06 Oct 2021 - Gene
Progressive, Post Metal | Flowing Downward | Release date: 15 Oct 2021
As if out of nowhere comes a stellar progressive post-metal album to complicate our year-end lists.
Well, not exactly out of nowhere. After a short demo and the honing of their skills in their respective outfits, the Belgian collective returns to lay down an impeccably crafted concept full-length seemingly sans peine.
On first listen, Meridian shares many of the same thematic and sonic intricacies that made Psychonaut’s Unflold The Godman top my personal year-end list two years in a row (I shit you not). The sick guitar tone, the on-point vocal harmonies (an indelible sense of quiet-loud balance) the austere themes belied by the heavy groove, guitar in the drum pocket a la stoner rock. It is no surprise the main writer/vocalist is Psychonaut’s Stefan De Graef as Hippotraktor shares much of the refined and deft approach of that project. It takes on, too, other layers that peal away gradually. And that is a very exciting prospect: there is more detail to unwrap with every listen. At what grand narrative does it yet hint?
Narutally, Hippotraktor found the perfect home for themselves at Pelagic Records, offering as masterful a testament as The Ocean, heady as Hypno5e, easily ambitious as Abraham, and chock-full of the best influences in the genre; a backstory and a prose finessed about as perfectly as one can hope. Fantastic guitar work. Killer drums. Yeah, this album is awesome!
This big-riff behemoth delights in fortuitously tight time changes, a bit more reserved than previous projects when it needs to be, not as brash, even meditative at times. Then massive as it gets, screams cutting through syncopated rhythms, as on “Mover Of Skies” The grit and power in the vocals smartly balanced with the soaring cleans on the lead-in to ”Sons of Amesha.” Ensuing then, some heavy post-metal, uplifted by pointed synths.
The expanded band seems to have an edge here; able to sustain dense soundscapes somewhere between The Ocean, Meshugguh and Tool – if we are to dip ‘mainstream’ – showcased perfectly on strong single, ”God Is In The Slumber” and the brilliant “Juncture,” at which point some insane guitar-work begins to really stand out on the album. Stepping up a notch in that manner, “Beacons” pulls it all in and flips past 11 to become my absolute favorite cut of ingenious proggy brutality on this record and that is not an easy admission, in light of the massive closer, “A Final Animation,” in particular.
The album favors at different times, from different angles, one approach or another – a new set of characteristics and influences, shifting times and modes, stretching the limits of the form, and asking big questions in the process. And this all makes for an awesome sound familiar in the Pelagic roster, but entirely scrambled, exciting, proggy, heavy, this bizzarly reconstituted hypocratic genius of an epic record called Meridian.