Few bands have ever released an album that shook the metal underground with the magnitude that Hibria’s debut album, “Defying The Rules” did. It was an incredible effort filled with blazing riffs, virtuosic solos (not just limited to guitars), and incredible vocals. As the band has put out more albums, they’ve slowly drifted away from that sound, to the point where the band’s newest effort, “Hibria”, bears only some resemblance to the Hibria of old. To be fair, it’s clear that this is the same band; it’s just that they’ve moved on to a different sound while still incorporating elements of their old style.
The good news is that this album features some unbelievable performances from all band members. Though they are fewer and further between, most songs still have a good amount of shred (check out the bass-work in “Abyss” for one great example). In tracks like “Pain” and “Ashamed”, they add to their guitar-based sound by throwing in some horns (you might even mistake these songs for a Chicago cover at times). Aside from this difference, the band in general just has a different tone. Though the music can still be very aggressive, they no longer sound like a young band that is sending all guns blazing in an effort to out-shred everyone else. Instead, they’ve refined some of these songs to include things that are a little bit out of the ordinary for their sound. Even a song like “Tightrope” (one of my favourites), is not inherently different from Hibria’s past; it has galloping guitars and plenty of riffs, but the band lays off a little bit in an attempt to create something a little catchier, and perhaps even more accessible. On the other hand, a song like “Church” is old-school Hibria, and would feel right at home on “The Skull Collectors”.
It's also worth pointing out that the band has not sacrificed any heaviness. "Life" is a stellar instance where Hibria manages to be heavier than they ever have in the past, despite the fact that they've slowed down a bit. Likewise, many of these songs will include intense rhythm work that might even feel a little bit out of place at times, but it is that same guitar playing that will remind you of the band's past. The other consistent element is Iuri Sanson's singing. He is without a doubt one of the most unique and best voices in metal, and he sounds just as good on the band's self-titled record as he has on any of their other material.
“Hibria” is a record that you have to go into with an open mind. It is not “Defying The Rules Part II”, nor do I suspect the band will ever make an album like that again. It is however, an album that takes many of Hibria’s best elements and applies them in a different way. It’s fair to say that a lot of people (myself included) would prefer they stuck with straight-ahead speed metal, but this outcome isn’t all that bad. In fact, it definitely separates Hibria from the legions of bands that can only offer up flashy guitar solos. The more I listen to this album, the more I like it, and considering how much Hibria has changed, it's a testament to their growth as songwriters.
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4.2/5 or 84%.
Written by Scott