Reviewed: [April 2019]
Released: [2019 Self-released]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Black Brane serves as in introduction to the intriguing multinational prog-metal collective Hypersphere, which combines the efforts of a half-dozen musicians from North America and Europe. Masterminded by Mexican-born/now Canadian guitarist Gustavo E., the project has something of an open-source concept with the musicians and vocalists contributing their individual components from afar.
Indeed, during the making of the four-song EP, none of the musicians – who hail from France, Canada, Germany, Romania and the U.S. – actually met in person, according to the group’s website. And while that may seem like a recipe for a rudderless mess – given there are two vocalists, two string/orchestration contributors and entire continents between them and Gustavo – the marriage of the various parts of Black Brane is largely a successful one.
Opting for an EP rather than a full-length length was probably a smart move here, as it allows for more focus and a concentration of effort. This is certainly a case where quality wins out over quantity.
Hypersphere’s sound offers a mix of symphonic/melodic metal, modern prog metal and black/death metal, with ambient/electronic flourishes that, again, could have made for a dubious sonic stew but for the most part work together quite well here. The sawing strings that dance atop the grinding riffs throughout “Tetragons,” the EP’s final and heaviest track, are especially effective.
The group take a page here from Italy’s Fleshgod Apocalypse, though without overdoing it, something Fleshgod has been doing a lot lately – though their new album, Veleno, which is out in May, peels that back considerably. Elsewhere, the symphonic splashes, mixing strings and keys, have a more Dimmu Borgir black metally feel – though, again, without Dimmu’s well-chronicled excesses – nicely contrast the EP’s metallic bluster and mix-and-match vocals.
“Cylapsis” opens the EP with a Dream Theater-like vibe, melding turbulent rhythms, tangled riffs and spirited keyboards with progressive flair. Lead vocalist Flavien Morel shows some impressive range, moving from a gruff growl to Rob Halford-esque soaring cleans with seeming ease. The title track is a bit djentier with its heaving hooks and stutter-step tempo, but with a black metal tapestry of violin and synths. “Mind One” kicks up the tempo and sets a death metal mood that “Tetragons” then gives a blacker tone to close things out.
Hypersphere is an ambitious project that ultimately pays off despite the distance between, and lack of familiarity of, those involved. It speaks highly of Gustavo’s musical directorship, getting a team effort out of the very anti-thesis of a team, as well of the dedication of the musicians themselves – all of whom give inspired performances despite, quite literally, phoning their work in.