Released: 2003, Lion Music
Reviewer: Night of the Realm
Ponder for a moment the name of this band: Hybrid Freak Division
Ponder now the album’s title: NON-CONFORMATIVE
Kinda hard to guess what kind of sound one should expect from the band, isn’t it? Well, both band name and album title are appropriate for this Swedish instrumental 3-piece outfit. The band is a hybrid of prog rock and jazz fusion formed in 2000 by three highly skilled musicians each with formal musical education. Bassist Pär Laurén and guitarist Fredrik Andersson have been playing bass and regular guitar since the ages of 14 and 13, respectively, and drummer Björn Nyberg has sat on his throne since kindergarten. Together, the band can claim a collective musical experience totaling well over 50 years.
Though the members of the band have played together previously in a jazz band led by a Hungarian saxophonist named Janos Nemeth, NON-CONFORMATIVE is the debut album of Hybrid Freak Division since the formation of HFD in early 2000. Though Hybrid Freak Division does not hit as hard or as heavy as bands such as Spiral Architect, Spastic Ink, or Gordian Knot, the instruments interact very well with each other to weave a tapestry of notes with a number of quirky time signatures and changes, improvisation, and catchy groove. The great talent of the band is best showcased by the opening track, “Riot,” a chaotic piece of intense bass lines, and jamming drums, stitched by furious technical guitar that is simultaneously catchy and unpredictable. We’re not talking about Malone, Portnoy, and Jarzombek here, but the three fellows of Hybrid Freak Division have the knack so that each instrument seems to go in its own direction, yet still maintain the integrity and cohesion of the final product. I really love the feeling that comes from NON-CONFORMATIVE; it plays as if it the band were playing live in my stereo.
While I find the tracks on NON-CONFORMATIVE to grow better with each listen, I feel that the band could use a kicked-up tempo, especially on tracks such as “Poon-Tang Twostep,” “While You Were Sleeping,” and “Friday.” I can sit back and enjoy the jazzy groove laid out in “Nippe Signal,” or the complete jam session of “Fahrenhate,” but if the band unloaded with both barrels, as they do on “Riot,” and “Paddington,” this album would be absolutely monstrous. Their label claims them to be a great live band, and this statement I do not doubt in the least. Fans of jazz and technical progressive music should definitely give NON-CONFORMATIVE a listen.