Jun 062024

(Andy Synn is far from indifferent to the new album from Hippotraktor, out tomorrow on Pelagic Records)

Contrary to popular belief, there is at least some method to our madness here at NCS.

I’ll grant you, said method mostly just amounts to us messaging each other back and forth going “do you want this… I can do it if you don’t have time… ok, you do that one instead…” but it’s a method that mostly/sort of/kinda works.

Case in point, my man DGR originally had Hippotraktor‘s new one pencilled in on his review queue but eventually yielded it to me when he realised that, with everything else going on, he just wouldn’t have time to give it the attention it deserved.

And since it was me who originally wrote about the band here, way back in 2021 when I reviewed their first album, it only made sense that I be the one to pick up the slack.

So let’s see how much the band have changed in the last three years, or whether they’ve just remained… in stasis.

At first it may seem like not much has changed – oh, sure, the sound is a little bigger, and a little brighter, but that’s mostly what you’d expect from a sophomore release – as the gargantuan, post-Meshuggah grooves and pristine, Post-Metal melodies of “Descent” suggest that Stasis is just going to be Meridian all over again… just with a little more of everything.

But, then, all of a sudden, this all drops away and the eloquent, emotive clean vocals take centre-stage and you start to get an inkling of just how Hippotraktor have shifted their sound, ever so subtly, towards an even proggier and more melodic approach

Now, to be clear, the band haven’t forgotten how to be heavy (if anything Stasis is, overall, a distinctly heavier album than its predecessor) nor are the clean vocals an entirely new addition to the band’s creative quiver.

It’s just that the pursuit of heaviness clearly isn’t the band’s primary purpose (though the album’s guitar tone is absolutely huge) and by pushing the creatively proggy, clean-sung melodies to even greater prominence during tracks like the gorgeously groovy “Echoes” and the richly textured “Renegade” (whose fluid, quiet/loud dynamic hints at an almost Deftones-esque approach) it becomes clear that the band have made a conscious decision to switch their songwriting focus this time around.

Again, much of Stasis still hits with an impressive amount of auditory weight – the title-track, for example, is a massive, biomechanical monster containing some of the calmest, and most crushing, moments on the entire album – it’s just that the record’s overall “heaviness” feels more like a consequence of how the band have textured and structured and layered their sound… a means to an end, as it were, rather than an end unto itself.

And while Hippotraktor remain one of the very few bands who might, one day, possibly fill the void left by the dissolution of my beloved Benea Reach, what really stood out to me, the more I listened to tracks like the moodily metallic “Silver Tongue” and the brooding ebb and flow of “The Indifferent Human Eye”, was just how much the band have taken inspiration – whether consciously or unconsciously I can’t say for certain – from Coal-era Leprous in the way they constructed such a complex, yet strangely catchy, sound on Stasis.

There’s still some room for improvement (or, at least, refinement) of course (the band’s preference for “proggy”, rather than “poppy”, melody is certainly to their credit but can, occasionally, be a little too introverted for its own good) but the decision to pursue the less predictable path (as epitomised by sombre, slow-burn finale “The Reckoning”, whose prodigious Post-Metal pay-off is absolutely worth the wait) positions Hippotraktor as a band doing things entirely on their own terms – unwilling to compromise, yes, but not unwilling to change.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.