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Hyperion - 2006 - "The Cantos"

(59 min, Gazul)

TRACK LIST:                    
1.  Prolog 5:27
2.  Old Earth 4:31
3.  God's Grove 7:41
4.  Alliance Maui 4:31
5.  Heaven's Gate 3:55
6.  Sol Draconi Septem 10:01
7.  Lusus 4:27
8.  Tien Shan 5:36
9.  Pacem 5:41
10. Hyperion 6:25


Olivier Freche - guitars; keyboards; programming; vocals
Remy Chaudagne - double bass 
Stefan Von Laue - violin
Jeremy Dicecca - cello
Arthur Bertone - drums
Latif Khan - tabla
Eric Plande - sax

Prolusion. "The Cantos" is the debut release by HYPERION from France. I believe it is clear to at least a few of you dear readers that this album is inspired by Dan Simmons' sci-fi tetralogy "The Hyperion Cantos". (Personally I only like the first book from that serial, whereas the last one, "The Rise of Endymion", reminds me more of a soap opera than a space one.)

Analysis. Since I reviewed Non-Credo's "Impropera" just yesterday, I'm experiencing a kind of deja vu at the moment. "The Cantos" is yet another discordant album plus it's overloaded with effects and narratives too, but what's especially marvelous is that I like only the first three and the last two tracks here as well! I understand that any fixed standpoint becomes dangerous if it replaces an intuition with itself, but this is not such a case, and I am fully aware of what I say here. The recording runs almost one hour, of which, however, only about 40 minutes are real music. So I can't resist the temptation to put an ironical question in this respect: How could this 'epic' fruit of inspiration born of a space saga have gone without spacey effects and narrations? I think I'd better omit all these pointless makeweights when dressing:-) the disc in parts, since no less than a half of the tracks are not free of these, whilst Alliance Maui and the 10-minute (!) Sol Draconi Septem are for the most part just built on them. Overall, both can at best be viewed as a sort of modern / electronic take on vintage Psychedelic Rock, although the former contains an episode with quite pleasing orchestral arrangements, and the latter the one instantly evoking Pink Floyd's semi-acoustic ballads. Not surprisingly, Tien Shan has a strong Chinese feeling throughout. This is a nice, but superficial tune whose contemplative essence perfectly suits the idiom of World Music. Just like each of the said three, the opening track, Prolog, is performed by Olivier Freche alone, besides which the man plays only a piano here. Nonetheless this is quite an elegant little concerto of Classical music, well reflecting Olivier's strong command of keyboards, as well as his aptitude as a composer. As to the most attractive compositions on the album, namely Old Earth, Pacem, God's Grove and Hyperion, all these feature most of the musicians declared (see lineup above). Each stands out above all for its lush string arrangements, those played by real instruments being certainly more impressive than the synthetic ones, although I won't deny that the latter are quite naturalistic in their sound and possess a certain charm too. Pacem and Hyperion are both performed without drums and are generally very kindred works associated exclusively with requiems. The latter is the sole track that finds Olivier genuinely singing, and if I were in its maker's place I would have called it The Fall of Hyperion. Old Earth is probably the deepest and, at the same time, most innovative composition in the set. It is difficult for me to describe it in detail, but I can tell you this is predominantly slow, yet ever-changing music which I see as chamber Doom Metal. The conga-driven God's Grove concludes the list of highlights. This tune aurally reminds me of a variegated open-air market, which for some reason:-) I see being located somewhere in the north of Africa rather than on Hyperion. The only really dynamic composition on the disc, Heaven's Gate, reveals a driving full-band sound which down to the smallest details evokes King Crimson during their second incarnation in the '80s. Despite its heavily derivative nature, this is highly impressive music. What is really repellent is that it is always accompanied by a terribly monotonous robotic voice - what the hell is that about? Finally Lusus: I see no reason to enlarge on a track representing a set of snatches and sketches that aren't linked between themselves at all.

Conclusion. When I saw the title of this album I expected to hear something at least remotely resembling the work of Canadians Voivod. With the exception of the Crimson-influenced piece (with great reserve though), there is nothing of that kind here, the music in most cases being both slow and relatively peaceful - even at its heaviest. Where are the raging battles that "The Hyperion Cantos" are probably most of all famed for, Olivier? To put the finishing touch to the review I should note that only two fifths of this CD is really worth a listen.

VM: January 3, 2007

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