The early 2000s brought us a wealth of riff-worshipping, bone-quaking goodness – what has essentially become the foundation of many current doom, stoner, and sludge metal acts. Bands like Mastodon, High on Fire, and Baroness expanded upon the standard set by metal’s forefathers with more progressive tendencies, expansive arrangements, fiercer presentation, technically demanding performances, and (presumably) better strains of grass. At the same time (and likely benefitting from the same improved… ahem genetics), there was also a bubble of traditionalists like The Sword, Wolfmother, and Saviours who made the case that a more conventional approach was worth revisiting, reinvigorating classic sounds for a new generation of headbangers. It’s from this very specific nexus that Australia’s Hypergiant explode, harkening back to familiar territories on both sides of this early-00s coin.
In the same way Hyborian mind-melded with Leviathan and Blood Mountain era Mastodon, Hypergiant operate on the same plane as their predecessors despite their relative youth. Father Sky is the group’s debut offering, but feels as polished and well-rounded as those early-millennium classics, right down to the concept presentation (complete with touches of satellite beeps and astronaut chatter throughout). While the hearty riffage sits at the core of Father Sky, there are plenty of dynamic valleys for chords to echo, leads to meander, bass to noodle, or cymbals to burn out to a cold silence. Rhythmically, bassist Lachlan Davidson’s meaty low end and Julian Moxon’s adaptable drumming lead them from executing classic doom numbers (like “Perseus Arm” and “Ryu-Un Maru”) as well as they pull off speedier songs (see “No Way Out”) while maintaining the finesse and brainpower for proggier tunes (like “Entropy”). Across this spectrum, Nathan Lee’s vocals bring to mind the malleability of Khemmis’s Phil Pendergast, ranging from serviceable cleans to some nice ‘n’ gravelly Matt Pike-esque yowls. The guitar work of Gordon Hammer (and Lee) serves as a focal point for the group, firing off technicolor solos, spacey atmospheres, and a multitude of memorable riffs. This marriage of playstyles becomes a sort of missing link between the aforementioned 2000s playstyles, bridging the gap between the farthest reaches of ferocious prog and straightforward doom.
“Colossi” is a fairly succinct representation of what the band has to offer: hammerblow riffage, savvy leads, burly tones, a stroll through some trippy wonderlands, and an unpredictable turn to a recognizable brand of early-00s metal. They have all of the bare-chested aggression, majesty, and glossy-eyed wisdom of Savannah’s finest. Nostalgia trips like this are a welcome departure from the sometimes predictable or even static nature of some modern doom acts. Hypergiant’s progressive tendencies are the ace in their stoner metal sleeve, maneuvering through some truly intense paces with an impressive ease while delivering punch after bludgeoning punch. Their songwriting capabilities are on point, structuring large songs that are natural and engaging without becoming bloated or gimmicky. “Island 3” brings together a catchy stomp, acoustic layering, and some wah-tastic lead work in a way that sounds like The Sword covering Shadows Fall’s “Enlightened by the Cold,” only to suddenly morph into a High on Fire B-side by the 5:15 mark. “Entropy” turns another militant, caveman Pike-stomp into an overstimulating Blood Mountain freak out at the drop of a hat. Among a handful of other curiosity-inspiring incidents, Hypergiant have their roots placed firmly in the soil of the now-legends of the genres. Their coalescing of influences from this era plays to the heart of anyone who grew up on a steady diet of heavy stoner metal.
Herein lies the biggest issue with Father Sky. Though much of the album is adept at creating instantaneous nostalgia, tracks like “Retrograde” and “Interlude: Krakenmare” can feel a little bit too familiar, almost derivative. Though there’s a plethora of variety on display over the course of the record, there are a number of moments that feel a similar in delivery and become homogenized over repeated listens. I chalk it up to a lack of editing. There’s not really a bad track on the album, but there are moments that feel a bit underwhelming in comparison to the more intricately arranged segments. It’s obvious that they’re talented songwriters and they have the talent to either enrichen their sound or work with a producer who can lend an editor’s touch. In a year when so many bands are recycling traditional and throwback sounds, it’s invigorating to hear a more modern take. In essence, Hypergiant showcase a mastery of the early-00s sound, bringing it back for a generation of listeners who might’ve missed out, or who might just need a solid CliffNotes version for a refresher.
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Father Sky is out Wednesday, November 16. Take a little hop over to their Bandcamp to get yer paws on it.