When a seminal band calls it a day it’s hard to take. It’s even harder when you factor in that the band didn’t, really, put a foot wrong. This was the feeling when Wild Beasts decided to call it a day. Now frontman Hayden Thorpe has emerged from a period of creative hibernation with his debut solo album ‘Diviner’. To call it a departure from the luscious majesty of his previous releases feels unfair, but this is a different beast.
The first thing you notice about ‘Diviner’ is Thorpe’s vocals. Gone is the glorious, and bombastic, falsetto, but instead is a gentle croon. After years of touring and living under the microscope of the press, he feels world weary and reflective. This is displayed with the album opener, and title track, ‘Diviner’. Sombre piano and Thorpe’s delicate vocals are all we’re getting. “I'm a keeper of secrets, pray to tell, I'll be your disciple, show yourself, Living a fever dream, lost control. You be my diviner, show me where to go”.
This mood carries on throughout the album. The fervent ‘In My Name’ feels like a look back at his career with the biting lyrics “I have shaken these hands, I know these demons, I've smelt their perfume, I have slept in their rooms” and the chorus of “If you must crusade, Don't do so in my name, I'll keep your things safe, Don't come back in my name” asking fans to possibly not take his lyrics too literally.
The standout track is the instrumental ‘Spherical Time’. Broody, atmospheric synths swirl and cut around us. It creates a feeling of fog, and fug, before a celestial sounding keyboard cuts through the darkness with a beam of iridescent light. ‘Spherical Time’ shows that Thorpe doesn’t need to use his sonorous vocals to get his emotional content across.
The album is full of the poignant melodies and clever wordplay that made Wild Beasts such an unstoppable force, but it’s the music that is the most striking and memorable. Gentle piano/keyboard ballads are the order of the day with subtle electronics adding flourishes of colour and texture here and there, but the star of the show is Thorpe’s vibrant and melodious vocals.
Yes it’s a different kind of vocal to what we’ve been used to, but this is a different kind of album. ‘Diviner’ is a brave album and Thorpe should be commended for it. It challenges what masculinity should be and that you don’t have to shout to get your message across.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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