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Hamadryad - The Black Hole CD (album) cover

THE BLACK HOLE

Hamadryad

Eclectic Prog


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rdtprog
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
4 stars Since the release of their first album, the band has lost his vocalist Jocelyn Beaulieu who has a special voice in the range of Jon Anderson of Yes. Since then the sound and the music of the band change for a more in your face kind of rock, heavier, less retro-prog and more modern. I was a bit disappointed with the next two releases, it felt to me that the band has lost his sense for good melodies. It's clear that the voice of Jean François Désilets doesn't have the same strenght of Jocelyn, but his bass sound is still great, very upfront in the mix. However the band has done some interesting work on the vocals with 3 members of the band in some places, especially in the strongest track of the album "So- By Your Side" and in the song "Crash". In the first song we are treated with some long guitar solos and that pedal note that the band has always used in the past. The music reach the Prog Metal genre and the instrumental parts is use in many sections showing the excellent musicianship of each player including some tasty keyboards lines from Sébastien Cloutier. "Fall' Fly" is a fine example of this with some Geddy Lee bass style and some serious heavy guitar parts. The band made a wise choice to close the album by including a new version of the song "Amora Demoris" from the first album. I think that this one is the best album since their debut because I feel that I could grasp on the melody like I did with the first one.
Report this review (#1846096)
Posted Tuesday, December 26, 2017 | Review Permalink
Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
4 stars HAMADRYAD, another band under observation since years, as I preferably liked their prolific live performances. The current studio album now tops it all. Quite an eclectic mix, where a heavy rocking behaviour is enriched due to trickiness and a lot of jazzy and spacey moments. So this partially sounds like, yes, inspired by Race Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers or maybe Spin Doctors, though simply not reduced to that. On the other hand, since going into So By Your Side there is also a slight Genesis flair to detect in between, which carries forward 'til the end. Jean-Francois Desilets' punchy and funky bass strikes above all when listening to this band coming from Montreal.

Wow, just take Dark Souls, so much energy pushed towards the prog community! And the following groover Crash turns out to be my album highlight. Ideally suited for your next party! 'Please awaken me ...' - The Worst Is Yet To Come offers beautiful acoustic guitars contributed by Denis Jalbert. The song appears in a more psychedelic and symphonic outfit overall, somewhat provoking as for the execution, because not in the least matching with the track title. Amora Demonis 2017 finally is a reworked version from their debut 16 years ago. Overall about 50 minutes of real challenge, recommended!

Report this review (#1908702)
Posted Friday, March 23, 2018 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A collection of songs that span quite a range of prog styles, using sounds and techniques from symphonic, metal, death metal growls, to vintage Genesis, Peter Gabriel, and Rush, this album comes as a late surprise as it was only released on December 17 of 2017. Welcome to the club!

1. "Peaceful Exit" (8:04) the opening section is a bit grating though it follows a kind of RUSH-like pattern, but the second (and third) instrumental section is great--with cool keys, bass, and electric guitar solo. (8.5/10)

2. "So - By Your Side" (10:32) opens as a poppy early-STEELY DAN-like tune (clavinet and rhythmic structure) before progging things up a bit. The organ in the second minute helps. As do the great drumming and lead guitar work. The singer has quite a similar voice to that of STRAWBS' founder Dave Cousins. Great slowed down final section. (8.5/10)

3. "Fall'n Fly" (8:43) opens with a heaviness that feels and sounds great. Then enters Jean-Fraoncios Desilets' Dave Cousins/early Peter Gabriel-like voice. Nice. The song remains heavy and insistent through four minutes as drums, metal guitar chord play, and chunky, fast-moving bass propel us on. Synth and slide guitar flourishes sneak in before a cool "underwater bass" solo and lead guitar solo play off each other for a minute. At 5:15 things get really pretty with some slowed down great synth wash chords and emotional lead guitar flourishes. Wow! I like this! Part MOONGARDEN, part CAFEINE, part RIVERSIDE. At 7:05 the pace picks back up with a cool sequence of short, quick riffs that get prolonged over about 45 seconds before Arp synth solo takes the band back into the opening pace and styling. (9/10)

