will be playing at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall on June 10, 2009.