Album: A Distant (Dark) Source
Label: Pelagic Records
Genre: Ambient Avant-Garde Metal
Release Date: November 22nd, 2019
Ever since its conception countless years ago, music has always been a medium for telling stories. In the current world of music, especially popular music, it has become more of a simple assortment of pleasant sounds and catchy vocals. For the most part, it appears that the story-telling element has been set on the sidelines. Of course, there are many bands and artists that continue to use music as a form of a narrative through the vocal deliveries but there are even fewer that use the music itself as a true story telling device; Hypno5e is one of those artists. Hypno5e has always masterfully created a whole story in the instrumentation alongside the vocals to the point to where they’re described as a cinematic progressive metal band and as annoying as these hyper-descriptive subgenre tags can get, it honestly hits the nail on the head with Hypno5e. After releasing a soothing acoustic album/score just last year, Hypno5e are back with A Distant (Dark) Source, returning to their original sound (a la Acid Mist Tomorrow and Shores of the Abstract Line) and it only further cements how truly captivating story tellers these musicians truly are.
Although A Distant (Dark) Source has eleven tracks, it truly is only five as three of those “eleven” tracks are three-parters. Those three-part songs are each split up and feel much more like arrangements or full-blown compositions given the musical nature of these pieces as opposed to just songs; these are most certainly more than just some songs. Even the individual tracks feel like full arrangements themselves with how much these pieces step away from just metal. This record has a little bit of everything as it is mainly ambient progressive metal with Latin influence, although slightly less Latin influence as heard on their previous records. Hypno5e have really crafted a sound that truly they can call their own, the “cinematic” sound that they’re often referred to as, that blends many different types of metal from progressive, post-, avant-garde, and djent to other influences that include ambient, Latin, acoustic and so on. It would be no fun to read a listen of all the sounds found on this record, so I will end it at that; just be prepared for the massive amalgam of sounds that you are not going to be ready for. This is art that will take you on a wild ride, through the highest of highs and the lowest lows and everything in between. It is a true journey, as any great story would naturally be.
Regarding the story told in the lyrics, it is about a man returning to what remains of what was once a lake many hundreds of thousands of years ago in Bolivia. Given that a vast amount of time has passed, this lake has obviously dried up and left nothing but dry land and deposits of salt all around this large area. The story being told spans over the time of a single night, where a man returns to what is left of the lake in search of the shadow of this woman that he once loved. He isn’t technically alone either as he is amongst the shadows of all those who had lived in this area prior to its drying up and disappearance. This record is the musical interpretation of being in this desert in search of a shadow for a single night. The lyrics tell you what is going on but the instrumentation and the music itself make you really experience what this man is experiencing. Hopefully that helps you paint a mental image and further justifies the atmospheric and haunting nature that this record so beautifully displays. Note that this record is the second of a two-part project that is starting with the second part being released first, and while it may not necessarily seem logical at first, I put all my faith in Hypno5e knowing that this decision was a calculated one. A Distant (Dark) Source most certainly isn’t for the faint of heart, as it is beyond depressing and disturbing in the soundscapes created through the different arrangements and this record is just a mere taste of what is to come.
I will address right away that one of the drawbacks of this type of record is that it is meant to experienced entirely in a single listen and not have the tracks be listened to individually or shuffled; you must be a psychopath if you put concept albums on shuffle. Just cherry-picking certain tracks from records like this and putting them into a playlist really take away from the emotional and musical impact that they have given the context of their respective record. Again, this is meant to be one singular, flowing piece of music. Hypno5e certainly understand that these long tracks that reach upwards of fifteen to nearly twenty minutes can be daunting and inaccessible and they address that by splitting several of them into shorter and more easily digestible tracks. It seems as if splitting the pieces into smaller segments trims off most of the fat (although it really isn’t fat) from those longer tracks. It just makes it easier to quickly listen to some Hypno5e tracks should you only have enough a small amount of time yet a burning desire to listen to these tracks. Obviously, the songs are much more powerful and emotionally troubling when taken in the context of the full record, but that is something that listeners have to make time for when it comes to records like this. Hypno5e at least made it somewhat easier to listen to given listener time constraints. With that being said, this record really tests your patience and the payoff is beyond satisfying.
Now for the music itself, it has everything from the most brutal and schizophrenic breakdowns to the most somber and disturbingly relaxing piano and orchestral passages. Those unfamiliar with the world of progressive music would never be able to wrap their head around how a metal band can create something so aggressive and heavy to something incredibly solemn and peaceful. The opening track, On the Dry Lake, acts as the thesis to the record with the brief ambient segment only to lead right into the fast and heavy verse and then the mathy chug fest of a breakdown followed by luscious soundscapes. This track essentially summarizes most of what you will find throughout this mammoth of a record. In the Blue Glow of Dawn Pt. II slowly builds to this Gojira-esque opening breakdown that just pummels you to the ground. The outro to Part III of the same track has insanely massive pounding of the drums that are sure to blow out your car speakers. That specific part made me realize how much of a powerhouse the man behind the kit is because all over this record is mind blowing technical passages and given the length of the songs, how can anyone keep it straight; that goes for all the band members. Moving on, Part I of the title track leaves a mark on your soul with a really haunting and dissonant guitar line alongside an ambient intro. This instrumental motif is heard through the rest of the title track and the track itself culminates into this emotional explosion that you cannot help but sing along to towards the end of Part III.
One thing that has drastically improved with A Distant (Dark) Source was the production as it is extremely clean and polished in contrast to the previous record (not including the acoustic record obviously), Acid Mist Tomorrow. The difference is essentially night and day and that improvement certainly makes the heavier parts of the record hit that much harder and the slower, more melancholic passages disturb you that much more. The harsh vocals do at times sound a little low in the mix and it sometimes makes it difficult to discern the lyrics but that isn’t a problem at all for the sung vocals as they are as beautiful and clear as day. Other than that, I have zero qualms with the rest of the record. The true musicianship is blatantly obvious with how the band go back and forth between all-out instrumental chaos and extremely reserved and well put together softer passages similar to how Cult of Luna masterfully piece their songs together. It all just goes together so well and it blows my mind. Even the inclusion of the occasional French narration provides little breaths of fresh air while still carrying the momentum of the songs.
Aside from Cult of Luna’s A Dawn to Fear and Warforged’s I: Voice, there is very little that even comes close to touching what Hypno5e have accomplished with their most moving and ambitious effort, A Distant (Dark) Source. This record is a whirlwind of emotions and precise musicality that will be sure to keep you on edge. Given its hour plus runtime, it just flies by with how easy it is to get entranced in the music; you just lose all sense of time. The story telling element is masterfully incorporated into the instrumentation alongside the lyrics so you can imagine yourself being in that arid lake hopelessly searching for someone you once loved but know are gone forever. A Distant (Dark) Source is a record that demands your full undivided attention and you owe it to the pioneering masterminds behind Hypno5e to let them take your mind and soul for a spin. This is what the progression of musical development has slowly but surely been striving towards all these millennia.
- On the Dry Lake
- In the Blue Glow of Dawn – Part I
- In the Blue Glow of Dawn – Part II
- In the Blue Glow of Dawn – Part III
- A Distant Dark Source – Part I
- A Distant Dark Source – Part II
- A Distant Dark Source – Part III
- On Our Bed of Soil – Part I
- On Our Bed of Soil – Part II
- On Our Bed of Soil – Part III
- Tauca – Part II (Nowhere)
Total Playing Time: 1:10:09