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Hamadryad - 2005 - "Safe in Conformity"

(58 min, Unicorn)

TRACK LIST:                             

1.  Anatomy of a Dream 5:51
2.  Sparks & Benign Magic 1:05
3.  Self-made Men 7:42
4.  Gentle Landslide 0:42
5.  24 6:29
6.  Frail Purpose 3:11
7.  Sunburnt 5:13
8.  One Voice 3:31
9.  Polaroid Vendetta 6:44
10. Alien Spheres 5:59
11. Omnipresent Umbra 11:43

All tracks: by Hamadryad.
Produced by Hamadryad.


Jean-Francois Desilets - vocals; bass & acoustic guitars; synthesizer
Francis Doucet - keyboards & Hammond; guitars
Yves Jalbert - electric & acoustic guitars
Denis Jalbert - drums & percussions

Prolusion. HAMADRYAD is the band from Canada's French-speaking province of Quebec, already known to many Prog lovers by their splendid debut effort, "Conservation of Masses", the first pressing of which was sold out only five months after the release. "Safe in Conformity" is their second album. The lineup remained the same, except that it has decreased from the format of a quintet to a quartet. The original singer Jocelyn Beaulleu left the band, and bassist Jean-Francois Desilets took his place behind the microphone.

Analysis. "And Then There Were Four" could've been an apt title for this effort. Most of the material sounds very much like a Genesis album, which might have been released sometime in 1975, but never saw the light of day, until now. Jean-Francois Desilets delivers his lyrics in a very good English, singing not unlike Peter Gabriel or 'early' Phil Collins, while his bass solos are probably more diverse than those by Mike Rutherford. The real Hammond organ is the central keyboard instrument here, and Francis Doucet does all his best to prove he is a good apprentice-in-absentia of Tony Banks. All the same words are applicable regarding guitarist Yves Jalbert and Steve Hackett, especially when Yves plays an acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar, the parts of which are present nearly everywhere in the music. By attracting a certain dose of fantasy, I can easily imagine "Safe in Conformity" being a kind of a blood brother of "A Trick of the Tail", having its own Dance on a Volcano (Anatomy of a Dream), Rubbery, Assault, and Battery (Sunburnt), Squonk (Alien Spheres), Ripples (24) and Entangled (Frail Purpose). Overall, the resemblance is very strong, and yet, I feel a sheer delight while listening to these, as well as the entire album. Two brief instrumental pieces, the Mellotron-laden Sparks & Benign Magic and Gentle Landslide, based on passages of classical guitar, are located on different tracks, though in reality, they are inseparable from the song: Self-made Men, which, as well as Omnipresent Umbra, is closer to some harsher and, simultaneously, more complex Genesis songs, such as The Musical Box from "Nursery Crime" or even Dancing with the Moonlit Knight from "Selling England by the Pound". There is some definite departure from the Genesis sound in the large-scaled instrumental sections on each of these, particularly when Yves Jalbert is doing high-speed solos on the electric guitar, but all of that lasts not for long. The great surprise awaits the listener the other side of the album's equator. Two songs: One Voice and Polaroid Vendetta, following one another, are as if taken from the repertoire of a different band, working in the field of aggressive Prog-Metal. Both are excellent and are completely unique, unlike the others, and yet, I wouldn't say I liked them more. Despite the strong Genesis influence, spreading on the most part of the material, the album is excellent from beginning to end.

Conclusion. With "Safe in Conformity", Hamadryad as if set themselves a task to try to reproduce Genesis's development after Gabriel's departure. In any event, I must admit they have greatly succeeded in that. This is that very rare case when a derivative music doesn't annoy me, but quite the contrary, arouses exclusively positive emotions. The point is that Hamadryad appears on this album not as blind imitators of their benefactor, but as the band that is absolutely on par with them, both compositionally and technically. The album possesses all the virtues of seventies' classic symphonic Art-Rock, that very 'magic' included. Fans of the classic Genesis sound, rejoice! Sincerely recommended.

VM: July 19, 2005

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