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Hamadryad - Safe In Conformity CD (album) cover

SAFE IN CONFORMITY

Hamadryad

 

Eclectic Prog

3.38 | 43 ratings

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hdfisch
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Actually I happened to know Hamadryad's second release "Safe in Conformity" long before I've got the chance to lend an ear to their debut. After I've received it I listened to it once or twice but soon lost interest in it and forgot about it due to the fact that I had enough other (and much better) things to listen to. Now I gave it another spin since I heard as well "Conservation Of Mass" which got many positive comments in prog circles though appeared as quite disappointing average, "conservative" and not "progressive" (in the literal sense) Retro/Neo-Prog to me. The first positive surprise I realized was that obviously singer Jocelyn Beaulieu left the band and has been replaced by bassist Jean-François Désilets who contributed already some vocals on their first album. As I read in the net many people compared Beaulieu to Jon Anderson just due to his high-pitched voice and some called his performance "expressive" or "theatrical" whereas I would call it frankly annoying, enervating and distracting from the music. I just can say though far from being a dedicated fan of Yes I still like to listen to their 70's masterpieces every now and then and don't mind for Anderson's voice which is extremely high-frequent but nevertheless not bad.

But let's now come back to "Safe in Conformity" on which the strong Yes-resemblance has obviously vanished not only due to the replaced singer. The new man in charge, Désilets, I've got to say is (at least for me) the better but anything else than the perfect choice. Of course I don't have detailed informations what happened exactly but I would suppose the band took this decision out of the lack of better options. Once again relevant sources in the net are very quick in drawing their comparisons and certifying him as a kind of modern Peter Gabriel. I would say this might be a bit too far out and too much of honor for Désilets. The good thing is that his voice is that much unobtrusive and lacklustre that it does not disturb at all and hence one can fully concentrate on the music which is very versatile and highly intricate though rather derivative as well. Compared to their debut the hints to Prog Metal are much minor here which I don't see as a disadvantage at all since the obvious Dream Theater-influence has been another thing that alienated me before. The bad thing in terms of Désilets' vocals is that they lack completely charisma and brilliance and what's even worse are at times even out of tune. Still this record gave me better reasons to spin it repeatedly than their debut did, so in the following I'll try to do a quick track by track overview.

"Anatomy of a Dream" is a rather quiet and mellow song with a strong touch of Genesis (maybe around ATOTT). Lots of Hackett guitar style and Banks-flavoured keyboards, certainly a track to create shiny eyes in every Genesis fan's face. Nothing really special but a very pleasant listen anyway. (7/10)

"Self Made Men" incorporating as well the short intro "Sparks and Benign Music" (full of wonderful Mellotron) and as well the outro "Gentle Landslide" (dominated by acoustic guitar) starts to bring in some more power without showing any resemblance to metal prog with great hammond driven early 70's styled hard rocking. Sections played more acoustically are alternating very nicely with heavier ones and the vocals are fitting here quite well I've to say. This three parted track is together with the last one certainly the highlight of the CD. (8/10)

"24" continues in a more acoustic vein being a very nice song like the first one though offering not too much excitement in terms of Prog. Nevertheless we get some brilliant acoustic guitar here and this place is a good opportunity to mention the flawless musicianship throughout the album which was of course as well the case on their debut, just the vocals were too much distracting. (6/10)

With "Frail Purpose", another quiet one, the album starts to ripple a bit along offering too few real highlights and exciting moments. Not much worth to mention here I've got to say. (4/10)

"Sunburnt" is even confirming this impression, but still a nice song to listen to. (5/10)

With "One Voice" floating over into "Polaroid Vendetta" without seemingly any break (and therefore I will consider these two tracks as one) the music becomes significantly harsher and more intricate. Though the musicians' performance presented here is really flawless this double track reveals as well the singer's lacking abilities and it happens more than once that vocals are sounding quite out of tune and matching not very well to the music. According to my taste I get reminded a bit too much to Trent Gardner's Magellan which is not that much my cup of tea. Many people might probably call this one the most challenging one on here but I've to admit that it did not much to me. (4/10)

"Alien Spheres" starts in a mellow and soaring vein with nice acoustic guitar and atmospheric synths reaching considerably more power during its course. Second best song so far I would say offering lots of Hammond sound and great guitar soloing. (8/10)

Finally "Omnipresent Umbra" is without any doubt musically the best and most versatile one, presenting a sort of 11-minute voyage through all styles used before. Just the lack of perfection in songwriting and vocal capacities are a downer in some way and leaves an unsatisfied feeling behind after listen. (8/10)

As a summary I've to say that Hamadryad's second output could offer me considerably more enjoyment than their debut. At least half of the tracks are above average providing some appetite for repeated spins what wasn't the case with "Conservation of Masses" at all for mentioned reasons. Nevertheless I would neither consider it an excellent nor an essential one in Prog generally. Certainly worth to be checked out by any fan of Retro/Neo-prog.

(Overall rating: 62,5 out of 100 = 3 stars)

hdfisch | 3/5 |

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