Hold Your Colour is the debut full-length album by Australian-British drum and bass band Pendulum. Originally released on 25 July 2005, the album has received critical acclaim from fans and critics alike, eventually becoming one of the best selling drum and bass albums of all time, selling 225,000 copies in the United Kingdom and peaking within the top 40 in the UK and Australia (#40 in Australia and #29 in the United Kingdom). (Wikipedia)
The album was also re-released on 16 July 2007, with the tracklist intact, but with the last two tracks ("Another Planet" and "Still Grey") replaced with "Blood Sugar" and "Axle Grinder", shortening the album's run time by 6 minutes and 2 seconds. Also, the re-issue added pauses in between tracks which made the album lose its original sense of flow. To better accommodate everyone, I will include "Blood Sugar" and "Axle Grinder" in this track-for-track review of the album. Great, now I won't feel accused of prejudice. Now, let's get on with this, shall we?
1. Prelude (0:52) - The album starts on a high note by giving us a chilled out opening while we hear a sample from the popular science fiction TV show The Twilight Zone. While listening to this, I felt a sense of euphoria as I imagined myself looking upwards into the night sky and thinking about life in general. Whenever the narrator transitions to being "marooned on a small island in an endless sea", the listener can only sit back and let the narrator's words take them to a state of bliss. The opening track ends with a segue into the next track, "Slam".
2. Slam (5:45) - The song begins with a nice hip hop-style opening, which is something that you almost never hear in a drum and bass track. After this goes on for about 45 seconds (It's not annoying at all, mind you), the track quiets down as it begins to crescendo into the drop, accompanied by the vocal sample from "Prelude", which gives the crescendo an extra punch to get the listener pumped. The blend of bass and Rob Swire's Ztar Z6S-XPA (A guitar-like MIDI controller) was perfect for the drop and the drums in the background make this a drop that is memorable. After a minute and a half of drums, bass, and the Ztar, we hear the vocal sample "Is this bass really strong enough?" followed by what we can only assume as the answer to the question. The song keeps its strong momentum going throughout until the very end, where the song begins to become static-y and the drums start to have an irregular pattern. I think this is where the song transitioned to the next on the original album and it was like this for the iTunes and 2007 releases. I guess I'll give that section the benefit of a doubt because of that. Other than that, this is a solid track.
3. Plasticworld (feat. Fats and TC) (6:21) - We get our first collaboration on the album with this liquid drum and bass/chilled out music crossover. While we are treated to a bit of saxophone playing in the intro of the song, we hear TC's wonderful vocals of "I can't get used to you" repeated throughout the song. As Fats is singing the song, he is singing about how he can impress this girl by giving her compliments on how unique she is while TC's repeating vocal sample could imply that the girl in question is always changing and can't stay the same for a specific amount of time. After the 4:24 mark, TC gives us some different vocals which explains what he can do for her. Aside from the vocals, this song delivers strongly with a chilled out drum and bass track that is perfect for relaxation. I also appreciate of how this song did not give any signs that it was going to drop the ball and gives us a perfect album highlight.
4. Fasten Your Seatbelts (feat. The Freestylers) (6:38) - With a song title like "Fasten Your Seatbelts", there is bound to be some racing influences. This comes in the form of the song's opening, which sounds like a race car coming out of a tunnel to begin its participation in a futuristic race. The build-up to the drop sounds breakbeat in nature even with the accompaniment of a vocal sample from Spiderman 2 ("Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts."). The drop sounds like a combination of breakbeat and drum and bass played over random vocals from the Freestylers. The second drop has more of a breakbeat influence that gives it a unique spin on a traditional jungle (Genre that influenced drum and bass) track. I was not expecting something like this, but I guess it doesn't matter to me.
5. Through The Loop (6:13) - While the previous tracks have had a positive sound of sorts, this one has a dark feel to it as it starts with a haunting intro accompanied by snippets of whale song and Willy Wonka's monologue from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). During the last half of the monologue, the song builds up, we hear some laser sound effects, and the drop hits hard with some rapid drum beats and heavy bass. I should also point out that this song does not hold back on the whale song as it is heard on repeat throughout. Sure, it's there for the haunting sound, but it does get annoying and repetitive after some time. We get a repeat of the drop (Without the "Go, go" sample that was in the first drop) and the monologue to give the song a proper outro.
6. Sounds of Life (feat. Jasmine Yee) (5:21) - Comparing this song to "Through The Loop", the overall sound of this one is the complete opposite side of the spectrum. With the song sounding like someone is in a psychedelic version of the outside world (Which is a good thing), we are treated to Jasmine Yee's wonderful vocals of recoiling from the shock of a tragedy and realizing that for anything lost, a world of possibilities still remain. Other than that, this is one of those tracks that doesn't have much of an interpretation of the lyrics' meaning and instead lets the vocals and overall tone of the song tell it for the listener.
7. Girl In The Fire (4:53) - The intro to this track is also something that we have never heard before - a guitar opening (Played by Peredur ap Gwynedd, who would later go on to become the guitarist for Pendulum). After the drums kick in, the melody sounds like it is being played in reverse. After over a minute of this intro, we begin to hear the sound of lasers rapidly firing, repeatedly slowing down, and then the bass kicks in. I also noted something while listening to this section. The "Go" sample heard throughout the song is the same vocal sample used in "Through The Loop". I thought that was interesting the first time I heard this nice piece of dance floor action. I know how songs like these have a tendency to prolong and sound like it is going on forever, but somehow it prevents from doing so by changing its sound at key points and when the drop hits again, the guitar is more prevalent than before. Still a great track overall.