4. "Dark Souls" (6:01) opens with awesome acoustic guitar tracks strumming away. Multi-voiced vocal track joins in at 0:25. At 1:06 things blow up into full-on metal music. The added lead vocal which sounds just like Peter Gabriel from "Moribund the Burgermeister" from his 1977 debut solo album, gives it a very cool sound. The band is very tight, very well integrated, throughout this section. Awesome and unexpected shifts into acoustic and back into metal and symphonic sections through proceed over the next couple of minutes before leveling out with a high- energy final minute. The best song on the album. (9.5/10)

5. "Crash" (4:53) drums and chunky bass open this song before upper octave rhythm guitar quick strums join in. A Mick Jagger-like vocal enters for the first verse, but then goes into Gabriel-treated voice for the two successive chorus sections. After the second round of the two choruses at the three minute mark, the song goes more acoustic with choral voices singing in a kind of countrified Rolling Stones/Led Zeppelin way. Interesting. (8/10)

6. "The Worst Is Yet to Come" (5:43) opens with spacey electronic keyboard sounds with picked 12-string guitar before soft doubled-up Cousins/Gabriel/UNITOPIA voice enters in a ghost-like style. The entire song proceeds like a Trespass-era GENESIS song with the softer 12-string-led dynamics and Gabriel-style subdued vocals dominating though it is well supported with things like flute and chamber strings, chunky fretless bass and great melodies. A great song; my favorite on the album. (9.5/10)

7. "Amora Demonis 2017" (7:54) excellent organ-led symphonic prog with a great heavy bass and ominous vocal performance setting up some pretty great soli from the synths, Hammond, and electric guitar. The female(?)-led group chanting in the sixth minute give it an almost Zeuhl intensity! (If that's not a woman singing it is an amazingly gifted male!) It turns out that this is a reworking of a song the band had released 16 years before on their debut album. My third top three song for the album. Great job! (9/10)

Overall a very enjoyable, very creative, and very well produced album of eclectic sounds and styles performed at a very high level of musicianship and band coherence. My only hesitation to assigning a higher rating comes from the mysterious and nagging question of Which of these Hamadryad's is the real Hamadryad?

4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of eclectic and diversified progressive rock music; definitely recommended to all prog lovers! Check this out!

Report this review (#1909236)
Posted Sunday, March 25, 2018 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars There is no doubt that since my books have become available, I hear more from bands (as opposed to labels). This is a case in point as I was contacted towards the end of 2019 by Hamadryad to see if I would like to hear their 2017 release, 'The Black Hole'. The neurons fired, and I recalled I actually reviewed their debut album back in 2001, 'The Conservation of Mass', when they were on Unicorn Records. The following two studio albums were also both on the label, but this one is a self-release. On the debut the lead singer was Jocelyn Beaulieu, who departed after that, with those duties instead falling to bassist Jean-François Désilets. He is still there to this day, as is guitarist Denis Jalbert, while both Sébastien Cloutier (keyboards, vocals) and Nicolas Turcotte (drums) were on the last release, 2010's 'Intrusion', which had also a lead singer in Jean-Philippe Major plus some guests. These days it is back to being a quartet, and the impression is that although three of the band do provide vocals it is not something they enjoy. There is a sense of relief from the band when they just need to concentrate on the playing at hand, as it is during the instrumental passages that this band really shines. Having a bassist who is a mix of Chris Squire and Geddy Lee allows the rest of the band to really shine, and in many ways, this feels like listing to a trio as everyone is determined not to sit back and relax. The note density and complexity are quite astounding.

The vocals are good without ever really being outstanding, and there are many bands who would like to have them as singers, but the guys come alive in the instrumental passages where they can weave and interweave. Strangely enough there are times when they really remind me of Citizen Cain, a band who rose to some prominence in the scene in the Nineties, but there are many others when they are even more Seventies in approach. Funnily enough, the final song "Amora Demonis 2017" starts with a capella vocals, before becoming far heavier in approach to the rest of the album and far more rock based. I don't know why it took seven years for the band to release their fourth album, and it has been three years since then, but it would be nice to have the next one come around a little more swiftly as this has a lot going for it.

Report this review (#2374243)
Posted Friday, April 24, 2020 | Review Permalink

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