Sound: It is not yet common practice to open your album with a 15 minute song. Sure, plenty of metal records have lengthy closers, and the Green Carnations and Monolithes of the world can start and finish their albums with one absolute journey, but Hacride, in opening Lazarus' with a song almost twice the length of their previously longest recording have taken one gigantic step into the progressive arena. Like most French acts championed by Listenable, Hacride had a sound that was bound firmly to the stone-set genre they belonged to but pulled away enough to sound fairly different. If you took a look at the planet of groove-peddling metal right now though, you'd see broken chains and a little alcove where Hacride used to be.
They wear their influences on their sleeves, and it seems like on Lazarus' nearly every metal band fawned over in the last few years has left their splodge of paint on the palette which the Frenchmen have used to create this album. It's a little strange to hear so many audible influences across an album, but every deftly placed dynamic evolves so naturally into the next that the pitfall of being too many bands at once is skilfully avoided. It seems that the thick low-end mix has strayed from its predecessors' intent to attack and bite; instead the production aims to engross and engage listeners, with layered waves of sound only relenting during the most staccato-filled passages. Scratchy half-distorted guitar sounds react and adapt to rounded bass and guitar tracks, moving and colliding in harmony powered by Bogner and Ampeg's very own tectonic plates. It's a virtue in progressive metal to be technically precise without having it become some kind of influencing factor in songwriting. There are some very eccentric parts for all instruments here and yet there is no showboating in sight; everyone moves together as a unit, and a damn fine one at that. // 10
Lyrics: Samuel Bourreau's versatile vocal abilities contribute to the texture of each song without overriding it... for the most part. His natively-influenced shouts, despite their power and delivery, can prolong a tense atmosphere whilst the rest of the band begins to move on, going with the ebb and flow of things. It's only minor nitpicking though, especially when considering what his vocal tracks do to enhance various other changes in dynamics, where clean, harsh and almost-harsh vocal styles alternate over Benoist Danneville and Adrien Grousset's labyrinthine riffs. It's the instrumental Phenomenon' that says the most about Bourreau as a band member; ideas that must have begged for some accompanying lyrics during the creative process in the end benefitting from being instrumental. Hell, it's not as if he's missing out on any attention as the following two tracks feature arguably his best performances. // 9
Overall Impression: It becomes clear after a few listens that To Walk Among Them', the 15 minute opener, was designed to send you tumbling down into the very core of whatever planet Hacride ended up on, sending you from song to song on a journey through the bands collective songwriting unconscious. There are moments where you will come back up for air, typically the more conventional riff-based segments, but your ears can only truly surface on the final hanging cadence of My Enemy'. Names could be dropped for hours on end in reference to who you may be reminded of when listening to Lazarus', but it is far more interesting to listen for yourself and see what you can find amidst the murky depths.
High profile progressive metal has been very much under the spotlight for the last few months with big name releases (which will again remain undropped) coming thick and fast. Funny, then, that a release with significantly less anticipation absolutely cracks the sky open, breaks the watershed and leaves only the space for this; Hacride firing all cylinders on every level. // 10
- Duncan Geddes aka duncang (c) 2009