Metal Storm logo
Hippotraktor - Stasis review

Bandcamp music player

29 users:
Band: Hippotraktor
Album: Stasis
Style: Post-metal, Progressive metal
Release date: June 2024

01. Descent
02. Echoes
03. Silver Tongue
04. Renegade
05. The Indifferent Human Eye
06. Stasis
07. The Reckoning

On debut album Meridian, Hippotraktor occasionally gave off the slight sense of being ‘Psychonaut but different’. Stasis accomplishes the goal of establishing this band as its own unique and flourishing entity.

There are natural reasons to draw parallels between Hippotraktor and Psychonaut; both emerged from the same Mechelen micro-scene, and while vocalist Stefan De Graef is the only permanent member of both bands, other individuals in Hippotraktor made guest contributions to Psychonaut’s debut. Both also broadly fall under the ‘progressive post-metal’ umbrella of progressive music with a clear emphasis on dynamics, and each group has ultimately found their way onto the Pelagic Records roster. However, Stasis sees the growth in importance of influences detected on Meridian that have turned into a primary driving force this time around.

Chief among these is the role of djent in Hippotraktor’s composition; crunching, polyrhythmic riffs occurred across Meridian, but on Stasis, the band’s heavier side feels more dominated by the spawn of Meshuggah. The ‘loud’ in Hippotraktor’s post-metal dynamic spectrum revolves around crunching syncopated grooves that are fleshed out with eerie, atmospheric guitar tones. Opening track “Descent” immediately greets listeners with this approach, kicking off with one muscular riff shrouded in clean melodic motifs before transitioning into an irresistibly groovy syncopated passage.

With this rhythmic complexity comes perhaps a slightly more ‘prog’ approach to song structuring this time around; however, that post-metal dynamic range does remain intact, with most songs featuring some kind of flow between atmospheric cleanliness and dense volume. After the bruising assault that comprises the opening half of “Descent”, an escalating contortion and elaboration of the instrumentation acts as a segue to shift into softness and contemplation, if but for a few brief moments. It’s an elaborate, ever-shifting soft passage characterized by a really cool ringing guitar melody, and I also enjoy the use of faint, almost whispered roars at the end of this passage to lead back into the huge, crunching climax.

The quieter portions of Stasis are typically quite understated, and the responsibility for bringing melody into the album’s fabric often falls upon De Graef’s clean vocals, in both the calmer and heavier portions of songs. While the vocal phrasings frequently opt for a more complex, progressive slant rather than immediate hooks, there’s usually a good payoff to said phrasing. The more brooding, expansive “Echoes” puts the clean singing more towards the spotlight, and there’s a really nice intensity to the peaks of the vocal phrases, particularly as the song escalates the tension in its closing stages. Another song that does a similarly good job of ratcheting up the volume and emotional intensity of the vocals in its climactic moments is the proggy title track, which also features a surprisingly bluesy clean guitar solo.

The final four songs are all in the 7-minute range; immediately before them comes the album’s shortest song “Silver Tongue”, which dedicates a significant portion of it runtime to quieter passages, but contrasts relatively melodic (if syncopated) opening with a bleak and suffocating djent-core climax. The ominous, percussion-driven opening to “Renegade” similarly works its way towards a dense, crunching conclusion, albeit with a fair amount of fluctuation between gnarly djent grooves and calmer atmospheres in the interim.

The two songs that most frequently caught my attention were the two that I’m yet to mention. “The Indifferent Human Eye” is willing to patiently explore quiet soundscapes for quite a while at the beginning, but once it gets going, it’s rather stop-start and progressive in its structure, right until it kicks into a nasty syncopated rhythm that TesseracT would be proud of with a couple of minutes to go, which kicks off a descent into crushing intensity that sees the tempo dragged down for a colossal ending. “The Reckoning” is far less hectic, and it largely eschews metal for the bulk of its runtime, instead dwelling in subdued clean soundscapes shaped by tender clean singing and reverberating tom-driven drumming; some listeners might find latter-day Tool coming to mind here. When Hippotraktor eventually do allow the song to spill over into metallic heaviness, they for once opt against djent crunch and groove, instead embracing a more expansive post-metallic depth.

There’s a lot to appreciate about Stasis; however, those that got on board with the band through Meridian may find, as I have, that a little bit of the immediate memorability of that record is diminished here. I’ve not yet found a song that has a motif as attention-grabbing as the openings of tracks like “Sons Of Amesha” or “Beacons”; given the proggier approach this time around, that may well be intentional, yet I wonder whether there’s perhaps a balance that can be stricken going forward between the strengths of this new record and said memorability. Still, Stasis is a strong next step from Hippotraktor that makes clear what the band are about, and why modern prog fans need to keep tabs on them going forward.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 14.06.2024 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 1   Visited by: 66 users
15.06.2024 - 13:56
Rating: 7
A Nice Guy
I couldn't get into their debut, unfortunately it was too djenty and mathy for my tastes, but this one I find to be pretty decent, with the song "The Reckoning" particularly standing out most for me, but at the end of the day listening to this album just makes me badly want Psychonaut to release another album.

Hits total: 995 | This month: 131