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Hibernal: The Dark Of The City

The Dark Of The City is the fourth album from Australian multi-instrumental post-rocker Mark Healy under the name Hibernal. However it's worth mentioning that those three previous albums are also available in two formats, one with with words and one without. From the outside that may seem a little indulgent and yet after experiencing The Dark Of The City, I understand the reasoning completely. Not only is this album a conceptual piece, but in truth it's more a radio play set to music than it is an out and out music album. Four people are involved, Healy and Rowan Salt, who provide the music between them (and wrote and edited the script) and two voice actors, Faleena Hopkins and Scott Gentle, who play the story's only two speaking characters. All four are superb, but the decision to bring two genuine actors into this project is what raises an interesting idea into a superbly well realised experience.

The story revolves round a pair of cops in a dark, dingy, Blade Runner like world, who are hunting down a 'Necro', some sort of alien, or created being that can blend into human society undetected and leach off their world. The Necro in question happened to kill off the partner of one of the main characters and a tale of retribution and desperation plays out from there. The story is believable and involving, the dialogue slick and smooth, explaining the story, while never delving too deep, while the jeopardy and choices the characters must navigate are played out extremely well. Between these spoken sections Healy and Salt conjure equally intriguing musical ideas that feel almost like post-rock incidental music. It often makes way for the story and cleverly, the motifs and sounds explored repeat quietly beneath the dialogue, allowing the non spoken passages to feel part of what's going on and vice versa, and resulting in a rewarding best of both worlds. Although whether the music would really stand up all that well in isolation, I'm not so sure. As part of the overall mood and atmosphere of this album, however, it's a strong piece of a stylish combination.

The story, while simply laid out, contains surprisingly detailed characterisation and more than enough twists and turns to keep you hooked in, and for someone who does often listen to quite a lot of more mainstream sci-fi radio plays on CD, this really does stand up well. However, impressed though I am, I have, after reflection, knocked a half star off the final mark for The Dark Of The City, purely because I wonder, due to the story being more of the driving force than the music, about its repeat listen value. That said the story here could run and run and I'm already desperate to hear what will hopefully be future instalments. In the meantime this outfit's previous releases should also be well worth investigating.

Track Listing
1. The Dark of the City
2. Night in Carson Bay
3. Target 247
4. How it Ended
5. Black Blood
6. The Pier
7. Sand
8. Loose Ends
9. Monster
10. Survival

Added: March 31st 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Hibernal at bandcamp
Hits: 1545
Language: english

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