Hamadryad - The Black Hole,
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.