Language is, at its basis, a contradiction. While being one of the most widespread mental tools of humanity, it’s also one of the most inherently broken. Communication with one language is hard enough, with personal perspectives eschewing meaning in most cases, that when you add in the sheer number of languages that are out there, the full scope of the problem becomes apparent. Hypon5e, their very name incorporating a complex, lingual, memetic tool, have decided to tackle these issue, along with nihilism and post-modern depression, on their latest album, Shores of the Abstract Line. Their album utilizes not only a distinctive, oppressive blend of post-metal and technical metalcore but also three different languages and complex literary themes to deliver the full complexity of these issues home.
It’s also a damn good album. It has an intriguing and unique mix between silence and noise, shedding usual genre constructions of albums in favor of progressions that better serve its themes. This results is more quiet than you’d be expecting: many parts are softly sung, with the guitars relegated to quiet passages. This is used to amplify the lyrics and the many samples on the album, samples which are integral to it and to which we’ll be returning later. Thus, while the second track, “In Our Deaf Lands”, opens with a furious riff, it quickly moves on to a quiet passage which reminds us of Uneven Structure‘s softly picked ambiance and sometimes of Opeth’s more melodic moments.
Here, we can also hear one of the album’s most important elements, namely those samples we just referenced. This time, and for the length of the first and second parts of the album (enigmatically titled “East Shore” and “West Shore”, respectively) it’s in French. While French is not my first language, it’s obvious that many of the themes of the album are explored here as well: death, depression, loneliness, being estranged from your surroundings, unable to call for help. The music soon returns to its heavier elements, this time pierced through by sonorous guitar leads that continue to build the darker atmosphere and supported by high-pitched growls. The track is one of the longest albums and so manages to reiterate on this back and forth several times, always injecting new variables into the same same formula in order to keep it interesting for the listener.
While the rest of the first and second parts continue to explore this musical dichotomy on the background of their own, unique samples, the third part, consisting of just one track and called “Central Shore”, mixes things up. “Tio” is an acoustic track, focusing on a folk approach to guitar and vocals. Yes, but which folk you might ask, presciently. The language shifts again and is this in Spanish, a language over which I have better control. “Tio” means uncle but is primarily used like “dude” in America or “mate” in Britain. The track, while the guitar plays a morose, yet speedy line, depicts the narrator in the “passages of death”, calling for his friend to hear him (“tio, escucha me!”). It servers as fine mid-point mark, right before the album shifts on us once again.
The following track, “The Abstract Line”, is one of the heaviest on the album. It shifts the dial towards the metalcore, reminding us of the dark mutterings of Misery Signals at times. It continues with Spanish, true to the structure of two tracks per language (a structure which will soon be broken). It end with a down right chilling monologue leading into one of the most emotional passages on the album, sung in English over an intoxicating guitar lines which quickly breaks into a progressive breakdown. All of this however is only a setup, a buildup towards what is hands down the best track on the album.
“Sea of Crosses” is nothing short of a masterpiece. It picks off the atmospheric, musical themes of the last track and takes its time with exploring them to their full extent, benefiting again from the emotional singing of the main vocalist. It’s obvious that the journey is near its end, both from the words being sung and from the attitude they have now garnered. However, after a brutal breakdown that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Meshuggah album, the track has one more curveball for us: a sample narrated in English. This, perhaps because of my control of the language, is the one which strikes the listener the most. It describes a pianist in a restaurant, forced upon the (supposedly) rich patrons. The pianist, playing a song that isn’t his, on a piano that isn’t his, soon leaves, to the delight of his patrons and his own delight.
The sample goes on to say that this is the way the world is: awkward social situations created by people who own nothing of what they say or perform and are yet unable to break from the rituals that make up their lives. This narrator, post-modern derision and ennui personified, returns several times before the album is done to elaborate on his bleak vision of the present. He speaks of a crumbling city, useless rooms and people and a life devoid of hope or purpose that is, for some reason, still lived. All of this happens during the closer, “Blind Man’s Eye”, a fifteen minute epic that contains the entire album with its nadir of aggression and atmosphere. The French and Spanish return in fragments, as the track slowly unwinds all it had constructed in its fierce, progressive violence that later unfurls into a disturbing, nearly off-key breakdown which nails the sense of dejection and decrepitude home. All of this before an extremely moving outro, ultimately collapsing, over throat-scratching screams into a quiet passage which, fittingly, ushers this album to its dark end over the band’s native French.
To be honest, it’s possible to fill this review with a few thousand more words: the album itself is dense enough, offering a wealth of musical moments, lyrical concepts and themes to beggar a simple review. However, it feels wrong to bog down an album about the failure of language with so many needless words; by now, you know all you need to. Shores of the Abstract Line is a complex, thick and often violent musical creation, straddling the lines between chugged breakdowns, technical leads and atmospheric post-metal. It’s a journey and an ordeal, one which opens itself to introspection and careful examination. Should you be willing to do so, you’d find one of the most convincing and moving albums of 2016 and, indeed, of the nascent new wave of post-metal.