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Hamadryad: Safe In Conformity

Originally conceived in a Rush tribute band, Montreal's Hamadryad went through many personnel changes and phases until finally releasing their excellent debut "The Conservation Of Mass" in 2001. This record remains to this day Unicorn Digital's best selling release. In the summer of 2002, Jocelyn Beaulieu, then lead singer, decided he wanted to pursue a different musical path and the band found his replacement internally with bass player Jean-Francois Desilets (who does the lead vocals on "Action!" from the band's debut disc). In the spring of 2005, the band released "Safe In Conformity" by hosting a CD launch party where the disc was played in it's entirety.

I guess the first thing that hits the listener is that this is not what the debut was. The album has a much more homogenous feel and sound to it. Desilets tries valiantly, but his vocal prowess is nowhere near what Beaulieu's was. This, unfortunately, becomes the disc's Achilles Heel. Musically speaking, the band seems every bit as strong as on the debut, most notably the very capable Denis Jalbert on guitar, who revealed himself to be a monster axeman during the live prestation of this disc. The album's strongest moments come towards the end. Tracks like "One Voice" and the stellar "Polaroid Vendetta" rock out like the older material does.The instrumental sections during the closing "Omnipresent Umbra" allow keys player Doucet to stretch out a little, both on digital keys and the mighty Hammond B3. However, as stated above, all this comes towards the end of the disc, making it extremely bottom heavy and may be best listened to in reverse order.

Before the launch, group and label insiders had told me to expect a more Genesis sounding approach to Hamadryad's sound. Although I hear certain elements to confirm this, my personal comparison would be to fellow Montrealers Visible Wind, circa "Narcissus Goes To The Moon". Not quite Neo, not quite symphonic, the band has, as the disc title implies, decided to remain safe in conformity. This is a decent effort and I wouldn't be surprise if it creates a slight buzz in the prog community, possibly getting the band invited to a major festival. This said, I much preferred their debut which seemed more diverse and adventuresome. Your mileage may vary with this one.

Final note to the band: Chantez donc en francais !

Track Listing:

  1. Anatomy Of A Dream
  2. Sparks And Benign Magic
  3. Self Made Men
  4. Gentle Landslide
  5. 24
  6. Frail Purpose
  7. Sunburnt
  8. One Voice
  9. Polaroid Vendetta
  10. Alien Spheres
  11. Omnipresent Umbra

Added: July 21st 2005
Reviewer: Yves Dubé
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Hits: 4026
Language: english

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Hamadryad: Safe In Conformity
Posted by Steve Ambrosius, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-07-21 09:02:19
My Score:

Okay, let's get the obvious out of the way right from the start. Jean-Francois Desilets sounds like Peter Gabriel. Because of this, you can't listen to Safe In Conformity without comparing Hamadrad to Genesis. But although there are plenty of 70s touches that confirm this similarity, Hamadrad is much more than just a tribute band. If you remove the vocals, Safe In Conformity has tinges of Kaipa, Sylvan, and Sonus Umbra. The driving bass playing of Desilets combined with the drumming of Yves Jalbert gives the sound a jazzier feel than you'd expect. On the other hand, the Hammond B3 played by Francis Doucet keeps a retro, 70s groove spinning throughout.

Take a song like "24", which might easily fit on a Salem's Hill CD, if it wasn't for the Gabriel vocals and the swirling keyboards. "Anatomy Of A Dream", the opening track, has much in common with Karmakanic.

So all in all, it is the familiarity of Safe In Conformity that makes you want to compare, but with all of the things going on, you really have to take Hamadryad as a whole. And at that level, this CD works well. "Polaroid Vendetta" gets a little redundant and "Sparks and Benign Magic" tries too hard as an introduction to the rocking "Self Made Man", but the other songs on this CD hit the mark more often than not.

I do not own the first CD by Hamadryad so I can't comment on their growth, but this is a solid CD that should appeal and entertain any fan of modern or 70s progressive rock. The writing is solid and the playing has enough experimental elements to make it entertaining after many listens.

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