I have a feeling there will be a lot of new release recommendations this month. First “Haven,” now this one, and I can easily think of two others that were released recently that will be mentioned in the future. Oh, the life of a music blogger.
Yet another album was released in the last week that I have been waiting for some time. I found out about this band last year, and in fact, have already written about him in the past. Being the first review that I ever did on this blog, Mark Healy’s Hibernal has recently released their follow-up to their amazing album “Replacements.”
I won’t rehash similar information here, since I don’t want to be too repetitive. You can read what I said about him almost a year ago. I do want to mention that Healy returned to the studio last year with a new idea that resides in the same world he created in his last two albums, “The Machine” and “Replacements.” What resulted is the equally magnificent “After the Winter,” a post-apocalyptic, post-progressive rock album with music that your ears will surely enjoy.
Returning on this album are Mark Healy, who wrote all the music and lyrics except the bass guitar, which is again performed by Rowan Salt. For those readers who haven’t heard of this band, here’s the shocking twist to this post: there are no sung lyrics on Hibernal records. Instead, voice actors perform with cinematic dialogue, a completely unique addition to the modern rock scene. Voicing the two characters on this album are Brad Everett and Faleena Hopkins, who I can easily imagine being on-screen actors with their poignant and emotional delivery. This album is meant to be listened to like a movie, so I recommend you engulf yourself with headphones, close your eyes, and relax.
The story of “After the Winter” doesn’t necessarily leave off where “Replacements” left off. Instead, it is up the to the listener’s imagination to fill in the blanks. In this world, an apocalyptic event has occurred with no explanation, turning the booming civilization of prior albums into ash. A synthetic human/android/whatever you’d like to call him, who contains the thoughts and memories of an actual human, is attempting to return to his human form. What happens next are twists and turns, which I will obviously not spoil. I will say that the way the album concludes is very open-ended, and I feel like this story hasn’t quite finished. Leave it to Healy to leave me wanting more.
Following a similar post-rock sound that is present in his previous albums, I feel like there are more musical interludes than his prior albums, which is great for those looking for some new instrumentals. Although the musical sections may feel more restrained than his previous work (and in some moments completely absent), what is played seems heavier between the dialogue, fitting the setting and emotion of the album. Accompanying the music are soundscapes that mimic a world devoid of life, like the crackling of fire, a gust of wind through empty streets, and completely silenced rooms. All this helps the listener to feel a part of the story, which is why Healy is a genius. His music is almost like an interactive movie: He’ll supply the subject, you supply the imagination.
Despite the simpler song structures, Healy produces solid riffs and choruses for each song, and even shines with several instances of lead guitar. Songs like “All That’s Been Lost” and “Displacement Part II” bring power to the album, leaving the listener to feel exactly what the main characters are feeling. I also love the songs “The Time Has Come” and “Worn”, with its marvelous use of sound effects to give a spacey feel to his riffs. Healy does such an amazing job in telling this story, since I can easily imagine what it going on as if it were in front of me. The listener is captured and sucked into this post-apocalyptic story, and is only released at the album’s end. Overall, “After the Winter” is a solid piece of experimental music, and I guarantee you that you will find nothing like it.
A powerful follow-up, Mark Healy has done it again with “After the Winter.” I recommend everyone check out this album, especially those who love to listen to movie scores and soundtracks. It’s impossible to compare Hibernal with other bands, so I can recommend this band to those who listen to instrumental rock or the post-rock genre in general. For instance, check out Tides of Man or Russian Circles, two bands lacking vocals that heavily rely on the emotion created by their instruments. Please support Hibernal by checking out his Bandcamp page, or by following him on Facebook. He has also released an extended written version of this album to those that prefer reading, which can be found here.
And to Mark: I appreciate your thinking-out-of-the-box approach to music. It is insightful, and is honestly some of the most unique work I’ve ever listened to. Keep it up!
Update: Check out my interview with Mark Healy here.