Hell Breaks Loose is the fifth solo album from singer songwriter Shane Nicholson, it's a sublime album written in the aftermath of his marriage breakup with Kasey Chambers with whom he recorded two brilliant albums. It's more than a confessional of a relationship breakdown, it's a commentary on the struggles we face in an uncertain world. There are tales of person and community fragmenting, the listlessness, fear and anxiety we all experience. There is a genteel subtlety to this album even in the most strident of moments, deeply rooted in the tones of Americana the songs have a wide arc musically which makes it immensely listenable.
Weight of The World has a dour cynical heaviness as Nicholson laments that while others wander through life without a care the weight of the world is burden many carry on tired shoulders. There is a foreboding certainty in his words,
The blood we give, the roads we take
It's never a simple twist of fate
We will bend and we will break
Under the weight of the world.
Hell Breaks Loose has some of that deep poetic melancholy that is part of the best work by Paul Kelly, it's a sparse tune with a haunting vocal. There is something desperate in his plea, grace don't leave me now.
Cut one thread and it come unwound
Pull one nail and the house comes down
If its built then it will be broke
If it starts with fire then it ends in smoke
Irons and Chains is witness to the demise of the great Motor City, Detroit a city in stark decline. Nicholson seemingly out of his comfort zone on the road having to give away tickets to his show!
One Big Mess cuts closer to the bone, it's tinged in sadness and anger a hint of someone being broken. A defiant spirit comes through on Secondhand Man, Nicholson sounds like a man raising himself from the canvas. Hermannsburg is deeply personal, written during a trip to the town located south west of Alice Springs it was a trip that revived his spirit and was a current towards renewed songwriting.
I came out here a broken man
All the way to the centre of the world
And I wonder who I'll be after Hermannsburg
Hell Breaks Loose finds a songwriter now emerging from the shadows with an album that is reflective of a rocky path but with the vitality of an ever present spirit. This is a joyous album even in its despairing depths, every one who listens to this album will find a connection to their own stories, there we have it the essence of great music, enjoy this album.