Hyborian - Debut LP - Volume I, is a gigantic achievement, and they have only been together since 2015. Gauntlet Rating 11/11
Hyborian is firmly anchored on the track Metal is headed as the decade approaches its end. And I am not talking about the forsaken genre taxonomy: sludge, doom, stoner, metal. Nor am I talking about Mastodon, Crowbar, and Baroness. I am instead referring to “characteristics,” such as riff driven, catchy, heavy music, vocal diversity, unusual rhythms and clear - cut vocal melodies with a retrograde sensibility and a cohesiveness that holds all the songs together. This is Hyborian.
This is cool sounding music, the kind you hear when you walk into the record store, ask a clerk who it is and immediately buy it. I realize this example is a bit dated, but most should get the drift.
I am a citizen of Kansas City, MO and I am sad to say I only recently heard of this band.
I have been asleep at the switch looking toward California, New England and Europe too much.
Hyborian will release their debut Album: Volume I on March 17, 2017 via Kansas City-based label The Company, and is available for pre-order now via. iTunes pre-orders went live on March 3, with their first single, "Maelstrom", as an instant grat track.
The album is made up of the following 6 tracks with a total running time of 32 min 51 sec
Volume I track listing:
1) As Above, So Below 5:38
2) Maelstrom 4:36
3) Blood for Blood 6:59
4) Dead Lies Dreaming 4:49
5) Ajna 5:06
6) Dross 5:43
Let’s start with the first track. This track is first for a real reason in that it sets up the theme, ethos, philosophy of the album, which is put quite simply: Since time is cyclical nothing really matters in the grand scheme of things. This is the framework in which the stories are told.
The track starts with a quasi – non-musical intro (although at times there are illusions of song fragments.) The intro goes for a full 1:09, and quite frankly it’s creepy and mysterious – in a way cold and indifferent. It is also very illusive. At times, you think you hear the whining sound of a prop plane going down for a crash. There is a machine-like characteristic to it, or is it buzzing locusts? Driving a musical fragment is a heavily effected organ and 2 snyth bubbles.
At 1:10 a very present razor sharp (not fuzzy) awesome guitar riff kicks off the song. The bottom end comes in delivered by bassist Anthony Diale and Martin Bush opens his pipes on the second bar. As I mentioned earlier there are some unusual drum beats on the album to be credited to the drum master Justin Rippeto. I am not referring to odd time signatures but variations of the straight 8 beat (hat, snare, kick alternating snare and kick) The lead singer, Martin Bush delivers a giant sound apros pos of this ambitious achievement. He hangs out in the tenor range with a rasp in parts and no rasp in others.
There are varieties of chorus and backups, ranging from kroon like gang vocals, to very harmonious and clean. The music never strays from feeling very big.
Ryan Bates, delivers long solo’s and bridges throughout the album, that are catchy and clever, sharp and penetrating. The music is unpredictable, a characteristic many have been missing for quite a while now. You will find yourself rewinding a few seconds or so and listening to parts over. Toward the end of the song a mid-tone siren-like or warning-like sound is layered in and the song ends with a fairly hard stop.
So, there you have it, the first song, there are many characteristics in the rest of the tracks that didn’t get covered in the first song review. I will say this: “There is not a bad track on this record.”
Now I will digress a little to the story telling in the lyrical prose. First, I must admit that I have several Conan paperbacks by Robert E. Howard, even an anthology of horror from him.
For those of you who have not heard of Conan or don’t know about Robert E. Howard's work, I will start by saying that Hyborian refers to an age somewhere between 30,000 and 10,000 BCE. Mr. Howard conjured this up to have a setting for his Conan stories – complete with history, maps, and Deity’s. One Deity is the main story telling element for the record. That Deity is called The Traveler and he is depicted on the front of the Volume I cover art.
The Traveler is best described by frontman Martin Bush: "Basically The Traveller is a being that exists outside of humanity's understanding of space and time. He is the source of all life in the universe, but is not omnipresent. He wanders the cosmos, visiting and recording times of great strife or hardship, great suffering or great triumph. We are his chosen mouthpiece on Earth, so we relate those stories, whether from far in the past or far in the future. For instance, "Maelstrom" is the story of a mountaintop battle between a being who has just achieved a higher consciousness in the midst of a scuffle with a sentient storm. In order to defeat the creature in the storm, he expends his newfound powers and gives up his life.”
These stories throughout the record are filled with double entendre, layered in vocals that are difficult to hear, hidden words and phrases and two bizarre hidden tracks.
Blood for Blood a roughly seven-minute song capitulates into fading feedback and silence at about 5:28 mins. Ten seconds later a very low and foreboding note begins accompanied by the sound of a beating heart. All of a sudden, a deep alien sounding voice begins speaking in what sounds like an other-worldly language or back masking. I believe that this is the voice of The Traveler, but I could be wrong. I will not spoil where the other hidden track is. You can find it on your own.
I see the story’s and music of this record to be allegorical to any epoch including the current one. It is sci-fi, but that is such a limiting description. Sci Fi – sets up unreal scenarios to write stories that can test alternate beliefs, make political statements and the limits of humanity in in situations that they would not encounter in reality (whatever that is.)
Metal Bands and in this case Hyborian, are using big, dramatic ideas to communicate their artistic vision.