Hippotraktor - Meridian review
|Release date:||October 2021|
01. Manifest The Mountain
02. Mover Of Skies
03. Sons Of Amesha
04. God Is In The Slumber
07. A Final Animation
If you enjoyed Psychonaut’s Unfold The God Man last year, put Meridian at the top of your ‘to listen’ list.
There must be something in the water right now in Mechelen. I hadn’t heard any bands from there before the whole pandemic started, but first Psychonaut and then Pothamus came onto my radar in strong fashion with their debut albums last year. Psychonaut’s Unfold The God Man ultimately turned out to have been initially released in 2018 before being sneakily re-released as a 2020 album after being picked up by Pelagic Records. Now, another debut record from a Mechelen band is being released on Pelagic Records, but unlike Unfold The God Man, this appears to be the first time that Hippotraktor’s Meridian has been offered unto the world.
This mini-scene seems to be somewhat incestuous; members of Pothamus guested on Psychonaut’s debut, while Psychonaut’s Stefan De Graef is the vocalist for Hippotraktor, who also feature individuals that have performed live with Psychonaut (Sander Rom) or guested on their debut (Chiaran Verheyden). Given these ties, it may not be surprising to hear that the progressive post-metal style heard on Meridian shows quite a lot of similarity to the material on Unfold The God Man, more so than the ritualistic post-metal of Pothamus on Raya; given that Pelagic Records is closely affiliated with arguably the progressive post-metal band, The Ocean, Hippotraktor’s inclusion in their roster makes a lot of sense.
There’s a few bands dabbling in this intersection between progressive metal and post-metal at present, with Pull Down The Sun delivering a fine debut record last year as well, and Hippotraktor do a similarly excellent job of demonstrating the potential of this combination on their debut record. The band’s songs are more compact than those on Psychonaut’s debut, with nothing running longer than 8 minutes, but whilst there’s none of the sprawling writing that resulted in songs such as “Nothing Is Consciousless”, there’s a lot of Psychonaut’s style to be heard in Hippotraktor. Some of that comes from De Graef’s vocals, with his clean tones working really nicely with the atmosphere built by the music, but the elaborate heavy grooves, distinctive exploration of soft/loud dynamics and forceful intensity of the harsher moments are all in the same vein as his other band’s music.
They’re not the same band by two different names, however; there’s arguably more of a modern prog slant to the material on Meridian, with djent-inspired polyrhythmic chugs scattered throughout, including on opener “Manifest The Mountain”, as well as moody alt-metal sections such as in “Mover Of Skies”. This song is one of several where the strong sense of how to intelligently employ melody comes through in the vocals; Hippotraktor, considering it’s a debut record, have a really clear idea of how to balance the various different aspects of their style to the benefit of all, weaving effectively between sharp intensity, grounded melody, atmospheric development and more with very smooth and intelligently crafted transitions. “Mover Of Skies” is a really strong early example of this intuitive writing, with the percussion work of Lander De Nym setting the tone for each subtle shift.
Every song on the album incorporates all of these features, but some prioritize certain aspects over others; “Sons Of Amesha” is for a long time subdued and atmospheric, with De Nym’s tom-heavy percussion providing the necessary momentum to an otherwise introspective stretch of music. In contrast, “God Is In The Slumber” opens with a fairly nasty djent groove. Ultimately though, what makes Meridian such a joy to listen to is the stream-of-consciousness flow between heaviness, groove, atmosphere and introspection across the record, all ably guided by De Graef’s emotionally resonant vocals.
As a huge fan of both post-metal and progressive metal, it’s not really a surprise that I’m so innately drawn to bands that incorporate both, but when those bands, whether it be Psychonaut, Mouth Of The Architect, The Ocean or Pull Down The Sun, compose music within this sub-genre to such a high standard, it’s hard not to be enthralled by it. Hippotraktor is yet another highly proficient member of this emerging group, and Meridian is a thoroughly impressive statement of intent for their major record debut, with them combining and balancing the various elements one anticipates for the style with apparent effortlessness. At this rate, I’m more than happy for new albums to keep coming out of Mechelen every few months, as the track record so far is superb.
||Written on 18.10.2021 by Hey chief let's talk why not|
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