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Hibernal - Replacements CD (album) cover

REPLACEMENTS

Hibernal

 

Post Rock/Math rock

3.94 | 86 ratings

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Second Life Syndrome
5 stars *Can you really replace a human with something that just looks like one?*

Last year, Mark Healy's creative outlet Hibernal was unleashed onto an unsuspecting world. "The Machine" was a debut album that mixed post-rock, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, and a story presented by the spoken word to absolutely incredible effect. "The Machine" was in my top five albums of 2013, and I was dying for another installment. Mark has answered that call with his sophomore album "Replacements". The question is: Can he do it again?

I am proud of Mark. I really am. Not only has he created a mesmerizing second installment for Hibernal, but he has outdone himself in every single way. Before I go any further, I must mention three things. First of all, the art for this album is phenomenal. I seriously don't expect to see another album that beats "Replacements" in this area during 2014. Secondly, this is not your typical album or band. Mark created Hibernal to be something different, and so both albums are more like a cinematic experience than a prog album. Indeed, the voice actors are so incredibly talented that its more like witnessing a theatrical excursion than listening to an album. Thirdly, because not everyone will desire a story like this, there is an instrumental version of this album also going to be available when it releases on March 24th. I get it: Not everyone wants to hear an amazing story tinged with emotion and profundity. I have no idea why, though.

With all that said, I want to tackle the story first. "The Machine" featured a (possibly) futuristic story of losing one's self in the machine that is economic slavery. It was profound and deep. However, "Replacements" takes the prize as the better story. Everything is better. "Replacements" is far more concise and detailed, as we can be certain that it takes place in the future and we can really "see" the story unfold. The story centers around a recently released, seemingly empty convict that stumbles upon a "synthetic" (android) that he can't seem to get off his mind. As he follows her and protects her, he learns unimaginable things about himself and the world around him. If you think it sounds something like Bladerunner, you'd be right, and I can't express how much I love this fact. I'm a huge fan of that film, and I've been dying for something similar. "Replacements" touches on the ideas of losing yourself through your own actions and giving up your very humanity, only to pursue it the rest of your life. Humanity is uniquely created to be expressive, intelligent, and free. What happens when we submit to those that want us to be somehow less than human?

The voice actors are different this time around, and I find them to be slightly more emotional and just more expressive overall, especially Scott Gentle, the voice of the main character Artimus. His voice is gruff, thoughtful, and completely convincing. Faleena Hopkins, as Sabel the synthetic, is the same, as her cold voice is incredibly fine-tuned. Indeed, not only is the execution of the story flawless (the sound effects are masterful), but the story itself is well-written, thought-provoking, and plays games with your mind, especially at the end. Mark says that he thinks it is important for everyone to make up their own mind about the story, but I'll force a full confession out of him sooner or later.

So, I find the story to be better and even more up my alley than the debut album. It is more fully realized, both in narrative and in setting. However, Mark steps up the musical side to this production as well. Again, Mark plays all the instruments: guitars, drums, and keys. His friend Rowan Salt plays the bass this time, and it really shows. So, alongside the post- rock structures and climaxes, we now get intense riffs, incredible solos, electronic additions, addictive bass, and just a faster pace overall. I confess that the music on "The Machine" never got my heart pumping faster, but now Mark has really found his rhythm with creating music that perfectly fits the story scene. It adds to the story, and the story adds to the music. This relationship is one of the reasons why I don't understand why anyone would skip the story version.

The rain glitters on their skin. The strange attraction that Artimus feels to Sabel is completely palpable. The darkness. The transition from sleek city to slummish ruins. The fights. The perfect twists. The mystery that still lingers in my mind. The "Replacements" story is made up of all this and more, and all of it feels so real.

The brilliant, high-tuned solos achieve perfection in many instances. I can't emphasize that enough. If there's one aspect of the music that really stays with me, it's the inventive and delightful solos. The charging riffs, eerie electronic touches, and awesome bass lines are a perfect foundation for these solos. However, all of this serves as a foundation for the story.

Hibernal once again divides music fans into two groups: lyric analyzers and those who only care about the music. This is fine for me, as lyrics are extremely important to me, and Mark's stories are smack dab right in the middle of my interests. However, I still want to compel all those that don't care about the words to buy this album. It is an experience first and foremost. It will wow you, grab your mind, and take you on an emotional roller coaster. Hibernal has given the world something to talk about once again, as "Replacements" is a step-up in every way. I'm confident that you will be seeing this album in my end of the year lists.

Second Life Syndrome | 5/5 |

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