8. Tarantula (feat. Fresh, $pyda, and Tenor Fly) (5:31) - Now we get to one of the most popular tracks from this album. The song starts heavily with $pyda's deep vocals about the fact you're dying with no remorse and your family can all get screwed (In other words, the song is possibly about heroin addiction) over a beat that sounds reggae in nature right before the drop's build up and you then remember that you are listening to a drum and bass album. Halfway through the song, the song's BPM changes to one that sounds like breakbeat before it transitions back to what it was previously and the song drops again. The song ends with a brass section as that goes on until it fades out.
9. Out Here (6:07) - We finally reach the song that is primarily breakbeat instead of having influences of the genre scattered throughout the album. We also hear some short instances of some nu disco-esque elements that make the song one to close out your perfect night. Remember how I said earlier that the song's beat and sound can make it sound like it is going on longer than what it needs to be? This song is a really good example of one of those instances. This song is over six minutes long, but it feels like I am hearing the same thing on repeat for AT LEAST half of the song. Sure, the outro is nice to listen to, but the good sound (And the sporadic vocals) that is prevalent throughout the song can get annoyingly repetitive if you listen to it long enough. The song would have been better off if it was about 4 1/2 minutes long.
10. Hold Your Colour (5:28) - We have finally reached the title track for the album. The song starts off with the repeating vocal sample of "Soaking through", taken from the song "Lycaeum" by Xygen (Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen's old metal band). Rob Swire's famous vocals are finally heard for the first time on the album with this track as he sings about how everyone has a personality trait that makes them unique from everyone else and that he or she should be proud of what they have. The song has a fast and catchy beat that give it the opportunity to be danced to and it is also one of the song's on the album that you can't pass up singing, no matter how hard you try resisting to.
11. The Terminal (5:42) - Although this song would later go on to be sampled in "Mutiny" off of Pendulum's 2008 album In Silico, this song has futuristic sounds that sound darker than what we heard on "Fasten Your Seatbelts" and when you compare the two tracks, the drum beat is faster. The song's bass in the drop is noticeably high and sounds amazing, and it [the vocal sample] does not get too repetitive. After hearing this rapid drum beat for a minute and a half, we get a short break to hear the pre-drop again (Which sounds different this time around) and the drums kick in again and send the listener on an adrenaline rush.
12. Streamline (5:23) - This song starts off slow with a brass section with a space themed transmission that accompanies it, both of which makes the intro sound relaxing to listen to. My interpretation of the meaning behind Rob's vocals is that you shouldn't hide what makes you and instead show the world. When one looks at the lyrics of the song, the songs are repeated throughout the entire song, making it easy to sing along to. In my opinion, this is one of the best relaxation songs on the album and its on that cannot be skipped if the listener decides to listen to it in its entirety. It is also perfect for any club dance floor as it takes you on a journey through space with no signs of returning to normality.
13. Another Planet (7:38) - This also a space theme for its intro, but it is persistent for a longer time than on "Streamline". Also, the female vocals (Along with the intro) sound like they belong on Space Mountain at a Disney park or something of that nature. The male vocals ("I wandered through the weird and lurid landscape of another planet."), taken straight from The War of the Worlds, set the tone for the rest of the song. Once the synths kick in, the bassline sounds bouncy, but it is nothing too major to detract me from the overall vibe of the song. Also, I love the BPM change that accompanies the sample "I mean, there was a change." This track is long, I understand that, but if one listens to it in its entirety, they will fully understand why I did not get annoyed with its length and whatnot.
14. Still Grey (7:51) - It is with great pleasure that I introduce the final and longest track on the album. Like "Streamline", this song has a relaxing introduction, but it goes on for at least a full minute before the bass and Rob's vocals come into play. Also, the bass comes without warning and it is one of the strongest on the album. It is also notably slower (For the most part; The drum beat does get faster at some instances) than the rest of the album and it goes to show that you don't need a fast drum beat to make a great drum and bass track. Halfway through the song, it sounds like the song repeats itself and the second half is a mirror of what we heard at the beginning, giving listeners a double dose of what they came for.
2007 Re-Issue Tracks
13. Blood Sugar (5:17) - There are two versions of this track, one with an opening monologue and one without it. This is the version without the monologue and is longer than the other one, which is a solid 5 minutes. The song contains Rob's famous synths played over a bass-heavy melody that prevails throughout the song's runtime. At the 2:56 mark, the song quiets down before it gets back in the action with the electric guitar giving us a solid introduction to the second drop, which contains a different drum pattern than the first drop. I do love this drop better than the first, but in all seriousness, I can see why this and "Axle Grinder" were included on the re-issue. It was because of their popularity with the fanbase and it isn't hard to see why.
14. Axle Grinder (4:10) - This song, like "Prelude" and "Slam", directly samples The Twilight Zone, but the sample for this track is taken directly from the show's opening, which is different from the other. After the introduction, everything hits the fan as the drop comes in all guns blazing and is showing no signs of letting up. The drum beat, along with the bass, has an unusual pattern that it follows which makes it awkward to listen to for a first time listener. At the halfway point, the drop lets up for about 30-35 seconds and it hits again, this time with a different sounding "momentum" that drives it along. What surprised was the fact that the song ends as quickly as it started because of the fact that it is the shortest track on either version of the album ("Prelude" is considered an intro to "Slam" and is usually bundled together).
I know that I have neglected doing a review of this album for the the longest time, but I made a commitment to myself to get this out and not hold back on it any longer. It's also the first time that I have reviewed a full-length album where it is not borderline bashing (See also: Abandon Ship). Anyways, this concludes my track-for-track review of Hold Your Colour and I am planning on doing my review for In Silico soon. Thank you for reading and as always, hakuna matata.