CD Review: Hammock – Oblivion Hymns

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I was in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada the first time I heard Oblivion Hymns. I’d just clocked out after a long day at work, went back to the hotel, and put my feet up. I’d been thinking about the album all day: What would this new chapter sound like? How different would it be from Departure Songs? To what new places would the music take me? With some time finally all to myself, I put on my headphones, dimmed the lights, and submerged.

The album opener, “My Mind Was a Fog… My Heart Became a Bomb,” left an instant impression on me. The delicate play of piano keys during the intro lulled me into an immediate state of calm, washing away all traces of the day’s struggles. Then, at around the two minute mark… explosion. The heavenly strings of the Love Sponge Quartet launched a full-scale assault on my senses, and I surrendered willingly, knowing that the next hour of my life would be filled by something far beyond my expectation.

Oblivion Hymns unfolds like a piece of origami as you listen. It’s more of a journey than an album, each piece intricately composed, laid out, and arranged for maximum impact. Ambitious and far-reaching, this record plays to Hammock’s true strength, which is to say that Marc and Andrew are architects, and Oblivion Hymns is a blueprint of master craftsmanship. An instant classic, and well-deserving to be a part of the band’s catalog.

Although still present, Hammock’s signature wall of guitars takes a backseat in favor of neoclassical elements including strings, French horns, glockenspiels, and even a children’s choir. The mixture is subtle and splendid, with no one section overpowering another. To fully appreciate its depth, one must listen to this album multiple times. The songs are like treasure chests, and you find yourself closer to unlocking the prize with each attempt.

Each track is special and stands on its own merit, but I would be remiss to not specifically make mention of track eight, “In the Middle of this Nowhere.” Any attempt to describe this song would be doing it a great disservice, so I will only say that it arrives without warning, and leaves all too soon. It fills my mind with glorious visuals, and my soul with a healing touch. It could very well be the greatest Hammock song of all time, a claim I do not make without proper consideration. If not the greatest, certainly one of the top three.

As an added bonus to listeners that purchase direct, the exclusive tracks “Sleep” and “Cathedral” are included in a digital download. Make no mistake, these are no mere throw-ins. Each continues the thematic presentation in their own way, while adding something different at the same time. “Sleep” brings with it a dose of familiar guitar effects and droning bass notes, and “Cathedral” offers the soothing textures of a delay pedal, and softly-plucked acoustic guitar. Both, well-worth the effort to obtain, and fantastic additions to the album.

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Hammock makes music that you hear with your heart, not with your ears, and Oblivion Hymns is no exception. With an expanded arsenal of tools at their disposal, Hammock has created something that is sure to stick with you long after the last track has played. The experience is unforgettable. If cast iron and stainless steel are built to last, then Hammock albums are crafted to score eternity.

In a word, breathtaking. In another word, masterpiece. Whatever the future may hold for Hammock, there is little doubt that Oblivion Hymns will become an influential and referenced work within a library full of rich, meaningful melodies. On a scale of one to ten, I give it all the stars in the sky.