Hypno5e – Sheol (Pelagic Records)Friday, 24th February 2023
A sucker for the grandiose, Hypno5e has always been this scribe’s cup of tea since first hearing their debut Des deux l’une est l’autre back in 2007. The French avant-garde composers consistently push boundaries while naturally evolving with each release. Their last album, A Distant (Dark) Source, was their most ambitious and tremendous work to date. A concept centered around the vanished Bolivian Lake Tauca and the whispers of those who lived near it – a story of the return of a man in search of the shadow of his lost love. Hypno5e returns with Sheol, which is a continuation of that story.
Hypno5e have yet to disappoint those who seek intricate songwriting that tells a cinematic tale. Sheol is no different; weaving a musical landscape of which confounds the listener. Primary songwriter and guitarist/vocalist Emmanuel Jessua describes the link between this album and its predecessor, stating via the press release, “The two albums are built, like the myth of Sysyphus, in a cycle. Sheol begins where A Distant (Dark) Source ends and A Distant (Dark) Source ends where Sheol begins.” Does the music still match the intricacies of the overarching narrative? Emphatically so.
As the enticing intro “Sheol – Part I – Late Sorrow” sets the mood for what’s to come, “Sheol – Part II – Lands of Haze” kicks into high gear with a thick and meaty riff that transitions into a hint of djent technicality. Quickly embracing somberness by transitioning into an emotive and gorgeous clean guitar piece – accentuated by Jessua’s hypnotic clean vocal stylings – successfully lulling the listener until heavily distorted guitars jump into gear. A veritable tug of war between crushing malevolence and trance-inducing beauty, this song encapsulates a songwriting prowess of which few possess.
Continuing with “Bone Dust,” which begins with violins and a distinctive bass line, moving onto a catchy lead quickly backed by a huge dose of percussion mixed with Jessua’s trademark growl. Again, effortlessly swinging the pendulum again to dreamlike atmospheres, it’s astonishing how well it all flows. A serene acoustic song in “Tauca – Part I – Another” serves as a fitting pace change, while moving into the classic progressive rock feel that drives “Lava in the Sky” to a gigantic, yet hopeful, crescendo. Epic is the word for “The Dreamer and his Dream,” furthering the story by way of tight harmonies and atmosphere that would make Anathema proud, while managing to simultaneously pound the listener into dust. A two-part finale concludes, first with “Slow Streams of Darkness – Part I – Sacred Woods” being a piano medley with a vocal performance that melts the coldest of hearts. Finally, “Slow Streams of Darkness – Part II – Solar Mist” provides Sheol a dissonant swansong, forming an over 14 minute masterwork full of dizzying chord progressions and a gamut of unfettered sentiment.
Hypno5e unsurprisingly stands triumphant with another modern classic in Sheol. Without fail, every album this band releases is a masterclass in creativity, ingenuity, and dramatic storytelling that few can muster. Hypno5e reaches for and attains new heights with Sheol, yet one feels that the possibilities are still without limitation. That’s the beauty of Hypno5e – never standing still, purposeful in every painstaking detail, and delivering an end product that’s constantly in the upper echelon of sonic brilliance.