Review – Hibernal – The Dark Of The City – By Progradar

Those of you who have read my reviews will know that I like to drop in the odd quote or two so it will be of no surprise to you that I have found a couple that really relate to my feelings for the wonderful Mark R Healy‘s Hibernal project’s latest release ‘The Dark Of The City’.

“Storytellers are individuals who enjoy creating a holiday for the mind.”
Linda Daly 

The above quote really fits Mark perfectly, his utterly mesmerising and perfectly crafted series of musical graphic novels take you on a futuristic journey into his carefully constructed futuristic and sometimes post-apocalyptical worlds. You find yourself completely immersed in these sci-fi stories that combine with instrumental music to tell a compelling storyline that unfolds throughout the course of the album.

“Storytellers are the most powerful people on earth. They might not be the best paid– but they are the most powerful. Storytellers have the power to move the human heart– and there is no greater power on earth.”
Laurie H. Hutzler 

It goes without saying that stories give you the power to leave the everyday behind and use your own imagination to perceive the author’s intent. I always find myself amazed beguiled and enthralled after listening to any of Mark’s complex and fascinating releases.

Mark R Healy is an author and musician from Brisbane, Australia. From an early age he loved to create, and often assembled his own illustrated books with accompanying stories – and then forced his parents to buy them.

Unfortunately this model was not scalable and Mark now seeks to promote his works to a wider audience.

Mark has also combined his storytelling prowess with music, creating a project called Hibernal through which he interweaves original sci-fi stories with his own music to create an immersive theatrical experience for the listener.  Combined with a professional voice cast and sound effects, these “audio movies” are ‘The Machine’ (2013), ‘Replacements’ (2014), ‘After The Winter’ (2015) and ‘The Dark Of The City’, to be released January 12th 2017.

The Dark Of The City’ is based around the story of a cop who undertakes a relentless search for the creature that killed her partner.

Hibernal is:
Mark Healy
Rowan Salt

Script by Mark Healy. Edited by Rowan Salt.

Cast:
Faleena Hopkins – Moreno
Scott Gentle – Trask

The opening title track, The Dark Of The City, has that dark dystopian ambience that we have come to expect from Hibernal and sets the scene perfectly with its understated sci-fi feel. As you’d expect from an ‘audio-movie’ the characters introduce the story within the voice over of the song and Faleena Hopkins is perfect as the heroine of the piece Moreno. The music bubbles under in the background as Moreno tells the tale of the cops hunting the monstrous creatures called ‘Necros’ and, in particular, the one that killed her partner.

You have to listen to this release in one hit, in a dark room with no distractions and preferably with headphones on! The instrumental sections immediately bring to mind the worlds Mark has created previously for ‘Replacements’ and ‘After The Winter’ and are a little different to what he served up on Hibernal‘s debut ‘The Machine’. The brooding guitar playing and pensive rhythm is almost like Nine Inch Nails but without the brutality and gives an apprehensive tone to everything. Atmospheric, it seems to expand to fill the space around your ears and envelops your whole being in an involving wall of sound.

The story continues with Night In Carson Bay as Moreno once again paints a picture of the scene. The music has a real hypnotic quality to it, Mark’s keyboard playing is elusive and yet mesmerising at the same time and then the somnolent guitar note leads you on. Deliberate and narcotic, the track continues to pervade your psyche and you find yourself immersed even more into the mood. The voice-over describes an underworld of any possibilities as our protagonist continues to search. You feel her every emotion as she battles her inner demons and the music takes on an angrier, demanding edge to mirror this.

Target 247 opens with a instrumental section that is as cinematic as they come and, to my ears, almost has a Sci-fi Western feel to it, the bass playing is phenomenal and really steals the show. I’ve always been impressed by Mark’s musicianship but he really seems to have extended himself even further on the new album and become even more accomplished. At this point, headphones on, I have become lost in the music when Moreno’s voice chimes in, introducing her partner Trask (voiced by the excellent Scott Gentle). There is an uneasiness between the two partners and Scott plays Trask as a gravel voiced old pro who you feel has seen it all before. Moreno’s obsession comes to the fore again, there is only one target she is after and the song closes with really edgy industrial guitar riff of immense proportions.

