Hamadryad - 2005 - Safe In Conformity [VBR HQ]
Genre: Progressive Rock
HAMADRYAD biography (Progarchives):
HAMADRYAD has released what may be the best prog album of 2001 for their debut. The diversity of music on this CD is tremendous: vintage instruments with a crunchy sound and very intricate music with influences from many different styles. This is a great album, and I recommend it highly. Fans of modern prog should enjoy this one.
Safe In Conformity - Album review (DPRP - http://www.dprp.net):
What do you expect if a band that you love release a new album when a key member has left the band? Especially when you have observed that his contribution has characterized the music style of the band? Well, I wouldn’t blame you at all if you would totally forget the band and close the chapter with it. Do you still remember Yes when Jon Anderson left the band and his position was replaced by Trevor Horn in Drama (1980)? This is not taking into consideration, even, with the fact that Rick Wakeman’s role was also replaced by Geoffrey Downes. Some die-hard fans of Yes did not like the album. But, some of them still purchased the album because they saw the value of new Yes music. And this case, Yes took a bold strategy by hiring a lead singer with similar voice timbre with Jon. The result? It was not a disappointing album at all; and some die-hard fans of Yes – count me in, please – still hear the true sound of Yes with track like Machine Messiah in a new nuance.
Why bother putting Yes' Drama in this review? Well, I need to put things into perspective in what happened with Hamadryad whom in 2001 released an awesome debut album Conservation of Mass. Right after the release and some gigs performed, the band’s lead singer, Jocelyn Beaulieu, decided to leave the band pursuing a solo career. The band was then working on the second studio album as a four-piece band. As Jocelyn's contribution to the band’s music was pivotal (my view), I did not expect much on the future of the band, especially when I heard that the band would dramatically shift their music direction to become an instrumental band. Since then I did not follow the band’s progress until I received this album from Bob.
Wow! At first CD spin I was impressed with the fact that the band has taken a bold strategy to overcome the lead singer issue. It’s neither like what Yes did with Drama, nor Genesis when Phil Collins replaced Peter Gabriel while the basic music did not change. In this case, Hamadryad has redefined and reshaped their musical style by exploring the individual band member potentials. They don’t hire a new singer but they adjust their music to suit with the vocal character of Jean-François Désilets who has an added responsibility as new lead singer in addition to his previous roles to look after six string electric bass, Taurus Moog pedals, midi pedals, and twelve strings acoustic guitar. He actually did a vocal part in one song of debut album. The other band members are: Denis Jalbert (six string acoustic & electric guitars, backing vocals), Francis Doucet (B3 & C3 Hammond organ Mellotrons, Minimoog, Roland synthesizers), Yves Jalbert (drums & percussions, backing vocals). The result? Gone are the influences from Yes and Gentle Giant. What remains is the heavy influence from early Genesis (Gabriel) plus an additional style: being ambient, and a lesser influence from progressive metal style (some tracks).
Let’s take a quick journey with Hamadryad Safe In Conformity album … (Hmm .. am doing this with a labour of love as I truly enjoy the music.)
Anatomy Of A Dream kicks the album off with powerful vocals (Gabriel style) and guitar fills followed with Mellotron based music and a strong accentuation of guitar fills. The overall concept of this song is basically a combination of chord progression from guitars, long sustained Mellotron work that makes the music flow smoothly, and performed in an ambient style. It flows to the next short instrumental track that reminds me to Genesis Trespass / Foxtrot nuance through Sparks And Benign Magic exploring acoustic guitar, Taurus pedal and Mellotron. The Mellotron sound reminds me to the intro of Watcher of The Skies. It continues seamlessly to the third track Self Made Men where the band performs this upbeat tempo composition with great combination of guitar and keyboard at opening part. The music flows dynamically with excellent vocal line, sometimes is slowing down with nice guitar fills at the background. Yeah, the guitar fills a real touch and memorable and bring us to the glory days of Genesis music in the seventies. Drum work is also dynamically performed. The interlude part features stunning guitar solo, performed in Satriani style. At the end of guitar solo, the music slows down and continued with another great solo work with keyboard and it brings the music into complex part and it slows down again. This great track ends up with another short track Gentle Landslide.
