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.

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