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Hibernal: The Machine

Over the years, there have been many albums that deal with the dangers and influence of technology on humanity; however, few have been as literal and blunt as The Machine, the debut album by Hibernal. It combines spoken word narrative with instrumental impressions to tell the story, which is sort of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, its intrinsic novelty makes it unique and involving, but at the same time the lack of actual songwriting is definitely a detriment. In fact, it's somewhat distracting.

Hibernal is actually the pseudonym for Australian multi-instrumentalist Mark Healy, whose vivid imagination and penchant for affective chord progressions makes The Machine work more often than not. The LP is based on his short story "Welcome to the Machine" and concerns "A man [who] climbs the corporate ladder inside a powerful company, but finds that with each promotion he must sacrifice a part of himself." Obviously, it's metaphor for "the choices that we make…and the influences we have on the people around us…The Machine is about identity, and about being true to oneself."

Surprisingly, the performances of the three lead characters (Narrator, Jane, and Mr. Wilkins) are strong and arresting—if also a bit hyperbolic. Album opener "This High" finds the narrator looking over the world from high up before being promoted by Mr. Wilkins, who is over 100 years old and sounds sinister from the start. Musically, there's a simple note progression similar to something from The Final Cut (actually, there's a strong Pink Floyd influence throughout the disc). It's a really strong way to set up the story and get listeners involved. "Downward" features more narration as the music builds slowly to take center stage, echoing traces of early Porcupine Tree and Tool with its thick riffs and psychedelic beginning and end.

"An Open Door" is more organic, tribal and industrial (almost like a lost Lunatic Soul piece), while "Home" shows us how the consistent promotions are destroying his marriage; we're told that he couldn't feel Jane's hand on his (which is symbolic as well as prophetic) as guitar lines resonate his pain and disconnection. A bit later, "One Last Glimpse" allows acoustic guitar and forlorn atmosphere to shine, whereas "Disconnection" branches out into the record's most sorrowful and gripping chord progression after we learn just how much our narrator has lost himself. It's a beautiful way to set the stage for the conclusion.

As fascinating as The Machine is, there are a couple issues with it. For one, it can feel a bit repetitive by the end (both musically and vocally), which is kind of excusable considering that it's essentially the work of one man. The other major issue is that most of these pieces beg for some singing. Granted, that was never the album Healy wanted to make, but one can't help but wish that there were verses, choruses, and bridges to go along with the rest of it. Hell, I started making up a few myself because it felt so natural and crucial.

The Machine is a wonderfully ambitious and focused work, and its central message—although a bit clichéd—is still riveting and relevant. Healy is a visionary whose confidence, musicianship, and storytelling prowess will take him far. This debut is by no means perfect, but it's very promising, and if he continues to enlist the support of other performers (be they musical or theatrical), he'll go very far in the genre.

Track Listing

1. This High
2. Downward
3. An Open Door
4. Home
5. Losing Touch
6. Hard at Work
7. No Return
8. One Last Glimpse
9. Disconnection
10. Years
11. The Coldness

Added: September 11th 2013
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: Hibernal Bandcamp
Hits: 2037
Language: english

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