Hamadryad Conservation of Mass (Unicorn Records, 2001)
Hamadryad, a progressive rock quintet from Montreal, released their debut CD Conservation of Mass in early 2001 on the Quebec prog rock label Unicorn Records. Hamadryad combines 70s prog sound and vibe, from Yes style layered vocals, Hammond organ and Mellotron, to long suites of interrelated songs, with 90s prog metal ideas like dual electric guitar leads and dry, crunchy guitars blended into a supporting role in the mix. The music features quirky rhythms like Fates Warning or other groove based prog metal, with acoustic and classical guitar breaks, grandiose synth chords, triumphant major key passages, and long, multi-part songs. Just like their Unicorn Records label mates Mystery, Hamadryad's vocals sound uncannily like Yes, with a clear, soaring Anderson style delivery and layered, multi-part harmonies. The lead guitar often flashes speedy chops in a modern prog metal style, like the snarling solo halfway through "Amora Demonis," but always stops just short of wailing on too long. The beginning of "The Second Round" showcases a crunchy wah wah guitar riff that would fit in a Dream Theater song, played over held Hammond B3 chords that would fit in the Allman Brothers. A crunchy riff opens "Amora Demonis," alternating with clean guitar breaks under the vocals, and then gives way to a grand, major key chorus in the classic Yes style. Hamadryad wields this juxtaposition of classic and modern prog sounds and ideas with skill, and they could probably use it even more often in place of stock classic prog sounding segments, like the opening of "The Second Coming," to sustain this original feel. The lyrics on Conservation of Mass include standard prog fare about witches and spells, occasional hackneyed lines like "a ship of fools" ("Still They Laugh"), and morose musings on relationships, in addition to some clever lyrics on the lure of titillating cinema and the anguish of a young man's place on the front lines of world conflict. The band web page says the name Hamadryad "comes from the legends," although more specifically, the wood nymphs called dryads or hamadryads were nature spirits in ancient Greek mythology. The album title, complete with references to 17th Century French chemist Antione Lavoisier who developed the Theory of Mass Conservation, seems unnecessarily erudite and hardly related to the music, despite a claim in the liner notes that three years of band struggles to make the album equate with this title. The front and back cover photos of city streets below towering skyscrapers also seem out of place with the lyrics and the band name. Conservation of Mass features round, warm bass guitar, crisp drums and cymbals, thick lead guitar tones, and woody and articulate acoustic and classical guitars, with only the crunchy rhythm guitars sounding brittle. Professional production and mixing blends this large array of instruments with the multiple vocal tracks into a clear sound. The playing by all musicians covers the challenging music with skill, but the punchy low bass work especially stands out. Hamadryad develops a mix of classic and modern prog sounds and writing on Conservation of Mass. Although the lyrics occasionally wilt and the vocal arrangements and passages often sound a lot like Yes, Conservation of Mass is a promising debut record for a talented band. Reviewed by Scott Andrews [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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