Hypno5e: ‘Sheol’ Review

The artwork for Sheol

Hypno5e have been an outfit since 2003, now signed to Pelagic Records (The Ocean, BRUIT ≤, Psychonaut, and more),  having released 7 albums total over the last 20 years. Now with a new drummer (Pierre Rettien) and bassist (Charles Villanueva) on board to join founding member Emmanuel Jessua on vocals, as well as Jonathan Maurois on guitars, ‘Sheol’ marks these two new members’ first studio album with the band.

A handful of my friends have raved about this band for a few years, and today, I have decided to break my Hypno5e cherry. And at a very first impression, I’d have to lay them at somewhere between The Ocean and Slice The Cake. So if you’re familiar with either of those artists and know what stunning music they can create, then this might very well be a release just for you. Join me for my somewhat first impressions of Hypno5e as we dive into Sheol.

I mentioned already about parts of this album reminding me of Slice The Cake, but the opening track Sheol was what led me to that sudden, but immediate conclusion. Broken up into two parts, Nowhere and Lands of Haze, this track lays the foundation work for the rest of the album. Nowhere is really just a track to set the scene for the record. Sadly my foreign language skills can’t quite decipher what’s being said at this point – but we can come to some conclusions from the band’s description of the record (taken from their Bandcamp listing).

“In the Hebrew Bible, Sheol is the place where all souls meet after their death, to remain in silence and to turn to dust once more,” explains main songwriter Emmanuel Jessua about the album title. It is the distant dark source as described on the band’s previous record – a thrilling 70-minute long magnum opus which saw the band conjure up a night on the old shores of the lake, following a man looking for the ghost of a woman he loved.

“Sheol is the story of what was before that night,” continues Emmanuel. “The two albums are built, like the myth of Sysyphus, in a cycle. ‘Sheol’ begins where ‘A Distant (Dark) Source’ stops and ‘A Dis- tant (Dark) Source’ ends where ‘Sheol’ begins.”

As the sound opens up, Lands of Haze opens into a brutal breakdown to contrast the subtleties of the introductory part of this suite. This is where the real meat and potatoes lie on Sheol. The guitar parts aren’t too overbearing or intrusive, but they still manage to be heavy and dense – a key example of where heavier doesn’t mean more distortion. And in this distortion-light arrangement, it means that all of the other parts are exposed. There is nowhere to hide in the mix. And because of this, the drumming on this track stands out more than anything in these sections. There are a lot of clever rhythmic passages underneath the vocal lines, and despite how busy they are, they don’t manage to get in the way of the other musicians. Combined with tight production, this two-part track has instantly hit all of the right synapses in my brain.

Bone Dust is a beautiful work, with some string playing brought in that manages to bring in another emotive layer in combination with the timbre of Emmanuel’s vocals. There’s even more of that style of drumming I love too. It sounds unfair to describe the rest of this track outside of the string section as “more of the same”, but when that same is so gosh darn tasty, is it really a problem that we can have another slice of the delicious Hypno5 pie?

The first time I heard Tauca, Pt I – Another, I fell in love. Emmanuel’s vocals on this track are serene, matched with unsettling acoustic instrumental accompaniment from the piano and guitar – it has the spirit of Opeth’s Damnation record, but in very much its own unique way. I have yet to find Part 2 however…

Lava from the Sky brings us back into the heavier stuff. I think the riffs hit harder here than on any other track on the album, combined with Emmanuel’s quite frankly terrifying harshes, leading to crushing brutality. With the once again addition of the string section, Lava from the Sky is possibly the best track to listen to if you want something that gives you every flavour of what Sheol can do for your ears. And for that reason, it has to be my second favourite track. And that’s because the next one tops it.

The longest single track on the album is The Dreamer and His Dream – if we decide not to combine the suites together – at a whopping 12:45. The first time I heard this, I fell in love with the slow, yet dramatic orchestral intro. The way in which it’s been recorded, you can pick up on every breath and subtle key noises of the clarinet playing. I’ll sound like a fool if this turned out to be from an orchestral library, as here it sounds like the real deal. It’s gorgeous how this track slowly evolves and builds around you, enveloping one’s ears in a sonically charged spooning session. I love that at 4:21 the snare hits are just slightly inconsistent in dynamic moving through this brutal section. Everything about this track is quite frankly stunning. It’s unapologetically human. And it’s exactly what I love from my modern metal records.

The closing track Slow Steams of Darkness is what I can only describe as particularly tasty in the journey that it takes you on as a listener – but I’ll leave that one up to you to discover for yourself. I will say however, just like the rest of this record, it does not disappoint.

With Sheol, Hypno5e have perfected the balancing act of soft and heavy in the metal scene, giving listeners a soft beauty juxtaposed with brutality. That’s something I always admire in a record, and I’m sure that this won’t be the last time I spin some Hypno5e. Sheol has tickled me in all the right places, and I’m very glad to have given it a go in what seems like an impossible sea of new releases in the modern metal scene.

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