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Hamadryad - Conservation Of Mass CD (album) cover

CONSERVATION OF MASS

Hamadryad

 

Eclectic Prog

3.84 | 87 ratings

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Gatot
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Whenever I got a CD of a band that I had never heard before, I tend to spin the CD at my player without having to bother with CD jewel and its sleeve notes. My objective is clear: get a feel about their music, full stop. This album was by no exception. I did not even want to observe its lousy cover (to my personal taste). Well, if I merely judged from its cover, I did not bother to purchase this CD. It did not seem a prog cover at all. When I got the early part of their music on my ears, my first impression was "just another" progressive metal music. But, when there was part with sort of sitar sounds (reminded me to Ravi Shankar) performed in ambient, psychedelic style, it changed everything. Their music is unique and original. Oh sorry . I don't mean to say that they are immune from any influence. No no no! There were strong influences of 70's prog sounds but overall their music is far away from "derivative".

I only opened the sleeve after the third spin and did some research about the band on the web. The early history of the band centered around two gentlemen in Quebec: - Denis Jalbert (guitar) and Jean-François Désilets (bass) who collaborated through a band to cover Rush. Having changed personnel, band name and music style (they even once took the form of "grunge" style in the vein of Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilot, etc) finally they ended with Hamadryad.

This was their debut album released in 2001 (the copy right was 2000 by Unicorn). Hamadryad music is a blend of influences from 70's prog heroes Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant as well as progressive metal of the 90's with bands like Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation, Fates Warning or Symphony X (especially V album). There are some influences also of Canterbury with Allan Holdsworth style and similarity with the music of Finneus Gauge / Echolyn. The use of Taurus pedals reminds me to early Genesis.

Let's have a look on its music, track by track.

Eternal Loop - Amora Demonis

The album starts off with a tape loop that did not attract me at all. Luckily, it ends relatively soon (49 secs) and flows to the second track Amora Demonis. The intro part with heavy riffs on guitar is good enough to conclude the progressive metal nuance of this song. The vocal part is performed in high tone; it reminds me to the voice of Laura Martin of Finneus Gauge. The beginning part is a heavy rhythm section dominated by guitar and it then flows into a slower tempo with a guitar fills in Hackettian style. The solo guitar style is a blend of Holdsworth and Alex Lifeson of Rush. It's a stunning double guitar solo augmented with the works on sitar by Denis. The last half of the song reminds me to Finneus Gauge style. Excellent track and it has then become my favorite.

Carved In Rust

This is a very short, but very nice though, a capella in the vein of Gentle Giant and Queen. It set an excellent tone for the next track onwards. (In my opinion these four tracks: Carved In Rust - Still They Laugh - The Second Round - Still They Laugh Pt. 2 should be packaged into one epic and enjoyed its entirety as one song).

Still They Laugh

It opens with a guitar fills and accompanying music in the vein of neo prog style performed in psychedelic mood. The harmony between lead and backing vocals is really wonderful. The mellotron sound at the end of this song is really catchy and brings us to 70's prog scene. It flows seamlessly to the next song.

The Second Round

The intro with Hammond reminds me to the nuance of IQ Subterranea. The tempo turns relatively faster and still maintaining the original tagline melody of previous track. The guitar riffs remind me to the work of Scott McGill at Finneus Gauge. In this song the band has created the melody even much catchy than previous. I can taste the vocal quality of Jocelyn Beaulieu is excellent and unique. I tend to disagree with any review that stated the similarity with Jon Anderson. In my opinion, they have different vocal timbres even though they each sing in almost all in high tone. The last part of this song contains singing style of Gentle Giant and it clears the pathway to bring the music back to the Still They Laugh nuance.

Still They Laugh Pt. 2

The Hackett's guitar fills style return back at intro. This time, the work of keyboard at background is mixed heavier than the first part and at the end it dominates the closing part. It reminds me to the style of 70's Symphonic Slam.

Shades Of Blue

This is another great song the band has composed. Its opening dominated by double guitar work, one gives the guitar fills typical to Genesis and the other guitar gives howling sound. The guitar fills sound like Marillion in Clutching At Straw album. Overall tone of the song is psychedelic with catchy melody. The bass line is stunning.

...Action !

The hard rock influence (of Led Zeppelin) is obvious in this song. However, as what typical in prog rock, there is tempo change as well. When the music turns quieter in slower tempo, the lead guitar solo is a reminiscent of neo prog style. It's a stunning guitar work that sometimes sounds like Floydian as well. In the middle, the music turns faster again demonstrating electric guitar in the vein of Holdsworth but with heavy metal speed. It then continued with a nice Hammond solo.

Nameless

It kicks of with heavy rhythm with some riffs and keyboard solo augmented with dynamic bass line. It gives a sense of progressive metal scene at the beginning. But when the Hammond organ starts to roar, it sounds like 70's prog sound - reminiscent of Keith Emerson. This is the longest track in the album and the music flows smoothly in a somewhat psychedelic way with some changing tempo. In quieter music like in approx minute 6:15, the organ work reminds me to Genesis' Watcher of The Skies. The ambient vocal line enriches the song composition. The last part of the song sounds like an encore of neo prog tune and it's really good to conclude the album, actually.

The Second Coming

This song is composed differently whereby acoustic guitar fills dominate the rhythm part. Piano and vibes augment the music during transition parts. Melody wise, this is a ballad song with some proggy touch. It's accessible to most listeners, I think.

Watercourse Hymn

It's an epic song with four sections, performed in relatively moderate tempo. Again, acoustic guitar is used heavily, augmented with keyboard. The double acoustic guitar solo during transition in the middle of the song is really stunning. It's a cool song. There is nice keyboard solo during the ending part of the song. The song ends up with an acoustic guitar touch which to my personal taste gives a sense of loose end to conclude the entire album. I would prefer Nameless to conclude the album as it has a powerful climax at the end.

Conclusion

Overall, this album is beautifully composed, well structured, rich with catchy melody in many segments, integrating a wide range of musical elements and influences but is still cohesive as an album. The skills contributed by each musician were all at par excellent with special attention on dynamic bass line, roaring keyboard / Hammond in symphonic and psychedelic style, powerful high tone vocals, and stunning double guitar harmony. Musically, this is an excellent and almost flawless debut album. Despite heavy influences from previous bands, their music is not derivative. As far as musical flow, I would expect the band conclude the album with something climax that brings listeners to musical ecstasy and curious mind that drive for another spins. Unfortunately it does not really happen as the concluding track has a bit of loosening end. Beside music, I think the CD sonic quality requires more of bass sound. The album cover is also another downside element. Otherwise, Hamadryad is a band to consider in prog arena. Highly recommended album!

Note: After debut album release and some gigs performed, the band's lead singer decided to leave the band pursuing a solo career. The band is now working on the second studio album as a four-piece band.

Gatot | 4/5 |

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