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(27:10, Musea Parallele Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Cards of Life 1:44 2. Love Is Not So Far 2:59 3. Free 5:19 4. Hero 3:49 5. The Special One 3:48 6. The Rock 'n Roll Preacher 3:44 7. I'll Be There 3:16 8. A Better Life 2:31 LINEUP: Pascal Lemoine – guitars; keyboards Sebastien Denaire – vocals
Prolusion. HYDRA is a French outfit which started out in 1994. Their debut album was released on the Brennus label in 1996, and four years later a self-released follow-up album saw the light of day. Five years later the band was signed by Musea Records, which issued their third production. "The Special One" is their fourth effort, released last year on the same label.
Analysis. It can't have been easy to be a fan of Hydra over the years. On their debut "Rock Experience" they explored a form of progressive metal with AOR leanings; the privately released follow-up production "In the Stars" had more of an emphasis on what is described as heavy prog, and on their third effort, "This Famous Unknown," the outfit made a complete turnaround and explored a purebred acoustic musical landscape. And true to their history, major musical changes have taken place yet again with the contents of this latest release by this band. This time around Hydra explores a variety of styles. This quite brief creation opens and ends with atmospheric compositions that might remind the listener a bit of Pink Floyd, the former a brief instrumental exploration with lush synths, mellow guitar licks and some delicate percussion work, the latter more like a prayer with a musical backdrop, where one verse is repeated over and over again and additional voice layers are added on each repetition. The title track is a high quality, symphonic, exploration of the mellow kind, floating synths and atmospheric soloing carefully placed in the mix to produce a strongly compelling song. The rest of the album won't be of much interest to people into progressive or even complex music. The second song on this release is a blues-tinged affair reminding one a bit of Chris Rea, while the following compositions have distinct pop leanings whilst exploring musical territories pretty close to an artist like Alanis Morrisette. The rest of the songs are completely different to the ones mentioned above, as the three tracks not mentioned by now basically comes across as hair metal in style, and of the more cliched variety as well. When that is said, apart from the hair metal ventures the songs are well made and well performed and the guitar work in particular is classy. The album seems to be targeted at a mainstream audience and will have a limited appeal for anyone into truly adventurous music.
Conclusion. Hydra is a band true to its history and name association, a musically many-headed creature on several levels. Their latest creation won't appeal much to devoted fans of complex music in general and progressive music in particular, but should be worth investigating for those who like to indulge in mainstream oriented music with slight progressive leanings. The title track is the exception in this case, but I think even hardcore prog fans will hardly purchase the album for that single composition.
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