A low undertone opens up into a determined instrumental at the opening of How It Ended as the story continues and Moreno describes their actions. That dystopian feel hits home harder than ever as the partners talk and reveal their past chequered history. There’s a harsher guitar note playing out behind the vibrant drums, keys and bass giving a discordant overtone, perhaps matching the atmosphere between Moreno and Trask. Their quarry seems to be eluding them, intelligently hiding from any of Moreno’s tracking techniques as they move deeper into the dark underbelly of the futuristic society.

The atmosphere is charged even more at the opening of Black Blood, apprehensive and anxious as Moreno and Trask venture even deeper in to the dark underworld where the freaks and criminals hide away and go about their nefarious business. We learn more about the ‘Necros’ and what they could possibly be as the dialogue interplays between the two. The dark and introspective music gives the scene a really melancholy aura and keeps you on edge.

The sounds of waves washing up and a fog horn are the opening to The Pier and a feeling of calm initially pervades everything personified by the music. Lighter and more upbeat and is it washes over everything, the stylish drums a highlight. An edgy, funky riff gives a serious tone before the voice-over continues, have our duo finally found their quarry? A Pink Floyd sounding guitar takes up the narrative itself, full of style and character, is the net finally closing in on the prize?

A hushed tone is heard as Sand sees Moreno beneath the pier as the chase continues.You are totally on edge, wondering what is going to happen next as she talks us through her motions, what’s that in the shadows? The music gets tense, restless and skittish, the riff staccato and ill-at-ease, what is happening? You can’t help but feel excitable and, your nerves on edge, mirroring the guitar and drums. There is a confrontation, is Moreno okay, has she been shot? She fires back, her prey is down but is that the end? The track close with a funky, stylish soundtrack, almost triumphant in tone.

Loose Ends, what has occurred? Trask arrives on the scene amid utter confusion, who has been shot? Who is the monster? Oh my god, the twist in the tale is utterly brilliant and convincing and you sit open-mouthed as the rest of the story unfolds and we segue into Monster. The storytelling brilliance of Mark Healy left you toally open to that unexpected turn in the story. I’m not going to spoil it for you, honestly buy the album and enjoy that heart-in-the-mouth moment yourself. The rest of the track closes the story perfectly with the voice-over underpinned by poignant and reflective music full of emotion, some of the best music Mark has produced yet, mature, intelligent and it hits home perfectly with the unforeseen ending to the scene…

The story finally unfolds with the final track Survival, an astute monologue delivered to the rapt listener, still a little in shock from the outcome that was so unanticipated. You hang on every word, just as you would watching the final scene of a brilliant movie you’ve seen at the cinema. The music then takes over melancholy, mournful and a little disconsolate, I felt it in my own heart, a lament for an unknown future with little hope, wistful and forlorn.

I have never made it a secret that I am a fan of Mark Healy, not just his Hibernal project but also his sci-fi novels. His inventive and innovative mind never fails to surprise me to deliver an utterly immersive and vivid world which he fills with his utterly credible, world-weary characters and delivers deeply engaging and fascinating stories that draw you in completely. With ‘The Dark Of The City’ he has surpassed the previous wonderful ‘audio-movies’ and given us his best work yet, the way the story unfolds is real genius and I can’t wait to see what this ever imaginative and creative artist will come up with next.

Released 12th January 2017

Buy ‘The Dark Of The City’ direct from Hibernal

 

 

Hibernal Announce New Album – The Dark Of The City

Mark Healy, the man behind the incredible sci-fi worlds of the Hibernal music project, has announced details of the latest album that is to be released on January 12th 2017.

Mark Healy is an author of sci-fi fiction. His music project Hibernal interweaves these sci-fi stories with instrumental music to tell a compelling storyline that unfolds throughout the course of the album.

The new record, ‘The Dark Of The City’, is based around the story of a cop who undertakes a relentless search for the creature that killed her partner. This new collection of 10 tracks follows on from his three previous releases, 2013’s ‘The Machine’, 2014’s ‘Replacements’ and ‘After The Winter’, released in April of last year.

I had this to say about ‘After The Winter’:

Mark Healy’s cinematic and evocative soundscapes waft over a post-apocalyptic spoken word storyline to deliver an immensely visceral listening experience.”

You can pre-order ‘The Dark Of The City’ now and get a download of the title track immediately.

Pre-order here

Check out the video for the title track below:

Progradar’s ‘Best of 2015’ review – by Progradar

David

A scary picture to get things started, it’s that time of year again when everyone puts out their ‘Best of 2015’ album list and I’m no different to every other music journalist, budding or otherwise.

Lists like these are very subjective, after all, one man’s poison is another man’s wine but they’re fun to do and give a real retrospective of some of the great music that has been released over the past 12 months or so.

BEM logo

First off, the usual disclaimer, I won’t include any Bad Elephant Music releases as some people might say I’d be slightly biased. However, once again, this tiny independent label has given us some mighty impressive music from the likes of The Room, Tom Slatter, Simon Godfrey, The Fierce and the Dead and Twice Bitten, among others, all of which can be sampled at the link below:

Bad Elephant Music

I tried to get it down to a top 15, never mind a top ten, but that proved too difficult so, here it is, Progradar’s top 20 albums of 2015. Don’t see the position as being too indicative as, really, albums 20-6 could be in any given order on any given day, the quality is that close. The top 5, however, are my definitive top 5 albums for 2015.

Enough pre-amble, here we go……

20 – Transport Aerian – Dark Blue

A deeply dark, disturbing and highly original work of art from this talented, serious musician. Well worth a listen but, be afraid, very afraid!

19 – Steve Rothery – The Ghosts of Pripyat

Marillion’s guitarist is venturing further afield with his solo work and it’s simple, faraway beauty is quite inspiring. Put your feet up, get your headphones on, lay back and relax.

18 – Barock Project – Skyline

An unexpected highlight of the year, hopefully the fourth album by this extremely talented and still relatively young band will see them break into the mainstream of the progressive rock market. I for one think that, with music as deeply enjoyable and illuminating as this, that they definitely deserve it!

17 – The Aaron Clift Experiment – Outer Light, Inner Darkness

A new release full of sophistication and depth and powerful, thoughtful songs that resonate deeply with you. An album about duality, darkness and light and imbued with intricate compositions, complex arrangements and virtuosic performances, you will want this delight in your collection, trust me…..

16 – Mystery – Delusion Rain

2015 saw Canadian prog-rockers Mystery return with  a new album and a new lead singer and it was as if they’d never been away. Jean Pageau has a voice that fits perfectly with the melodic progressive rock that the band deliver with aplomb. The epic track The Willow Tree is a superb, intricate and emotional hit of passion and takes the album from merely good to very good indeed.

15 – Hibernal – After the Winter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdPh-mbJh0c

Mark Healy’s cinematic and evocative soundscapes waft over a post-apocalyptic spoken word storyline to deliver an immensely visceral listening experience.

14 – Built for the Future – Chasing Light

‘Chasing Light’ is one of those rare albums that grabs you immediately AND keeps on getting better with every listen. Built for the Future’s debut release is a thing of rare wonder that resonates with me on a personal level, their commitment to delivering music that connects deeply with the listener has produced a record that shines brightly.

13 – Sylvium – Waiting for the Noise

Superb progressive rock with tones of Porcupine Tree and Riverside. A musical experience that emphasizes emotions rather than the eternal quest for a perfect pop song.

12 – The Wynntown Marshalls – The End of the Golden Age

Scottish tinged Americana with powerful and haunting songwriting and outstanding musicianship.

11 – Echolyn – I Heard You Listening

Storytelling by music, getting to the heart of the matter and opening up small town America. A band I have heard little of in the past, this new album will definitely change that, a melting pot of sweet melodies and delicious harmonies.

10 – Tiger Moth Tales – Storytellers Part One

An album that is even better than the delights of ‘Cocoon’. My inner child is brought to the fore by the magic, charm and allure of ‘Story Tellers Part 1′, it takes me away to an inner nirvana where nothing can touch me or spoil my mood.

9 – Comedy of Errors – Spirit

Do you believe music has soul? I do and, when it is as deeply involving and emotionally uplifting (and draining to be honest!) as this, it becomes life affirming in many ways. All the songs were written by Jim Johnston but I’m sure even he would agree that they are given life by the whole of Comedy of Errors.

8 – Glass Hammer – The Breaking of the World

It could have been this studio album or the equally impressive ‘Glass Hammer – Live’, recorded at this year’s RosFest but, first, let’s get the Yes comparison out of the way, these guys do traditional progressive rock so well they have transcended that to stand in their own circle of praise. A highly impressive effort once again.

7 – Karnataka – Secrets of Angels

The first album written specifically for vocalist Hayley Griffith’s voice, a symphonic prog- rock masterpiece with towering anthems and delicate ballads concluding with the epic twenty-minute plus title track.

6 – The Tangent – A Spark in the Aether

A return to traditional progressive rock, incredibly addictive, flippant and irreverent and, well, just darn good fun!

5 – Big Big Train – Wassail (yes, I know it’s only an E.P. but I like it!!)

You can put your heroes on a pedestal to be knocked off when they don’t reach your lofty expectations but, with ‘Wassail’, Big Big Train have just enhanced their reputation as purveyors of unique and sublime progressive rock which is founded on the elemental history of this blessed isle. A history that is fundamental to the everlasting allure of this captivating group of musicians.

4 – Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah II

‘Arcade Messiah II’ takes all that was good with the first album and enhances by taking the raw, coruscating energy of the first release and developing it into a superb sound that, while holding nothing back, is full of nuances and intelligence. A ‘Wall of Sound’ that makes Phil Spector’s look like a diminutive picket fence and it is quite possibly the best thing this highly talented musician has ever produced.

3 – Maddison’s Thread – Maddison’s Thread

Folk is rooted at the core of Maddison’s Way but this album is all about the music and the way Lee can diversify with aplomb is very impressive. A contender for album of the year for me and one that will stay with me for a very long time.

2- Subsignal – The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime

See, this is why these bloody lists are only subjective. I had mine all worked out and then I listened to the fourth album from German band Subsignal and it was blown out of the water. Arisen from the ashes of the great Sieges Even, the first three albums by the band failed to really hit the heights for me. Well, all is most definitely forgiven as ‘The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime’ has just hit me right on the correct spot and elevated them to a higher level. It has a real emotional depth to it and is one that is highly, highly recommended, nearly making it to the top spot…..

1 – Riverside – Love, fear and the Time Machine

So, after a tough fight it is Polish band Riverside that take the crown this year. I have always been a fan of this band without actually loving their work. All that changed with this years beautiful release. There is a depth and maturity to this release that resonates deep to the core. The fragile, breaking vocals and signature sound have taken the band to the forefront of the progressive rock genre and, in this album, they have left behind a musical legacy of which anyone can be proud.

 

 

 

Progradar’s – ‘Best of 2015 So Far’ – Edition

ProgradarPic

Don’t be put off by the scary picture, that is actually me getting ready to tell you what albums have made my ‘Best of 2015’ list. These lists are always subjective and incredibly hard to compile. Let’s be honest, at the end of it all, it is only my opinion which can agree with or differ from, all it is meant to be is a guide to what music has really inspired me this year so far.

Firstly a self-imposed rule that I won’t include any Bad Elephant Music releases because, as you know, I attempt to be the Head of PR for this rather special record label and it could be seen as bias.

BEM logo

To be honest, all the BEM releases this year are as excellent as ever and would probably have made my list anyway so please do go to:

The BEM bandcamp site

And check out this years releases from Audioplastik, jh, We Are Kin, Tom Slatter, Emmett Elvin and The Fierce and the Dead, superb, eclectic and downright brilliant.

Right, that’s the advertising out of the way now on with the main course…..

In no particular order, here are my top 15 releases so far for 2015.

Album cover - lower resolution

Sylvium – Waiting for the Noise

Superb progressive rock with tones of Porcupine Tree and Riverside. A musical experience that emphasizes emotions rather than the eternal quest for a perfect pop song.

Cover

The Tangent –  A Spark in the Aether

A return to traditional progressive rock, incredibly addictive, flippant and irreverent and, well, just darn good fun!

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The Wynntown Marshalls – The End of the Golden Age

Scottish tinged Americana with powerful and haunting songwriting and outstanding musicianship.

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Karnataka – Secrets of Angels

The first album written specifically for vocalist Hayley Griffith’s voice, a symphonic prog- rock masterpiece with towering anthems and delicate ballads concluding with the epic twenty-minute plus title track.

2CD Wallet with Spine.pdf

Tiger Moth Tales – Storytellers Part One

An album that is even better than the delights of ‘Cocoon’. My inner child is brought to the fore by the magic, charm and allure of ‘Story Tellers Part 1′, it takes me away to an inner nirvana where nothing can touch me or spoil my mood.

cover

Hibernal – After the Winter

Mark Healy’s cinematic and evocative soundscapes waft over a post-apocalyptic spoken word storyline to deliver an immensely visceral listening experience.

DARKBLUE COVER low-res

Transport Aerian – Darkblue

A deeply dark, disturbing and highly original work of art from this talented, serious musician. Well worth a listen but, be afraid, very afraid!

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Echolyn – I Heard You Listening

Storytelling by music, getting to the heart of the matter and opening up small town America, sometimes a band can come very close to perfection with a new release and this album is as close to a must buy album as I’ve heard this year.

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The Aaron Clift Experiment – Outer Light, Inner Darkness

An excellent new release full of sophistication and depth and powerful, thoughtful songs that resonate deeply with you. An album about duality, darkness and light and imbued with intricate compositions, complex arrangements and virtuosic performances, you will want this delight in your collection, trust me…..

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Glass Hammer – The Breaking of the World

Let’s get the Yes comparison out of the way, these guys do traditional progressive rock so well they have transcended that to stand in their own circle of praise. A highly impressive effort once again.

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Built for the Future – Chasing Light

All sorts of influences combine in this impressive melting pot to deliver a debut album of sheer beauty. I was so surprised by the quality and heartfelt emotion of this album, it is that good!

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Maddison’s Thread – self-titled

Folk is rooted at the core of Maddison’s Way but this album is all about the music and the way Lee can diversify with aplomb is very impressive. A contender for album of the year for me and one that will stay with me for a very long time.

Eidos - Cover

Kingcrow – Eidos

Progressive metal that is more prog than metal. I will probably upset some people here but, to me, this is the thinking man’s Opeth, much more accessible and quite deeply, darkly moving.

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Barock Project – Skyline

An unexpected highlight of the year so far, hopefully the fourth album by this extremely talented and still relatively young band will see them break into the mainstream of the progressive rock market. I for one think that, with music as deeply enjoyable and illuminating as this, that they definitely deserve it!

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Kinetic Element – Travelog

An album of ‘opulent ear candy’ featuring 5 tracks of classic progressive rock that harks back to the 70’s. Superb musicianship featuring everything from jazz basslines, intricate guitar work and soaring keyboards combine with delightful vocals to deliver something that every prog fan will like.

I chose not to include E.P’s but there have been a couple that have stood out for me this year so far Big Big Train’s ‘Wassail’ and Progoctopus’ ‘Transcendence’ are both excellent and well worth catching up on.

Like I have already said, lists like this are very subjective and other albums could have made it so here is a selection of ‘honourable mentions’ that have really struck a chord with me this year so far……

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So there we have it, just over half of 2015 has passed and we have so much more new music to look forward to. Let me know your thoughts, there will be albums you expected and some you didn’t no doubt and I’ll see you at the beginning of 2016 for the year end awards!