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Hour of the Shipwreck - The Hour is Upon Us

Self released on Shipwreck Music & Co, 5/17/20

I think The Hour is Upon Us, the new album from L.A.’s Hour of the Shipwreck, would have scared the bejesus out of me as a child. At first listen I considered it to be the quintessential soundtrack to any and every game of Dungeons & Dragons from this moment forward, but I fear it may send too many children running home to their mommies at full throttle.

I have, I admit, yet to enter into the realm of D&D; I dislike games and I despise role-playing so I am probably not the best candidate. But I do believe that if ever one was to be transported into a mystical world of witchery, wizardry and sorcery, The Hour is Upon Us is a must have as musical accompaniment.

The album’s opening track, and the majority of the seven tracks on The Hour is Upon Us, begins with a Danny Elfman-like creepiness that would be difficult to go unrecognized. And indeed the majority of the reviews I read on the band cited Elfman as an obvious influence, to a surprisingly high degree. Elfman scores and Burton films aside, there is a definite filmic quality to the tracks that goes beyond the picked guitar flats, autoharps, chime-like keys, and sticky sweet male female harmonies. Hour of the Shipwreck masterfully lay soundscapes that ride the edge of chaos, of crisis, and stability, while alternately affecting mood and feel. The very cadence of the album seems to flow like a frigate ship through 18th century seas, powerful, purposeful, and destructive.

“Chandelier Suite” is haunting and menacing, and closes with a style similar to 70s power ballads but without indulging too much in the dreaded cheese factor. What is impressive with this album time and time again is the ability of the band members to incorporate such a wide range of musical genres and stylistic influences into seven tracks and that they are produced by a reasonably small group of musicians (five).

Yes, there is a full choir, and at times it does get a tad heavy handed and labored-feeling, hence the D&D reference, but I do need to acknowledge their mastery of musical cross-pollination. I must also mention the complete and total guitar shreddery in the second track “Save the World” which begins with a soft, driving, plucky intro a la Radiohead and manages to channel Rush and Floyd before busting into one of the most yngwie malmsteen-esque solos I have heard since, well, yngwie malmsteen. Righteous? Yes. Over the top? For sure.

Unfortunately a good deal of The Hour is Upon Us is just that -- righteous, but over the top, over-done, over-produced, and over-stylized. The concepts are there but those very concepts are what chase the listener around the room with a hammer and spike, driving the dramaticism deep into their ear holes.

In “My Fantasy” singer Richie Kohan moans, “My fantasy is killing me but in the end I hope it sets me free” to a soundtrack that could have been off the latest Death Cab for Cutie album. As I mentioned before, they certainly have strong pop sensibilities and a knack for bringing each track back to their haunting mantra no matter how far it strays into comfort-land, but even the lyrics become slightly predictable and droll after a while.

But I suppose that a band who describe themselves as:
“Pirates of the Caribbean after the first drop when it is still dark, there is a ship cracked in half and the captain, a grinning pirate skeleton blowing in the wind, is steering the wreckage through dark rushing clouds, and the smell, the smell that can't be found anywhere other than the happiest place on Earth...” are at least not trying to misrepresent their intentions. Theirs is the music of conquest and triumph, a soundtrack for sorcery and small hands holding polyhedral die. A little scary, a lot ambitious, and more than slightly excessive, but I applaud their efforts.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars