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Album Review: House of Wisdom|We Are The Devil by Poly-Math

Brighton progressive alt/math rock trio Poly-Math release their new album, House of Wisdom|We Are The Devil on 23rd April via Lonely Voyage Records. Undoubtedly the bands most expansive release to date: a double concept album revolving around Baghdad’s 13th Century Houses of Wisdom, and the Siege of Baghdad in 1258 – which led to their destruction – as well as being widely cited as one of the major causes of the end of the Islamic Golden Age.

The two-part album was made possible through a crowd funding campaign which included the opportunity for supporters to feature on the album by submitting scripted spoken parts that have been mixed into the final release.

Sometimes concept albums can be difficult, sometimes their effortless as the bands debut album Melencolia; a concept album revolving around the German artist Dürer; proved. Historical events from 13th Century Iraq might be a little harder to translate.

For the most part you can forget about the concept and take this as a progressive math rock album regardless of theme. Opener ‘Preface To House Of Wisdom | Preface To We Are The Devil’ is a bit of a nothing track, it doesn’t whet the appetite or set up the next ten tracks. Skip forward to ‘1258 | In The Sights Of Mesopotamia’ and Poly-math are starting to hit their stride, the heavier moments are the highlight – there’s a pulsating energy and the guitars sound excellent. Unfortunately, the quieter parts meander off into the wilderness and at 10-plus minutes the track outstays its welcome.

‘Ink Of Scholars | Blood Of Tigris’ is where the band excel, heavy moments are complemented by post-rock atmospherics and there’s a genuine thrill to not knowing where the track will lead to next. It’s complemented by the angular and aggressive sounding ‘Mathematics | 12 days’ which revels in intricate and textured guitars alongside bit soaring riffs. Unfortunately, they’re separated by the spoken word of ‘Geography | Alamut/Sidh’ which does nothing more than remind us of the underlying concept.

A harsh opinion would be that the piano led ‘Astronomy | The Uncelestial’ is completely unnecessary. It could act as an interlude if it wasn’t for the laidback prog groove of the opening of ‘Alchemy | Terra Incognita’. While for the most part it’s a good track it could be trimmed, there’s nice progressive touches and you’ll recognise the King Crimson and Yes influences but it’s at this point you think that the band might have been a little too ambitious with this album.

‘Philosophy | Death & The Devil’ once again has all the ingredients for a great track but there’s just too much of it, it’s like batch cooking your dinners for the week at the weekend and eating everything on Sunday night. It’s such a shame because it could have been great. Then comes along ‘Medicine | No Hell Like Home’ which goes to the opposite side of the spectrum and clocks in at under two minutes – it’s a phenomenal track, succinct and full of devilish heavy guitars. ‘Ink of Scholars Reprise | In The Hands of Hulagu’ is a more laidback affair but crucially is the perfect length at just under 5-minutes.

‘Science | We Are The Devil’ closes proceedings as the album’s epic opus. While it has the same faults as the rest of the album, again there’s moments of real quality and ingenuity. You could say there’s a flawed genius to House of Wisdom|We Are The Devil. It’s too long even for a double album and some better direction in the studio could have given the band more focus but there’s moments that up there with the very best of math and progressive rock.

AD Rating 7/10

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