Artist: †Hymns†

Title: Cardinal Sins/Contrary Virtues

Release Date: 12th December 2011

Label: Big Scary Monsters


Written  by Mark Robinson

The very concept of Cardinal Sins/Contrary Virtues is a pretty bold affair. A two-man thrashing of drums and guitars with their fingers in as much classical work as it is in the more conventional garage rock settings. The very idea of this being stretched over as a double album is even more ambitious. At its peak it works terrifically as a dark, anemic plunge into the depths of despair and patched all together quite remarkably with just a guitar and drums. But that is also the biggest issue as well. The very inherent idea of two instrument bands works in short, sharp blasts i.e. Death From Above 1979. But dragged out over the space of two albums it can leave a numbing effect.

It’s made all the more curious by the laying out of both LPs. Cardinal Sins plays out in the typical garage rock, two-piece fashion. But it doesn’t mix things up so it starts to wear thin towards the end. On the other hand Contrary Virtues has a much more somber tone and at times falls into moments of Avant-Garde, which when it clicks is quite stunning. But it never crawls out of second gear so it becomes an even bigger struggle to listen through. Perhaps a blend of the best of both worlds on one LP could have made for a much better listen (which luckily for the digital world we live in makes this a five minute job).

But don’t let this put you off as there are some stunning moments sprawled across both sides. Miracles has an ethereal beauty that mixes lo-fi and Arcade Fire while Sam Manville yelps that “We’re only human after all”. A Punch to the Temple packs a punch and will stay around in your head for days. As will Lily which features some superb drum work by Peter Reisener, who bless him could do with a bassist for company to really let him spread his wings.

Give it a listen, pick out the best moments and you’ll have a perfectly solid album.


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