About 20 seconds into In Heat/Not Sorry, it dawns on you that you’re in for something else entirely. For a band that’s drawn with such fearless and bold strokes in previous singles and EPs, opener ‘Who’s Saving Who?’ impresses and awes with its restraint and confidence, setting the tone for the whole record. What we have here is the sound of a band coming into itself, the Cork psych-rock outfit arriving at a destination of sorts after years of exploration. Raw and feral, yet considered and focused, the album hits its stride as its opening gambit of mid-paced movers comes to a halt with ‘Silver Leather’, a pensive, sparse rumination on our generation’s grievances and disregards, pockmarked with feedback and fine harmonies. The pace continues to crawl with ‘Birds’, a plaintive and tense build that brings to the fore vocalist Elaine Howley’s charisma and strength, as much a spell-binding piece of oratory as a vocal performance.
The second half of the record kicks off with ‘Saviours’ showcases the album’s strength, especially when listened front-to-back, and the realisation makes for a nice encapsulation of the band itself: rather than fall into the debut-album trap of bombast and energy, this is a record about those spaces inbetween, those times of tightness in the chest, and of the exhalations that bring calm and restraint washing over. ‘Virgin’s Sleeve’ is gentle, yet laden with anxiety and as those tender notes begin to tighten into slight discord, it’s hard not to take a short gasp. The subtleties continue into ‘Grey on Blue’, before business picks up again on ‘Citadel’, a methodically-paced piece of noise-pop. Closer ‘Laughing on Their Knees’ draws the LP to a close, a poignant, baritone observation of the fears and frustrations of Ireland’s youth of a lost decade.
It would have been easy for the Altered Hours to stick ‘Dig Early‘ in, re-record a few other older tunes for the sake of getting them all on an LP, and call it a day on their early body of work. It likely would have been fantastic anyway. But in creating an entirely new, coherent, and laser-focused debut long-player that doesn’t trade in any of the aforementioned rawness or feral feel in the process, they’ve raised the bar for themselves, and for psychedelia in Ireland once again. A band not only approaching a destination of sorts, but realising how much more of their journey lies ahead and setting their own course accordingly. Mike McGrath Bryan