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Hyborian - Volume II

Volume II
by Chris Hawkins at 24 March 2020, 7:53 PM

One of the most exciting newer American Metal bands in the scene right now are Kansas City’s own HYBORIAN.  Formed just five years ago, they have come a long war releasing “Volume II” mere days ago via Season of Mist.  Having seen them a couple of years back open for WEEDEATER in a tightly packed club which was basically Dixie Dave and company’s home turf, their high intensity live show captured the attention of many in the audience who, like myself, had never heard the band prior to that night.  Thus, the prospect of covering this new release was simply impossible to resist.  As will be discussed further along, theirs is a multi-faceted sound derived from myriad influences; however, it is in the assimilation and creative process where this formula truly shines.

Driven by Hunger,” the first track, feels like it is in constant motion.  The main riff is a very rapid affair which evolves into many forms along the way.  When the chorus hits, though, the latent aggression gets more visceral.  Guitar harmonies masquerading as leads and vice versa transfix the listener as an active participant.  The following track, “Stormbound,” features a more traditional Stoner type approach with some massive Pentatonic hooks.  To lump this in with that genre would be to limit their creative capacity because throughout “Volume II,” the music is tempered with a Prog flair.  It would be an injustice for the band to be labeled as a pure Prog band as well.  At times, one can hear clear MASTODON influences, but those run concurrently with a grandiose what I term “Rawk” vibe a la ASG or even ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSY.  Never short on melody or hooks, the appealing result is simply the HYBORIAN sound.

To further elaborate upon the overall sound of the record, a closer look must be taken at the unique tone of each component and how it lends itself to the totality.  The bedrock is the trailblazing rhythm section, and this starts with the drums.  Justin Rippeto approaches his role in percussion like a Surrealist Salvador Dali painting with his original usage of toms and cymbals being the basis for this argument.  It is as if he is shirking tradition not as merely an act of rebellion, but more so as a visionary for he seemingly never repeats patterns in his quest of foundational experimentation.  The bass is the x axis in the rhythmic formula following a linear approach that, in conjunction with the drums, carries the song forward offering the occasional flourishing run to spice things up.  The production allows for these rhythmic ideas to be delivered in a thunderous, resounding manner.

Both Martin Bush and Ryan Bates play guitar and sing; subsequently, Bates also handles bass duties.  The guitar sound has a chunky, precise attack that is both expansive and earthy.  Chords ring out with organic clarity while lead parts have a Southern feel at times – never a bad thing!  It is a modern approach to the high gain sound yet rooted in that booming Marshall tradition.  Vocally, there is quite a bit of diversity with a healthy balance of aggression and euphonious charm.

While the first two track clearly represent a concise view of their style, it is on the third track, “Sanctuary,” that HYBORIAN fully hits their stride.  With a section toward the latter half of the song that features a THIN LIZZY-meets-C.O.C. guitar harmony section, they show their roots run deep as the monstrous, dirty bass holds things down underneath.  After completing this exercise, harmonious feedback persists as the band slowly fades out.  The pendulum swings oppositely as the whole band gradually fades back in with a lethal, cathartic breakdown anchored by some deftly played palm-muting tightly locked in with the bass drum(s).  From this point on, the album progresses with a more defined urgency than displayed on the initial two tracks.  That is not to say the first two songs are filler or worthy of being thrown away, but rather, with the advent of the third track, the band sounds as if collectively baptized with a deluge of electricity equating to more memorable, heavy riffs.

Expanse,” the sixth track is yet another highlight of the album featuring an absorbing groove that manifests itself in a variety of ways.  Be it during their more driving sections such as the verse or the catalyzing bridge section, the band persists with a solid approach elaborated with syncopation and held together tightly via the rhythm.  This ultimately climaxes during the chorus which is extremely catchy with its infectious melody.  Songs like these deserve to be on the radio as they combine out-of-the-box innovation with a bold chorus that could really ensnare potential listeners.

The face of modern Metal is ever evolving.  HYBORIAN is certainly a band aiding in that process by composing music that hits on many different levels.  Their striking blend of monolithic riffs, bold, often-complex rhythms, and hooks via both guitar and a singer who, in the tradition of many greats, offers venturesome countermelodies pleasing to the ear, provides a conglomeration unique to the band.  Essentially, they are heavy enough to please die-hard underground devotees yet relatable to those whose exposure to Metal may be limited by more mainstream listening habits.  This is a band that could -and should – go far for they incorporate all the key ingredients to successful, timely music.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Driven by Hunger
2. Stormbound
3. Sanctuary
4. Planet Destructor
5. The Entity
6. Expanse
7. Portal
8. In the Hall of the Travelers
Justin Rippeto – Drums
Martin Bush – Guitars, Vocals, Synths
Ryan Bates – Guitars, Bass, Vocals
Record Label: Season of Mist


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