We greatly enjoyed Last Builders of Empire‘s Post-War, a conceptual album that served as the soundtrack to a soldier’s last letter. Hades can be seen as a natural follow-up to that work, taking the Dante insprirations to an even deeper level. Over the course of five songs, the EP rides the ferry through the shadows of Erebus to a final destination of Tartarus, the vast abyss. But the tone is not quite that dark; this is post-rock, not death metal. Post-rock is uniquely poised to add a tinge of sadness to that of darkness, which is what Last Builders of Empire accomplishes here. There’s even a sense of nobility in the striving of the brass notes. The listener accompanies the protagonist on his journey, yet holds out hope that the soul might somehow escape to paradise.
The post-rock quartet has an acute love for their hero, who has already been through so much. There’s no indication of why the soldier has gone downward rather than upward, save for the ravages of war. Perhaps it is simply that the Inferno is the best-remembered of the triptych, suffused with images more striking than those of the Paradiso. Even in the finale, as the soldier trudges bravely on, he seems more resolute than resigned, able to accept his fate ~ a good soldier not only to the end, but past the end.
Musically, the highest peak is reached in the closing minutes of “The Descent of Perithous”. The title refers to a trip taken with Theseus to win a bride from the underworld. This is another story of nobility, the plan thwarted by Hades, who traps the heroes in “the chairs of forgetfulness”. And thus again, the sadness, as all goals and courage are lost in heat and mist. The emotion is borne by the brass section, which adds an orchestral tone to the layers of guitar. One cannot imagine such music in hell, for such a score would at least make it bearable.
The concept of a “state of grace” has been widely dropped by the church in recent years, but existed in full force at the time of Hamlet. Here the title is given to a track in the Tartarus section, intimating that a good person died while entertaining an evil thought or committing a bad deed. This provides the tension on which the music turns. Has there been a mistake? Is there no turning back? The EP provides no answer; its very lack of resolution screams, to be continued. (Richard Allen)