Poly-Math’s second album is probably the first album to leave me stumped before I’ve even put it on. It’s a double concept album that’s split into two, telling two halves of a story. The album is based on Baghdad’s 13th century House of Wisdom and its destruction in the Siege of Baghdad in 1258, a topic I’m virgin to. The experimental trio herald this album as their most ambitious yet. Just reading the press release I’d find it hard to argue otherwise. The album’s ambition and grandeur is almost intimidating.
House of Wisdom | We Are the Devil blows your hair back. It’s a juggernaut of an album in every sense. The music is so rich, each bar is filled to the max and the way it’s mixed lets everything come through in the right way, an album that deserves to be listened to on the best of speakers. Listening to it, you’d want to describe it by shouting “It’s mental!” However, the album is much smarter than its initial shock. Poly-Math’s creativity and vision is something to be admired, the end result is so grand and fantastic you’ll be celebrating it before you’re even through with it.
Given the face of House of Wisdom | We Are the Devil, working out how Poly-Math intend for this record to be digested is slightly vague, the idea of what the album is, is more daunting than what you actually listen to. Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the concept itself, the intent of the album is clear. The songs tell stories about the rise and fall of the House of Wisdom without words, the lack of a voice does the concept wonders, leaving you to fill in the spaces yourself. They build up beauty and depth that you can wade through, then they tear these curtains down throughout. The sense of destruction is huge and chaotic with an iron fist.
What does it actually sound like, though? There are a million easy comparisons to make with prog acts from the 70s and, whilst the influence is clear, it’s not really a reflection of the sound of the album. It’s like someone took the ideas of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and ran them through Death From Above 1979. There are so many different sides and moods that the album manages to give. When it’s heavy it goes full throttle, sometimes flirting with metal territory. On the other end, it messes about with ambient sounds and noise rock and it also fills in all the spaces between this, usually on one track. There’s such an epic feel to the album, the sense of doom they create is fitting for the story they’re trying to tell. It’s an album which balances being tense, light, dark and frightening at the same time. The scale of the album is so massive, whilst it’s very clear they are a trio, they sound like more than a trio of mere men.
Nothing on House of Wisdom | We Are the Devil feels messy at any point either. The moments when things get chaotic aren’t trying to hide the fact that they’re calculated. There isn’t a scrap of fat anywhere and you can hear how disciplined the band are. It’s how they can pull off a double concept album. Take the closer ‘Science | We Are The Devil’: they understand how the space around the music works, how to make their eruptions all the more effective and how to contrast it so well with the lighter more ambient side. Every song brings something new and, more importantly, fills you with different ideas and allows you to visualise your own interpretation of its concept.
House of Wisdom | We Are the Devil is one of the most inventive new albums I’ve heard in a long time. It’s an album that pushes the musical space it lives in and is incredibly exciting to listen to. You’ll find yourself being steered around as the band intended, nodding away, thumping your leg along with the thundering drums. Overall it’s a cleverly orchestrated heart-pounding surge of darkness and adrenaline contained within an 11-track album.