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Flowers of Hell - Come Hell or High Water

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Artist: Flowers of Hell

Album: Come Hell or High Water

Label: Unfamiliar

Review date: Aug. 13, 2010


Flowers of Hell - "White Out" (Come Hell Or High Water)


One of the great mysteries of music is that while it can greatly affect a listenerís mood, its impact is also influenced by the listenerís frame of mind, situation and surroundings. Listening to the same album, at one time the music might be charming, then on the next listen it might be irritating. Itís all dependent on your mood, which is in turn affected by everything around you, not to mention how youíre feeling and what youíre thinking about.

Come Hell or High Water brought such thoughts to mind, because after listening a number of times, I found it to be an unpredictable album. Being almost entirely instrumental, there arenít words to distract the listener, and rarely any voice to focus on ó our brains being particularly susceptible to tone of voice and the emotion therein. I found that depending on what I was doing and what I was thinking about, my feelings regarding the album varied quite a bit.

A very large group of over two dozen musicians, Flowers of Hell proffer the oft-dreaded blend of symphonic instruments with rock instrumentation, certainly an invitation to pomposity if ever there was one. Luckily, the music focuses on texture more than bombast. With washes of cymbals combined with flutes and clarinets, piano and droning strings punctuated by dramatic horns, at times the proceedings do get a bit self-indulgent, but for the most part, leader Greg Jarvis keeps things perhaps overly calm.

The most effective pieces lift themselves out of the world of melancholy strings, either through machine-like rhythms ("Bluemschen") or snippets of memorable melody (the heavily Spiritualized-inspired "White Out"). The moments when the band tosses in shards of guitar feedback or clattering metallic sounds make me wish that theyíd more often let things loose and escape from the cultured, friendly constraints in which they too often find themselves. Pretty piano and lethargic strings are fine in their place, but Come Hell or High Water suffers from a surfeit of easy-listening.

Nevertheless, how I ended up feeling by the end of the album changed a great deal over multiple listening sessions. At times I found myself in the right mood, and while the songs often fade into the background, the washes of sound could nicely complement my mood. At other times, I tapped my fingers and wished that the group would show more fire, emit more energy.

By Mason Jones

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