Hibernal is quite a unique outfit: a one-man progressive music machine from Brisbane with a serious interest in thought-provoking sci-fi themes. My opening line will probably put off quite a few of those who just want a heavy, rocking album. You will not find that here – instead you will get something that is maybe unique, but definitely very creative, ambitious and intriguing. This is certainly a far cry from any normal rock album I’ve listened to recently.
Mark Healy, the man behind Hibernal, has essentially fused together story-telling and instrumental music to create something that is some way between a normal album and an audio book. It is an intriguing idea, and I’m surprised no-one’s attempted this before. Maybe they have, I do live in a bit of a bubble.
The music itself is mostly drifting, lilting post-rock, which fits the dark sci-fi theme perfectly. There are heaps of haunting, melancholy guitar leads, swathed in delay over hypnotic, throbbing bass and keyboard lines. He’s not afraid to use cheesy synth sounds either, but rather than making the music sounds like corny, dated prog rock, it adds a sense of futuristic urban decay. When I close my eyes while listening, the overall effect is of floating over a grimy, futuristic urban scene, complete with dark alleys, lurid flashing lights, flying cars and impossibly tall skyscrapers. Of course, this is partly helped by the excellent cover art, which looks like it could have been lifted straight from a Blade Runner poster.
The main word to describe this body of work is `hypnotic’. All the `songs’ (for want of a better word), have a dream-like slow to mid paced feel, and are throbbingly repetitive. I don’t mean this as a criticism though, you are gently drawn into the mysterious happenings taking place. The music servers perfectly as background music to the narrations, as well as gripping instrumentals in their own right when there is no narration.
The narration also works brilliantly; both voice actors give charismatic, believable performances and add real depth to the short story weaved into the album. It’s a thought provoking and intriguing glimpse into a rather dark future (as all the best sci fi is), although I am not going to give the plot away.
On the whole it is a highly creative and unusual piece of work. It took me a few listens to get into it, as I’d heard nothing quite like it before, but quickly it grew on me. This hypnotic, creative album may grow on you too.
(8/10 Jon Butlin)