Released on November 11, 2016, the 15th album by long-running Michigan band His Name Is Alive is a pulsating piece of psychedelic concept rock called, “Patterns Of Light”.
The band, with founder/leader Warren Defever being the only constant member since their 1990 debut on the venerable 4AD record label, is following up 2014’s “Tecuciztecatl” (the Aztec’s “Man in the Moon”) with an album dedicated entirely to, well, let’s let the band/press release explain it all:
“Having been invited to perform at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland by one of the scientists, HNIA spent a year studying particle physics and then created Patterns of Light. The scientist, Dr. James Beacham, was asked to “fact check for bad data, misquotes, dragons, pseudoscience and to make sure the witchcraft to physics ratio wouldn’t be too embarrassing,” he agreed and soon sent pages of notes, screenshots, event displayes and also recommended books and videos.
Patterns of Light is the result of this exchange of information. The research focuses on dark matter, dark energy, the search for extra dimensions, mini-black holes and the machinery that collides particles at high speeds using thirteen teraelectronvolts but also studies the fundamental forces of nature as seen through the classic creation myths, the visionary theology of Hildegard Von Bingen, medieval manuscripts and cosmic maps, all in an effort to turn the physics back into poetry.
Patterns of Light is His Name is Alive’s 100th release since their first cassette in 1986. HNIA spent 13 years recording for the legendary label 4AD and sold 100,000+ records, toured the world, received gold and platinum records for soundtracking Tom Cruise’s nervous breakdown in the movie Jerry Maguire and collaborated on two short films with famed animators the Quay Brothers.”
Let’s get a blow-by-blow of how this album flows…
1: It begins with the title track, chanting in Latin? But it doesn’t take long for the guitar and drums to kick in and we’re hearing about the light…and the shredding gets intense.
2: Most of the tracks flow one into the other as we then drop into “Demonmix”. “I want your venom inside me…” as the keyboard arpeggios start to build back up with hi-hats and kick drum beats. “Which will you choose?”
3: The twin guitar attack on “Thanks A Million”, like 22 a million? “blue light of creation…”
4: Lead single “Calling All Believers” brings strummy acoustic guitars, a harmonic choir and the shortest run time on the album. This is the pitch, the call to come on down the aisle, brother! calling all invisible seers,
5: And we’re slipped back into the synths with a foggy and fuzzy instrumental break, “For The Scientist” – which is labeled as a bonus track, even though we’re only on track five. Bonus tracks usually go at the end of albums, not halfway though. That’s another sign that they’re operating on another level here.
6: “Energy Acceleration” does just that, as real drum sticks on cymbals ratchet up the movement. And then we’re full-on stoner rock mode… “In light of creation, send your light to this location… They said they could hear you…”
One of my favorite bands, Spiritualized, were asked by CERN to perform at the actual facility back in 2009. However, a bird dropped a baguette onto it and the whole thing was canceled. Birds, bread, reaching for the light? This is getting biblical, but speaking of wings…!
7: “Black Wings” ups the energy ante and is the album’s most raging instrumental moment, until… it breaks down and buzzes – and then shifts time signature and into another groove and maths out. It floats away with wispy vocals until…
8: “You Best Pray” begins with math-y stop/starts as the choir swells again… then kicks in like classic Hawkwind or Sabbath. And then it lands…
9: “Dragon Down” … finger plucked guitars, up front vocals, descernbable lyrics: “I released one single solitary tear last night, but now I’m golden/Gonna heal my heart lines, I’m heading to the energy/Looking back in memories/Gonna heal my heart lines … Meeting you was like a dream” … “what did you use to clean the knife?”
10: Finally, the eight minute-plus epic closer, “Silver Arc Curving in the Magnetic Field,” says, “Turn it up and turn it up again, turn your machine on” again and again. Like it’s telling you to replay the album as soon as it’s over? Then some synthy floating loops… and the Latin returns as the album slowly disappears, like it’s going into a black hole.
And then, barley three months later they’ve followed it up with a 34 track (Yes, 34 additional tracks… but one of them was already included on the digital version of the album – but not the vinyl version. So it’s not new, so that makes it 33 tracks?) odds-and-sods collection named after the instrumental album song, “Black Wings”:
“Lost vocals revisited, choirs shadowy and decontextualized, themes reoccurring, cannibalized, resurfaced and upside down. A capella mixes, cover versions and familiar melodies from Patterns of Light flipped and reversed. Black Wings was originally included in the limited edition Patterns of Light Super Set.”
There is a lyrics sheet with the digital version that I discovered late into this research. So I’ll include links to those so we can continue this. But the real question I’m left with – and what deserves more investigation is: Who is Dr. James Beacham and why does he want psychedelic space rock bands to compose occult operas to the Large Hadron Collider? Is he hoping to open up or invoke something that – even as one of the smartest guys around at one of the most advanced labs in the world – they are unable to do themselves and need some help? Calling all believers, indeed…'Patterns Of Light' Lyrics Side A (PDF)
'Patterns Of Light' Lyrics Side B (PDF)
Monarchy Marketplace: Buy “Patterns of Light” on Amazon and Support Our Work
Media Monarchy: “Patterns Of Light” LP Stream ♫
Morning Monarchy: “Patterns Of Light” Presentation
“Patterns Of Light” Lyrics Side A (PDF)
“Patterns Of Light” Lyrics Side B (PDF)
BandCamp: “Patterns of Light”
Wikipedia: His Name Is Alive
Official Website: His Name Is Alive
Search: Dr. James Beacham
Search: Hildegard Von Bingen
Pitchfork Gives “Patterns of Light” a 6.6 Rating, Says It Runs On “Occult Energy”
Blurt Says HNIA’s 15th Hits Accessible, Successful New Heights
Spiritualized Were to Play CERN Before It Was Damaged By Time-Traveling Bird
Detroit Metro Times Interviews Warren Defever, leader of HNIA
“Black Wings” by His Name Is Alive