The fifth track 24 starts with an inventive and energetic acoustic guitar work that brings the drum and vocal line into the music beautifully. Oh man … You might have guessed that this track is fully performed by Peter Gabriel as Désilets’ voice is very close to him. To my knowledge there have been two gentlemen whom their voice are similar with Gabriel: Désilets (Hamadryad) and Cyrus (Citizen Cain) – you may grab your collection of Citizen Cain’s Somewhere But Yesterday album. While the latter seemed to force his voice being like Gabriel, Désilets voice seemed natural. 24 is a track with medium tempo and relatively complex composition combining a stunning acoustic guitar work, keyboard, drum and bass lines nicely. Frail Purpose continues the music style similar with the previous one but this short track contains simple yet excellent guitar solo. The seventh track Sunburnt begins the music mellow with voice line and it moves into higher points with a strong accentuation of acoustic and electric guitar combined beautifully with keyboard solo. An ambient prog rock music.
One Voice takes the music to a different vein as there seems like an influence from progressive metal with some riffs produced and Désilets brings his voice into high register notes. This track fits with the music of the band’s debut album, with different nuance. It flows to another hard driving rhythm track Polaroid Vendetta with still some influence of progressive metal. What is interesting is the guitar style which this time is performed in a combined style: Steve Hackett and prog metal style. This track is rich in term of composition because it’s successfully combined a broad spectrum of music: metal, prog rock and jazz with so many tempo changes and stunning solos (guitar and keyboard). Wonderful track! I’m pretty sure that most of you would like this track. It’s so dynamic. Awesome.
Having been bombarded with an energetic and complex track previously, the band delivers Alien Spheres in mellow style but it still a melodic one. The vocal parts are performed with other members. Taurus pedal is used at the first part. The song moves into higher point but in a medium tempo. The combination of guitar solo and keyboard, accentuated with dynamic drumming in this track is really cool and memorable. The concluding track Omnipresent Umbra is another great and very enjoyable track. It starts in medium tempo style with guitar work as the lead, accentuated with dynamic drumming. The music slows down with some insertions of organ sound and features the entrance of lead vocalist to the music. The textures of the music are enriched with inventive guitar works and organ / keyboards in relatively complex arrangements. There is also influence from Rush early albums especially through the guitar sounds at approx 4:00 minute mark. Overall, this concluding track is truly a prog gem! I really enjoy the flow and the richness of arrangements.
To summarise, I can only say that this album is totally different from the band’s debut album. Yes, there are some ingredients of the music that have roots in their previous debut album. But, I would say that the band has taken a new approach and a new direction with their music. The only drawback maybe when this album is enjoyed in its entirety, is that it may bore you a bit, especially if you do not favour ambient style, but it'll be gone with a couple of spins. After all, the band has progressed - Jocelyn had gone and Hamadryad's music had to move on. The band has had a true progressive spirit. Bravo Hamadryad!
01. Anatomy of a Dream (5:51)
02. Sparks and Benign Magic (1:04)
03. Self made Men (7:42)
04. Gentle Landslide (0:39)
05. 24 (6:28)
06. Frail Purpose (3:11)
07. Sunburnt (5:12)
08. One Voice (3:30)
09. Polaroid Vendetta (6:41)
10. Alien Spheres (5:59)
11. Omnipresent Umbra (11:42)
Total Time: 57:59
- Jean-François Désilets / lead vocals, six string electric bass, taurus moog pedals, midi pedals, twelves strings acoustic guitar
- Denis Jalbert / six string acoustic & electric guitars, backing vocals
- Francis Doucet / B3 & C3 Hammond organ Mellotrons, Minimoog, Roland synthetizers
- Yves Jalbert / drums & percussions, backing vocals
CD Unicorn Records UNCR-5020 (Canada, 2005)
CD MALS 079 (Russia, 2005)