Described in the accompanying press release as being ‘pioneers of cinematic metal’, Hypno5e are a band who successfully conjure an atmosphere with their epic orchestrations. However, as sweeping in scope as the music is, it never gets in the way of the band developing riffs of crushing power and the result is music that mixes hyper-technical playing with an all-too-human heart. ‘Shores of the abstract line’ is the third album from the French band and whilst it is possible to trace the band’s lineage to the likes of Meshuggah, Cynic, the Ocean and even Porcupine Tree, it is clear to see that, on this third effort, the band have truly found their own unique sound. Released digitally, on CD and as a beautiful 2XLP edition via the mighty Pelagic Records, Hypno5e’s latest release is something of an essential purchase for those who like their music to be all encompassing, packing a visceral punch and yet capable of taking the listener on a wide-ranging journey of the imagination.
Following the short, dreamy introduction of ‘East Shore – Landscape in the mist’ the album opens properly with the sprawling ‘East Shore – in our deaf lands’ which sees samples of sinister voices played out over a shimmering soundcscape that slowly descends into a whirling maelstrom of hyper-technical riffing and harrowing screams. However, this is no mere display of macho riffing and brutal metallic pyrotechnics. As the song progresses so it traverses the landscape of prog-metal, offering up post-rock drones and mournful harmonies as well as gut-punch riffs that send the whole spinning into orbit. It’s a mesmerising introduction to the band’s imaginative world and ‘cinematic’ is absolutely the word to describe the flow of the music. ‘West shore – where we lost the ones’ similarly opens amidst a sense of mystery, French language samples and treated guitars giving way to a monolithic riff that owes more to Neurosis’ primal sludge than to modern technical metal, although the dizzying percussive work at the song’s heart nods towards the technicality of the previous song and slowly order is bought form the dark, abrasive chaos, the riffs becoming increasingly staccato as the rhythm section continue to impose their will. Again, however, the surging vitality of the riffs is only one half of the story and as the song continues its rocky journey deeper into the heart of the band’s imagination so post-rock, and ambient elements make their presence felt, the song concluding amidst the calm of an ice-bound ocean. The richly emotive ‘West shore – memories’, in contrast, is but a two-minute piece that, despite being mired in guitar-fuelled brutality, provides the perfect segue to ‘the central shore – Tio’, a track that opens with delicate, plucked guitar and subtle atmospheric touches.
Opening with yet more samples, and developing an atmosphere with a somnambulant beat and reverb-drenched guitars, ‘North shore – The abstract line’ takes its time to swell to its full, imposing size. However, when the scything riffs do finally tear into view it is only for the band to juxtapose them with some of their most beautiful melodic flourishes to date and the result is an achingly gorgeous piece of music subverted by riffs that shake and burn with a burning rage. ‘Northern shore – sea made of crosses’ segues directly out of the previous track with delicate, tremolo guitar conjuring an intricate atmosphere that is built around the interlocking guitar lines and gorgeous vocal harmonies. The approach makes the latter stages of the song all the more distressing as increasingly brutal riffs scar its surface and send the piece spinning off in a wholly unexpected direction. The album ends with the stunning epic ‘South shore – ‘blind man’s eye’, a fifteen-minute journey that sees the band explore the myriad facets of the amazing sound. Almost a representation of the album in microcosm, here the band drift through glistening, reverb-drenched soundscapes and climb the highest peaks of technical metal perfection. Here there are vocal harmonies and distressed roars, but most importantly, here the band demonstrate once and for all that they are the masters of their art. Neatly drawing together the seemingly disparate threads of their muse, they create a compelling and cohesive piece of music to which listeners will return for months hence as they try to unpack its secrets. It is the perfect ending to a complex, brutal and yet frequently beautiful album.
Only eight tracks long and yet encompassing a full hour of music, ‘shores of the abstract line’ is a towering masterpiece of epic, progressive-tinged metal. The judicious use of samples, the stunning moments of beauty which are not unlike emerging from behind a cliff to admire some glistening, frost-rimed vista and the crushing technicality of the surging metallic passages all coalesce to form something larger than the individual parts suggest. Reference points abound but, even today in this age of media saturation, Hypno5e have hit upon a sound that is unquestionably their own. ‘Shores of the abstract line’ is not just the best thing Hypno5e have written, it’s a modern day masterpiece that sets a new standard for metal albums to aspire to.