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Hillsphere: Florescence

Teaming up with Layered Reality Productions, Hillsphere deliver their debut album, Florescence, a progressive collection that veers quite wildly from rock to metal and back again. Yet it’s roots always remain firmly in the traditional progressive scene, whether that be reaching back to the 70s, adding a few prog metal aspects from the 90s, or indeed squeezing in a more contemporary twist that fits in with the current progressive ‘revival’. Already undergoing an almost complete upheaval in line-up since this album’s recording earlier in the year, it would be fair to suggest that it hasn’t been the easiest of journeys for Hillsphere to get to this point, but to give them their due, that’s not something that shows up in the results.

That doesn’t mean to say that the construction of Florescence is expected, what with it beginning in a manner that actually has you believing this act are an instrumental outfit. The atmospheric opening of the title track is a soothing piece of keyboard reverie that quickly leads into the lengthier “The Breeding Of Us”, which continues wordlessly, but with a sudden and harsh metallic backbone. The level of musicianship within this (now much changed) line-up proving exquisitely exciting. “Home” continues the theme, another short thrumming instrumental leading into “Our Physical Way Of Speaking”, which again ups the angst and aggression, although Hillsphere never quite tip beyond the realms of prog metal. However, with a monotone growl, the vocals of Tim Beimer make their entrance, and some nine and a half minutes and three and a bit songs into this album we finally discover that this is not an instrumental foray after all.

To be fair to him, Beimer than calms into a more engaging singing style, and while at times he’s more Layne Stayley than James Labrie, he does fit his surrounds reasonably well. The easier, gentler, “Aquarius” actually reveals him to be an excellent vocal, focal point, an easy but still pointed style sitting well in this flowing situation. The ten minute-plus “Ghost Of You” remains wordless for much of its length, Hillsphere preferring to get their message across through a grinding riff and sparkling keys, although when he does come in Beimer once again acquits himself well. Arguably this is also the best balance of the heavier end of what’s on offer here, alongside the more introspective passages. Although the much more overtly Dream Theater like - clattering toms and chiming guitars - “Mind At Rest” runs it close, before “Clairvoyance” closes the album once again without lyrics, but still with a clear narrative style within the music itself.

It all makes however for an oddly unbalanced experience, the vocals sometimes feeling like a band giving in to expectations. Expertly performed as the music itself is, it does feel like Hillsphere really need to go all in and either utilise vocals throughout the majority of their material, or not at all. Undoubtedly they have the strength to do either. However, for all my misgivings there’s no denying that by way of introductions Florescence makes me keen to hear more and I’d suggest that most followers of the progressive metal scene will feel likewise.

Track Listing
1. Florescence
2. The Breeding of Us
3. Home
4. Our Physical Way Of Speaking
5. Aquarius
6. Ghost of You
7. Mind at Rest
8. Clairvoyance

Added: November 16th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Hillsphere @ Layered Reality
Hits: 863
Language: english

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