Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekly Dose of Prog: Hypnos 69 - Legacy

I originally thought that Hypnos 69 were a stoner act, and why not? The act has been getting a lot of attention on the various stoner and doom websites I read, so it would be easy claim to make. Later, I was scrolling through the Prog Archives best of 2010 list and saw Legacy within the top 5! Ok, so maybe they're a progressive stoner doom or something, something to warrant being included within Doommantia or The Obelisk. Nope. What I found out is that they are straight progressive rock band, akin to something more out of the early 70s then the modern era of the genre. Well, I was (and am) not disappointed by that in the least, I love me some prog, as I've mentioned on many an occasion, so I had no problem settling down and grabbing an ear-full of what Hypnos 69 had to offer.

The first thing of note on Legacy is the scope; these are some epic songs that Hypnos 69 recorded. The two longest songs, "Requiem (For A Dying Creed)" and "The Great Work," bookend the production, coming in at 17:51 and 18:27 respectively. These are also the group's best songs, capturing their attention to detail and their impressive musicianship. The opening track starts off calm and with a level of beauty, incorporating the keyboard as the central point. The music ebbs and flows nicely, as epic progressive music must to retain any semblance of attention from the listener.
The final song is by far their most progressive work, and consequently, their best piece. "The Great Work" lives up to it's name in a big way, using several instruments, horns and woodwinds, in noticeable positions throughout. I'm not sure if any of these are used earlier in the album, and if they are it isn't to a fully noticeable degree until this song. I know there is flute used throughout the album, but this song brings in saxophone, and I'm guessing at a xylophone as well (can't quite place it). Amongst the instruments there are some beautiful melodies performed, equaled with some great vocals. The song moves from a keyboard and flute focus, into a full-band electric configuration, then ends with a jamming jazz melody. There obviously is more, but this review is off of one listen, and I couldn't possible pull everything I want to out of an almost twenty minute song. This is the song I would go back to hear later, when I'm hunting and choosing singles, this is the one I'd like to pop up on my iPod from time to time.

The rest of the album is filled with shorter tracks, broken up with one just over ten minutes long. "The Empty Hourglass," the ten-plus song, is another good pull into progressive rock, but the others are a bit flat and seemingly uninspired. I suppose after the mastery of the opening and closing tracks, either the band ran out of steam or maybe my listening prowess has been diminished, being so used to amazing prog the rest seems worse by comparison. Who can tell?

Regardless, this is a level of prog of a bygone era. While acts like Coheed & Cambria (ugh) and Dream Theater take up much of the modern spotlight, Hypnos 69 is a throwback to the early days of the genre. Listening to Legacy, you get a feel more akin to Jethro Tull or King Crimson, where a difference of instrumentation and overall lightness of tone brings it all together. It's a nice shift of focus, hearing something both old and strangely new, and it's what I think gives the album it's edge.

While this was a great album, I caught very little - if anything - that I would deem stoner or doom. Nothing close that would make me expect to see it on sites self-proclaimed to be dedicated to these genres, I wouldn't even really call it metal overall. It is a great dose of progressive rock, and has a pair of songs that would blow you away (as if you couldn't guess seeing as my description of these songs makes up half of the review). I'm a little bit surprised that is was in the top five on Prog Archives' best of 2010 list, but then again I haven't heard too much new progressive music in the past year, so who am I to judge. I have heard Ciccada's album, if you recall from last week's Weekly Dose of Prog, and that was amazing. I find the fall of quality from third place to fourth to be remarkable, and so I can't wait to listen to the second place act, Haken, to see how much better they are then Ciccada. Stay tuned.

[EDIT]: Ok I went back on Prog Archives to double check the album rankings for this article and the number have all switched drastically. Haken and Hypnos 69 are still in the same spots, but Ciccada has jumped down to number seven, while Amplifier's The Octopus (which I really enjoyed) has moved some somewhere in the thirties to number five. That is a huge jump, and makes me question the validity of this ranking system. Besides Haken's Aquarius, every other album within the top ten have less then one hundred rankings, and with the different weight of ranking system (every-day-schmos' rankings are only worth one point, members' are ten points, and Prog Archive Reviewers' are a whopping twenty points), the rankings with this few reviews could change wildly day to day.

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