Shores of the Abstract Line
19th February 2016 – Pelagic Records
01. I. East Shore - Landscape in the Mist
02. II. East Shore - In Our Deaf Lands
03. III. West Shore - Where We Lost the Ones
04. IV. West Shore - Memories
05. V. Central Shore - Tio
06. VI. North Shore - The Abstract Line
07. VII. North Shore - Sea Made of Crosses
08. VIII. South Shore - Blind Man’s Eye
Sometimes – fortunately rarely – you can find yourself wishing that you’d paid more attention in school. For many British or American metal fans, listening to Hypno5e‘s third album Shores of the Abstract Line is likely to bring a faint pang of regret over the hours spent staring out of the window during French class. Lyrically, native English speakers are tremendously spoiled – the rest of the world generally comes to us, translating themselves for our benefit. So what, from a purely rational perspective, should be completely ordinary is immediately injected with a sense of the exotic. French musicians singing (and speaking, but more of that later) in French? Whatever next?
The Montpelier quartet have been developing their self-defined cinematic metal since 2003, but there has been a hefty, nearly four year gap since excellent second album Acid Mist Tomorrow, but if anything, in the somewhat lengthy interim Hypno5e have become bolder and more ambitious in their songwriting. Shores of the Abstract Line is divided first, effectively, into five movements – East, West, North, South and Central Shores respectively – before being subdivided again (with the exception of the Central Shore) into songs – but even then, three of these songs sail well past the ten minute mark in their duration.
It very quickly becomes apparent that getting to grips with Shores of the Abstract Line will take more than a casual listen. Their stock trade is in long songs with labyrinthine structures that are linked together in a mostly seamless fashion, interspersed at several points with some lengthy spoken word passages. These passages are infused with an unmistakable laconic melancholy, made all the more mysterious by the complete absence of comprehension of what is actually being said. It could be a shopping list for all us ignorant Brits know, but that seems unlikely. Some of the lyrics are in English, although it takes a couple of listens to notice after adjusting your ears to the French.
The music is a particularly dynamic affair with the songs weaving together sections of ironclad metal riffing, off-kilter stabs and gentle, delicate atmospheric passages. There’s some flamenco-style guitar and haunting, reverb-drenched piano along the way, too. The ultimate product feels something like what Opeth may have become had their roots been in post- rather than death metal. Fans of The Ocean will also find much to enjoy here, as the sprawling song structures effortlessly build into hugely satisfying and crushing pay-offs.
Getting to grips with the vast number of good ideas on offer here takes a not inconsiderable amount of effort, but it is time well spent. With this album, Hypno5e have upgraded their already widescreen cinematic metal sound to IMax levels. Shores of the Abstract Line is an evocative collection of songs that really do transport the listener to another place, and rarely has such bleakness and desolation seemed so appealing.