Hailing from France, Hypno5e describe their work as “cinematic metal”. I took that to mean that the album should be enjoyed in one sitting. Looking down the track list, there were 5 discreet titles, some of which were broken into 3 acts. This gave the album 11 tracks, with a duration of 1 hour and 10 minutes.
The band summed the inspiration for this album as, “The album is an inward journey to the land of the ghosts of the past. At the origin of this distant dark source lies Tauca, an old Paleolithic lake located in Bolivia, where singer and guitarist Emmanuel Jessua has grown up, and continues to find inspiration for his musical endeavors. Lake Tauca disappeared more than fifteen thousand years ago, leaving behind an arid land and salt lakes. A Distant (Dark) Source is the musical imagination of a night in this desert, during which the old shores of the lake see the return of the shadows of the people who used to live in this area before its disappearance. A man comes back to the lake to look for the shadow of the woman he loved. The album tells the story of this ephemeral return.”
“On the Dry Lake” washed in with a low key opening, with words spoken in French. It was pretty, accompanied by deep undertones. The sound was unhurried, but soon the spoken words became more urgent. The music roughened up and leapt forward. It’s nature was intricate and complex, with double kick drumming and multiple guitar layers. The vocals were intense and gruff. There were extended periods of instrumentation, with many shifts in shape, intensity and tempo. At many points there was a multitude of things going on in terms of the structure, techniques and instruments used. Later, the speaker returned against a pared down backdrop. This track took time to develop atmosphere and for setting the stage for what was to come.
“In the Blue Glow of Dawn, Pt. 1” dawned with a simple opening of strings and clean guitar accompanied by a slow bass progression. It was quite beautiful and coherent, with the vocals coming in late. It’s sound was restrained and together and it gave me the impression of rain.
“In the Blue Glow of Dawn, Pt. 2” leapt forward seamlessly, with an intense metal sound that included a multitude of elements, including double kick drumming and differing guitar interjections. It then dropped down a gear, before kicking back up again. Like the first track, this one had multiple personalities.
“In the Blue Glow of Dawn, Pt. 3” opened with commentary in French, backed by a simple and soothing musical arrangement. Robust vocals were then employed, before the track fell away to minimal elements. The music then again muscled up into its trademark labyrinthine nature.
“A Distant Dark Source, Pt. 1” Like the first time the three staged track was used, this part began with a simple instrumental arrangement to set the scene. A low down bass backdrop served as anchor for some clever guitar picking. It was moody and atmospheric and held its serene attitude until the end.
“A Distant Dark Source, Pt. 2” I was expecting a thunderous transition, but it didn’t eventuate. There was an elaboration upon the previous track that then segwayed into a heavier sound, accompanied by powerful, harsh vocals. This track utilised switches between multiple musical styles well, including one that was machine or music box-like. It was a confronting array of sound and elements.
“A Distant Dark Source, Pt. 3” continued the challenging mosaic. However, it soon settled and calmed, whilst retaining its intricate character in the background. It then flipped back to the intense vocals and compelling conglomerate of sound. Throughout it sped up and slowed down and it also included an excellent piano section.
“On Our Bed of Soil, Pt. 1” began with a heavy rumbling, with sparse notes delivered by an acoustic guitar. It was elemental and ethereal, before a few more layers were added. However, it retained its character of a restrained opener for the tracks to follow.
“On Our Bed of Soil, Pt. 2” Guitar riffs joined in on top of the subtle backdrop of the previous track. I really enjoyed this sound. The breakdown then appeared subtly, with the intense vocals joining in, just below the surface, before the track broke down properly and marched on with typical vigour. The track built to a crescendo, featuring staccato percussion and urgent thrashing. Haunting and ghostly vocals then closed out the track.
“On Our Bed of Soil, Pt. 3” began with simple percussion and elegant vocal harmonies. A voice speaking in English joined in, before flourishes and instrumental elements were added over time. The result was a breakdown of epic proportions. An exceptional harmony between the mad metal voice and the clean and musical one was inspired.
“Tauca, Pt. II (Nowhere)” utilised another narrative spoken in French against a calm and understated strings arrangement. Vocals were initially used sparingly and the keyboard arrangement sounded like rain. The breakdown burst in with a wall of sound, before vocals dripping with raw emotion pleaded for understanding. The track closed off with what sounded like a person leaving and someone communicating by radio.
There were two main personalities utilised on this album. On one side there was a laid back amalgamation of rock themes that added an air of melancholy. On the other side was a cogent and intense collection of metal styles. Djent, black metal, classical influences, death metal and progressive metal all made appearances. The transitions between them were typically seamless, except in the cases where it was a breakdown and that shock value was desired by Hypno5e. The interplay between the sides created an emotive landscape that was all encompassing.
The sound of the album was often powerful and ethereal, sometimes compelling and at other times confronting.
The tracks were often long, containing a plethora of styles, tempos and ideas. In places, this was wearying, as there was TOO much going on. However, there was no denying the skill of the musicians and that of the engineering that went into the album.
Like many offerings of this nature, this album is long and some of the tracks are massive. I got lost a few times – not because I was lost in the music – the track seemed to be lost and not going anywhere. But, I am sure that this is a character flaw of my own.
It’s compelling and atmospheric work, at times intense and at others serene. I could indeed imagine it being as a dry lake in the desert at night, as souls from the past seek out lost loves.