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Hills Like White Lions - Hills Like White Lions Award winner

Hills Like White Lions
Hills Like White Lions
by Mark Machlay at 30 May 2020, 2:12 PM

Progressive metal can be a bit of a nebulous term and it’s really hard to nail down just what you might hear from a band with that label. HILLS LIKE WHITE LIONS are here to push that boundary even further with a hard to describe aesthetic but there debut self-titled album certainly fits the mold with a more story-driven concept album. The trio, led by Florian Wagner on vocals and guitar who brought his bandmate from SYMBOLON, Hannes Lettner on drums, and adding bassist Alexander Augustin, they bring an interesting blend of progressive, post-metal, post-rock, sludge and doom metal that must be taken as a whole.

The story of the album is universally identifiable as it deals with the nature of man and his greed. We egotistical humans have our manifest destiny and a sense of importance that seems to make us feel entitled to compensation. The album explores this theme through “Sonnetau”, our protagonist introduced in the first song, and the different cycles of his journey he embarks on, exploring other themes of selfishness, love, forgiveness and regret. It is a powerful story on its own and the music does a great job in servicing the emotions and landscapes described in the tale.

It really is hard to separate all of the tracks from one another but I mean that in the sense that it creates a more cohesive whole. The beauty and expression of the landscapes the music is meant to convey is very apparent. On standout track “Cave” you feel trapped in this demonic and dank darkness, expertly conveyed by the slight change in vocal style and blast beat drumming creating a sense of foreboding. The sense of insurmountable weariness is felt as after our protagonist decides to cancel his nefarious plans and instead climbs the high mountains after a visit from a Shaman that tells him to seek out glory on “Steep”. On the final track “Shaman” his regret and sorrow can be felt as he lies in a hospital bed wondering if the woman he fell in love with was a dream and realizing he made many mistakes in his life. In other words, tracks on this album are meant more to be felt. Atmosphere is a heavy factor here and it is welcome.

But, all that being said, it’s hard to classify these guys. They are certainly progressive metal but you won’t find any flashy guitar work, solos, or virtuosic singing either. However, Wagner's voice is that of, aptly, a shaman or a monk, likening his delivery more to Gregorian chant. It’s otherworldly and while his range displayed here isn’t much, the open, clear, almost sweet tone is a great juxtaposition to the rapid-fire guitar and drum playing underneath. Speaking of which, apart from a few spots where the music dies down into a quiet abyss, the guitar and drums are in near constant post-metal aggressive onslaught. One may find it exhausting at times but as mentioned earlier, the package is meant to be enjoyed as a whole. Experience this on the best sounding system you can and just get lost in the wash of emotions and pastoral landscapes it conveys.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Sonnentau
2. Steep
3. Cave
4. Dark
5. Light
6. Flower Garden
7. Waterfall
8. Cliffs Bursting
9. Float
10. Shaman
Lineup:
Florian Wagner – Vocals and Guitar
Alexander Augustin – Bass
Hannes Lettner - Drums
Record Label: Independent
     


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