Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking already – why is a website that deals with hard rocky and heavy metal news and reviews posting an article on the soothing, gentle strains of Florence and the Machine? Well, two reasons mainly. One, because we can. Two, because the vast majority of rockers and metalheads in this world aren’t opposed to other forms of music. If somebody tells you that they listen to nothing but metal from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep, I would take their claim with a MASSIVE pinch of salt. To paraphrase comedian Steve Hughes, ‘If you listen to Slayer for eight hours every day, you need something to relax to in the afternoon.’ For some, Florence and the Machine are that method of getting away from the world and taking things down a notch.
But what of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful then? So often in the metal world the third album is the biggie, the one that makes or breaks. In the cases of Iron Maiden, Metallica and the aforementioned Slayer, it worked fairly well. Here however, it’s still a case of Florence and the Machine trying to top 2009’s astonishing debut Lungs, which sent Miss Welch and her merry band into the stratosphere from the off and wasn’t really matched in quality by follow-up record Ceremonials which had an air of tiredness about it, the group having gone from touring into recording into touring again. This time there’s been a good couple of years in between and it’s worked a treat; Florence sounds refreshed and re-energised and the songs have a lot more punch, from the brass input on the title track to the strong, indie drive on ‘What Kind of Man’. As with the previous records, it’s a perfect summer soundtrack album best suited to a garden party with a barbecue, the sun, copious amounts of Pimms and great company, not least during ‘Delilah’ which goes from slow intro to upbeat tempo and is the strongest of Welch’s vocal performances ion the record, which isn’t the biggest of accolades as she sounds stunning on every song, but more-so here.
As somebody who adored the first album (no, really), How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful still isn’t quite matching the quality of Lungs, personally, but it’s got a damn sight closer than Ceremonials did and it’s still as beautifully crafted as the others. Heavy it isn’t and it will never be, but for an album to take away the worries of the day and unwind, this could well be on repeat until the autumn rolls in again.
Christopher Lloyd Hayden
Ship to Wreck
What Kind of Man
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Queen of Peace
Various Storms and Saints
Long & Lost