Hamadryad - "Conservation Of Mass"
(Unicorn Records 2001, UNCR-5002)
From Aural Innovations #17 (September 2001)
Prog rock bands have some of the coolest names, but darned if I often don't know what the heck the names mean. So I'm thankful to Unicorn Records for revealing in their promo sheet that in classical mythology, the Hamadryad was a wood nymph fabled to live and die with the tree to which she was attached. Her mission was to be the link between the mortal and immortal entities.
Hamadryad are a Montreal based ensemble of top notch musicians who play a classic progressive rock style that draws on a number of influences. The sound of Yes is prominent mostly due to much of the vocals that are similar to Jon Anderson in both sound and singing style. But throughout the album I also hear Genesis, some metal influences, and Kansas at their most complex (think Magnum Opus). The band consists of Jean-Francois Désilets on bass, Denis Jalbert on guitar, Yves Jalbert on drums, Francis Doucet on keyboards, and Jocelyn Beaulieu on vocals and guitar.
Among the highlights is "Amora Demonis". After a brief spacey opening, the full band kicks in hard and heavy playing rockin' prog that combines crunchy metallic power chords with more melodic segments. This is a seriously tight band that shifts gears continuously and fluidly. Denis Jalbert is a killer guitarist who alternates comfortably and coherently between metal, fusion, and classic rock styles, and we even briefly hear an eastern-influenced psych bit. "The Second Round" is a standout track for the great combination of fiery guitar licks and organ. A red hot rocker with plenty of complex rhythmic gymnastics to satisfy the prog crowd. "Still They Laugh Pt.2" sees the band moving into symphonic territory with majestic orchestral keyboards, and a surprisingly trippy section at the end. "Shades Of Blue" is a heavy progressive tune with lots of symphonics, but also a strong fusion element from the guitar.
"...Action!", "Nameless", and "Watercourse Hymn" are all ten minute tracks that include all the classic prog elements... gorgeous soaring melodic passages, kick ass guitar/keyboard workouts, and phenomenal musicianship. Proggies will drool over these tracks, and they are great, though I thought the other tracks on the CD do a better job of making Hamadryad establish more of their own sound. "Watercourse Hymn", however, is memorable for it's wonderful acoustic passages, and also has the most overtly Genesis sounding music on the album. Highly recommended to fans of classic progressive rock who want all the trademark styles and instrumental proficiency along with it.
For more information you can visit the Hamadryad web site at: http://www.hamadryadmusic.com.
Hear sound samples at their Mp3.com web site at: http://www.mp3.com/hamadryad.
Conservation Of Mass is distributed by Unicorn Records. You can visit their web site at: http://www.unicornrecords.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Unicorn Records; PO Box 95016; Lorraine, Quebec, J6Z 4P1; Canada.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz