Constantine ~ Hades (Expanded)

Hades was one of our albums of the year when it was first released in 2017, and now it includes a long single that serves as the album’s concluding chapter.  “Fos” is a beautiful addition that deepens the appreciation of what was already an incredible release.  This 13-minute piece is shot through with strands of silver, a turn in tone that is all the more remarkable given the current state of the world.  Not that it’s all sweetness and light; halfway through, the track is visited by deep distortion and dark expulsions, reminding us why we fell in love with this album in the first place.

Many of the things we worried about in 2017 have come true.  Brexit and Trump have been complete disasters.  The world is even more fractured.  The refugee crisis may have left the front pages, but is still ongoing; and now people are fleeing other authoritarian regimes as well.  So what caused Constantine to add this note of hope?  Perhaps it’s the fact that one can only go so low before collapsing or rebounding, and the artist has chosen the latter: to turn toward brightness, even though the sun is hidden.  And as the dark clouds of “Fos” dissipate, they reveal a lovely canopy of strings.  We’re still not sure whether everything will turn out all right, but we’ve we’ve persevered to this point, long enough to notice the beating heart of humanitarianism: unbroken, unbowed.  The fact that the newest track is now the overture lends Hades an early glimpse of heaven.  (Richard Allen)

From our original review:

Hades began his life in Greek mythology as the god of the underworld, the oldest son of Cronus and Rhea. Those afraid of using his name referred to him as “Pluto”, or “Zeus Of The Underworld”, adding euphemisms such as “The Rich One”, “Notorious”, or “Who Receives Many”. But the same word is used to signify the underworld itself. Hades is both god and location, man and mass. Similarly, Erebus (whose name appears as the final track on this album) is simultaneously a primordial deity born of Chaos, a representative of tenebrosity, and a region of the Greek underworld ~ brother of Nyx and according to the Sanskrit Rajas, “a place of darkness between Earth and Hades”.

Constantine’s Hades offers a similar duality.  Between these gods lie “Divide” and “Emptiness”, offering a dark commentary on the human condition.  The album is concurrently mortal and mineral: a geographical record conceived in an idyllic island setting and a mournful tribute to the tragedy of man.  Early in the recording process, the artist made sound-searching journeys deep into the underground of remote island caves as storms raged above, recalling the myths of gods and realms. A year after these recordings, Lesbos became an arrival point for refugees fleeing unimaginable horrors, risking and losing lives and loved ones.

In hindsight, we can see not only the impact of our actions but also the context and connections of outside forces. Recently we have seen people stripped of their humanity and rebranded as little more than the places that they have fled: not only the people of Syria fleeing Assad’s regime, but also ISIS forces and a US-led bombing campaign.  Skourlis could not have known the historical solemnity that would permeate his blend of field recordings, strings, percussion and old tube radios.  The weight that now presses on each struggling piano note, scything bowed string, and jolting percussive crash serves as a memorial for the innocent lives lost in the most shameful humanitarian crisis in recent history.  The album was already powerful; now it has become important as well.  (Jon Buckland)

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