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Hamadryad: Live in France 2006

Hamadryad may have been turned away without visas at the American/Canadian border this summer while trying to enter the United States and play the Milwaukee Art Rock Showcase (M.A.R.S.) Festival. But the progressive-rock band apparently had no trouble making it into France for an August 18 date last year at the Crescendo Festival at St-Palais-Sur-Mer. And what a gig it was! Live in France 2006 culls material from the Quebec-based band's two albums, 2001's Conservation of Mass and 2005's Safe in Conformity. Singer/bassist Jean-François Désilets and his Peter Gabriel vocal mannerisms are backed by a symphonic band that echoes vintage Genesis, The Flower Kings and Spock's Beard. This is dense, expansive stuff that actually sounds better when Hamadryad gets heavier on tracks like "Amora Demonis" and "Nameless." The majestic madness of "One Voice" and "Polaroid Vendetta" also suits the band.

Live in France 2006 showcases the sound of classy collective in action, and based on the photos in the booklet, it looks like Hamadryad also gave a memorable visual performance. Here's hoping Unicorn Digital treats this show with the same respect it did the Crescendo 2006 performance by instrumental-only labelmates Spaced Out and releases it on DVD.

Track Listing:
1) Sparks and Benign Magic/Self Made Men
2) Anatomy of a Dream
3) Amora Demonis
4) Watercourse Hymn
5) Nameless
6) Omnipresent Umbra
7) One Voice
8) Polaroid Vendetta
9) Alien Spheres
10) Still They Laugh Pt. 1/Pt. 2
11) …Action!

Added: January 18th 2010
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Hamadryad Web Site
Hits: 2564
Language: english

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Hamadryad: Live in France 2006
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-01-18 00:13:55
My Score:

***This is a re-release of the 2007 DVD Live in France 2006 now titled When They Were Four***

I first heard the Quebec band Hamadryad about three years ago when I purchased their second CD Safe In Conformity. I was impressed with their modern take on symphonic progressive rock combined with a retro approach that harkens back to early 70s Genesis. The lead vocalist and bass player Jean-Francois Désilets has a pretty cool voice, similar to Peter Gabriel. Technically it is not the strongest voice I have heard but his style of singing fits the band's symphonic roots quite well. The DVD I now have in my hands was recorded in France in 2006 and is a re-release of the original DVD which was released in 2007. Joining Désilets are Yves Jalbert on drums and backing vocals, who has since left the band, Sébastien Cloutier on keyboards and backing vocals and Denis Jalbert on acoustic and electric guitars.

The talent level of this band is very high and you can really see that with this live set. I like how the band combines elements of symphonic and classic prog recalling bands like Genesis and Yes. However, Hamadryad often combine heavier riffs of guitars and keyboards bearing resemblance to progressive metal bands like Dream Theater. Hamadryad's music has always relied heavily on keyboards and watching the band perform live verifies this assessment. Sweeping arrangements combine with ultra fast keyboard runs making this a real treat for symphonic rock fans. I should point out that all band members give a solid performance confirming that Hamadryad are one of the most talented progressive rock bands around today.

The album begins with the orchestral tandem of "Sparks of Benign Magic/Self Made Man" and "Anatomy of a Dream" recalling 70s era Genesis and which the band performs flawlessly. The band sounds a little darker with the edgier prog of "Amora Demonis" displaying more of a bite and having an angrier tone. The more melodic parts remind me of Yes and the bass playing is top notch. The band really cooks as the intensity builds with guitar and keys leading the way. The crunchy instrumental "Nameless" ventures into progressive metal territory and comparisons could be to Dream Theater. Lighter parts segue nicely into heavier guitar and keyboard interplay. I could describe more highlights but hopefully that will suffice.

The concert took place at the Festival Crescendo at St-Palais sur Mer and while the sound quality is not perfect I thought it was pretty good considering this is an open air facility. At times I would have preferred the lead vocals to be more up front in the mix but this did not cause a huge problem for me. The concert also took place in the afternoon so there is no light show to go along with the performance. With this DVD it is all about the music.

When They Were Four should have plenty of appeal for fans of the band. If you are new to the band this is a great opportunity to see and hear how talented this Canadian band is. Hamadryad has been a stalwart on the Unicorn Digital label and are set to release a new album later this year. I can hardly wait.

Hamadryad: Live in France 2006
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-08-28 08:30:43
My Score:

Hamadryad have been one of the classiest prog bands on the Unicorn Digital label for a few years, but they've always seemed to sort of have an identity problem. Live in France 2006, recorded at the Crescendo Festival, shows the two sides of this solid band; the symphonic prog act that seems to love early Genesis & Yes, and the heavier, more prog-metal focused band that seems to favor Dream Theater or Vanden Plas. Thing is, Hamadryad are good at both, but some listeners who tend to favor one style over the other seem to be on the fence about them. For my money, these Canadians offer the best of both worlds, and that suits me just fine. Whether firing off some crunchy yet atmospheric heavy prog on tunes like "Nameless" or "Amora Demonis", laying on the Gabriel era Genesis lushness of songs like "Spark of Benign Magic/Self Made Men" or "Watercourse Hymn", the end result is just solid. The band can delve into complex and sinewy prog, like on "Omnipresent Umbra", metallic fury heard throughout "One Voice", spacey, technical prog workouts like "Polaroid Vendetta", gorgeous pastoral soundscapes such as "Alien Spheres", to charming Genesis/Marillion flavored prog like "Action!". In short, they can sort of do it all, complete with plenty of Mellotron, organ, synths, and ripping guitar.

If you like your prog with a classic edge yet still featuring plenty of oomph, check out this new live album from Hamadryad. Featuring songs from their two studio albums, you get a nice cross section of material here, and a very rock solid performance.

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