This coming week marks the 10th anniversary of the best selling Drum and Bass album of all time… and my personal favorite album of all time: Hold Your Colour. It was the debut album from then-rising British-Australian group Pendulum, released after a series of stand-alone songs and singles that saw them become popular in the underground DnB community. Nothing could have prepared those who knew about them for what was coming though. Hold Your Colour has a very distinctive sound and style that no-one else has come close to since, even though many have tried.
It all begins with a Prelude, with a choir and cinematics providing a backdrop to a sample from The Twilight Zone that pumps you up for the first song of the album: Slam. It starts off with a hip hop (yes, hip hop) beat and brass blasts that get you going slowly. It speeds up to DnB, and the lead synth takes you away into the madness that is the song, and the album even. The ending is also very unique – months after I first listened to the album I still thought that my earphones were breaking.
Plastic World is next up, and is a big change from the opener. It’s got MC Fats and DnB DJ TC singing soulful vocals, with a sax also used heavily. It’s just a great track to vibe out to. Fasten Your Seatbelt is up next, with the Freestylers. It’s not even Drum and Bass, it’s Breaks, and it’s one hell of a catchy song. Occasional vocals complement the strong beat and catchy lead synth, but the overall impression is top notch.
Through The Loop teases beats behind a vocal sample from Willy Wonka in the original movie, which rises melodramatically until a scream marks the beat drop. The beat is incredible, the sound design is top notch, and the bass is fantastic. It changes very frequently to keep the song interesting – but the beat alone does that. Sounds of Life has Jasmine Yee of Halogen on vocals, and apart from the intense beat is a more chilled song that is easily enjoyable.
Girl In The Fire is the most experimental song on the album, and starts with a jazzy guitar riff before a weak beat and Rhodes join in. Eventually the beat drops and extra synths and vocal stabs are added to bring it up to the same incredible quality of the rest of the album. The breakdown with the same jazzy acoustic guitars turns into the drop with an incredible electric guitar solo, which then turns into a mind-blowing synth solo before dropping back into the original drop and leaving you feeling entirely satisfied.
The big, hairy beast of Tarantula follows, with DJ Fresh and $pyda – the most popular song off the album and the one that hit radios the hardest. A hip hop beat starts off with horns and $pyda rapping, before the build up crushes the dancefloor and then the drop pulverizes it. If you haven’t witnessed it firsthand I’d highly suggest doing so somehow, because it’s mental. $pyda’s lyrics are perfect too, as are the drums and bass – this is a real highlight on the album, even though most songs are good enough to be considered for that achievement.
Out Here is breaks again, and comes with some serious bass and sound design. This is one of those songs that doesn’t command centre stage (like Tarantula), but doesn’t need to because it’s still very good. Hold Your Colour is another unique and strong song on the album, but is quite hard to describe – beautiful, punk, hard, comforting and a monster could all be used to describe it. Rob Swire’s vocals are heard for more than a few syllables for the first time on the album’s namesake, where he sings across the length of the song. The intro is a stark contrast to the drop and lyrics, which also contrast to the breakdowns and verses. It all comes together at the end with the words “with me”, which caps off a song with a unique sound but still allows you to fall in love with it.
The Terminal starts off sounding very dark and imposing, and with the light and fast initial beat come dirty wubs that threaten something massive. A drop perhaps? Have a safe flight to the end of the song but hold on tight, because it’s one hell of a ride. Streamline then takes you from the skies to the moon, in a lighter song that’s easy to sing along to, sit back, relax and enjoy.
Another Planet was the first song that anyone heard off the album, and it’s easy to tell that it was made before many of the other songs on the album – it has that early 2000’s DnB sound to it. Impressive drumming and samples from War of the Worlds provide the setting for the song to build up to the drop, which is initially bass-based but allows synths to creep in before a sudden change into a bouncy style. There’s another drop, this time fully with synths, and eventually it breaks down into creepy atmospherics. Horns break the eeriness and the drop happens all over again. It’s a very well thought out song, and very enjoyable to listen to if you look for the smaller details.
Still Grey is the last song on the album, and is an 8-minute semi-liquid tune that’s entertaining but really works its magic as a counter to Another Planet and a chilled album closer.
The album was quite popular after its initial release, but that’s not all there is to Hold Your Colour. In 2007 Pendulum released a single called Blood Sugar which became wildly popular – popular enough to warrant a re-release of the album, with Blood Sugar and its B-side Axle Grinder replacing Another Planet and Still Grey. Blood Sugar is incredibly catchy, and I’ve already devoted a Throwback Thursday to it if you’d like to read about it here. After a minute intro Axle Grinder becomes the most intense drum solo that I’ve heard outside of metal, and for that it’s enthralling.
I’m not going to pretend that I’m not biased about this album because my taste in music lines up with it perfectly and the band is from my home town, but I’ve listened to it with and without knowledge about electronic music and it’s impressive every single time. And it’s a debut album. No doubt it’s the best selling DnB album of all time – it thoroughly deserves every credit that it gets. This is one experience you need to have in full, so when you’ve got an hour or so listen to an iconic album, one of the best of its genre.