Wow. I’ve just drawn breath after listening to Hybrid Constellation’s self-titled second E.P for yet another time. Five songs with more force than the entire Jedi council put together. It’s the kind of selection that makes it impossible not to head bang some, and assuredly I did.
The cover, created by Dirk Robertson, depicts a skeletal double-headed birddog in the Norse style, fitting considering it was revealed in a genetic study recently that approximately 25% of the population of Orkney has Viking blood. Other mythical creatures, such as a charging centaur, dance around this motif in a circle, also in authentic style as white lines against a blue background. It is certainly artwork that deserves a second look.
The mini-album was recorded in a session format with S&M Home Studio Productions, the fact that they were playing as a band really enhances the sound and captures the live energy very well. The change in line-up has added a certain freshness with drummer Ross Clark doing a reverse Dave Grohl and swapping strumming for sticks. Also joining the ranks is guitarist Taylor Pirie who does a fine job of reinventing Clark’s guitar parts on some of the band’s live staples.
The first track is quaintly titled “Ugh no” and is post-punk ode to procrastination. The E.P opens with what would seem to be a Rage Against the Machine-like ending and from here on in the games begin. My, this new sound is, to use the band’s own expression “chunky.” The guttural stuttering of the kick drum reigns in the triumphant cry of, “I am the epitome of lazy.” A small criticism I would make would be that this track may have benefited from a crisper bass tone so the tunes can cut through.
Next up is “Legion Blues.” A snare hit and we’re in, really no messing about. I’m going to contradict myself here but this track in particular is an exception in the bass tone department. I’ll confess I’m a sucker for that gritty gnarly goodness that has an affirmative nod to Tom Commerford of RATM. Lyrically, this track is my favourite but I honestly think for all the great lines within the song, the title seems a little irrelevant. Clearly the Legion is a landmark venue for the band…but for those who don’t know, the track name would appear puzzling. However on the positive side, this seems to be a song with a purpose. Aidan Moodie, the lead vocalist, appears to be saying that saving pornography on your mobile is a form of rebellion against internet censorship. It seems that a lot of teenagers are more politically active than I thought.
One of Hycon’s first originals features on this new E.P, a vamped up version of “Good Time For A Revolution.” I will reiterate my preference for the bass being higher in the mix for the intro, it does sound slightly muddy. I am a fan of Clark’s groovy high-hat work on this track. The main riff is a killer. Lyrical highlights include, “devour the hand that feeds” and “to keep the throne you’d kill your own.” The guitar solo part is well balanced with a full bottom-end being provided by Flanagan, contrasting effectively with Pirie’s wailing.
The penultimate song hmm… I may be guilty on account of the title. Vicious speed, the furious palm muted guitar chugs away like a helicopter. After the gallop reaches its peak the song becomes a bit of a brute really, it’s nasty…of course in a good way. The break sheds a spotlight on the cymbals accompanied by snippets of abruptly percussive guitar. The solo features a good lathering of hammer-ons.
Harvey Djent (the name a play on Two-face from Batman and the name of a metal sub-genre) is the E.P’s shortest track but does not lack for content and is the most imaginative musically. The riff is a tasty thing and the verse features quite lovely guitar motifs and bass twiddles. There is an effective change in dynamic with some clean guitar, something I think the E.P as a whole could have done with a little more of. The track is the most fun on the album groove-wise and with interesting rhythms that make you twitch like you’ve got Tourette’s.
Overall, the E.P is extremely tight and doesn’t really ever pause for breath…I’m excited to see what the group could do given the time for a full album. Moodie shows moments of great lyrical wit, though this is sometimes a strain to hear over the industrial clamour of the rhythm section. The bottom end has bulk but sometimes lacks definition where it is the main feature. However as a showcase of their work, it is a success and is a fair distillation of what Hybrid Constellation is all about.