After the ambitious A Distant (Dark) Source (2018) and the subsequent artistic triumph of its live recording in 2021, French avant-garde metal outfit HYPNO5E return with their sixth studio album. Once more, these four visionary musicians and cinematographers take us back to the lost shores of the palaeolithic Lake Tauca, where we dive deeper into its dark source to fnd vibrant visions of a memory both distant and hazy as well as warm and evocative. Sheol shows HYPNO5E at the top of their game, revealing the epitome of their idiosyncratic sound while also exploring new and exciting aspects of their artistic identity.
“In the Hebrew Bible, Sheol is the place where all souls meet after their death, to remain in silence and to turn to dust once more,” explains main songwriter Emmanuel Jessua about the album title. It is the distant dark source as described on the band’s previous record – a thrilling 70-minute long magnum opus which saw the band conjure up a night on the old shores of the lake, following a man looking for the ghost of a woman he loved. “Sheol is the story of what was before that night,” continues Emmanuel. “The two albums are built, like the myth of Sysyphus, in a cycle. ‘Sheol’ begins where ‘A Distant (Dark) Source’ stops and ‘A Dis- tant (Dark) Source’ ends where ‘Sheol’ begins.”
Since 2006 HYPNO5E have been taking grand strides in honing their brand of cinematographic metal, with each of their albums developing elements that would become essential building blocks to their sound. Their 2007 debut album Des Deux l’Une Est l’Autre harnessed a raw, chaotic energy, while the following Acid Mist Tomorrow (2012) saw them apply a hazy filter to their ferocious sound. On Shores of the Abstract Line (2015) HYPNO5E already transformed into the true modern metal grandmasters they are today, while the special soundtrack album Alba – Les Ombres Errantes explored a more subdued acoustic side of the band.
In many ways, Sheol refers to the band’s previous album, but this record sees them take their musical endeavours one step further in terms of consistency and musical density. Once more, the band delivers drawn-out compositions that marry angular modern metal riffs with massive grooves and layers of evocative vocals. Once more, the music is haunted by hair-raising string sections (this time provided by a veritable string trio!) and bloodcurdling percussive rim-clicks. Once more, the band revels in a superbly curated selection of poets reading excerpts of their own work — most notably César Vallejo, Jean Cocteau and Anne Sexton. «Tauca Pt. 1 – Another» shakes your hand like an old friend while album opener «Nowhere» hearkens back to «A Distant Dark Source Pt. 1» with its eerie high guitar leads.
Sheol sees the band sounding warmer and brighter than anywhere else in their storied discography, and the arrival of new drummer Pierre Rettien and bass player Charles Villanueva adds a fresh touch the classic HYPNO5E sound. The sweeping finales of «Lands of Haze» and «The Dreamer and His Dream» as well as the pastoral qualities of the quiet finger-picked parts on «Bone Dust» and «Lava From The Sky» hearken back to the old prog rock records of the seventies, albeit with an updated sonic palette and modern production parameters. Besides, these eight tracks also see the band carefully exploring new patterns, shapes, and forms within their own musical universe: from the alternating use of ritardando and accelerando on the aforementioned rim-clicks to the increased employment of string sections and vocal harmonies.
With the addition of a whole new palette of warmer and brighter tones, HYPNO5E superbly bridge the sounds of the modern progressive metal and retro prog-movements creating an evocative sonic experience. Sheol is undoubtedly the band’s best work to date as it gives evidence of an undeniable strength in artistic vision. Being able to produce one incredible album is one thing but creating a second part to it with the same determined energy is an incredible feat. Sheol is simply a stunning deep dive into what HYPNO5E is all about, amounting to an incredible journey for both long-time fans as well as prog afcionados who are yet to familiarise themselves with this phenomenal ensemble!