French experimental metal. Those words, placed together, likely strike fear into the hearts of music fans everywhere, as visions of maudlin, costumed performers searching for a solution to their self-serving ennui dance through the frontal lobes.
France's history in heavy metal is circumspect at best. With the exception of Gojira and Heavenly, metal acts out of France are few and far between, as the genre has never truly been embraced by the nation's artistically intellectual culture (Hellfest notwithstanding.) Let's be honest here, metal fans. For every "intelligent" metal band, there are four dozen Big Dumb Faces. Attempting to add to that emaciated and incomplete legacy is Hypno5e, a band on the fringes of underground metal seeking to find their niche on the greater landscape.
Hypno5e's new album "Acid Mist Tomorrow" comes attached to a heap of pre-release hype and hopeful expectation. The cover art alone is brilliantly stark and mysterious, a seeming combination of Stephen King's "The Mist" and John Carpenter's "The Thing." Someone with a sly eye would probably be quick to point out that the French have never had an issue producing visual material that is evocative in some way (even if it is the relatively low-brow cover of Heavenly's last album (NSFW), it's still evocative.)
"Acid Mist Tomorrow" is an album that begs you to hang around and wait for the payoff, but those payoffs are not so rewarding as to make the middling journey worthwhile. The lyrics are entirely in French, which I say not out of misguided heavy metal xenophobia, but because it is a shrewd reminder (as the movie buffs on this site will tell you,) that giving something a French flair and putting “Fin” on the end of it does not improve its actual substance.
For example, the last two cuts on the album are entitled “Brume Unique Obscurite,” which sounds really profound on face, but which my French-fluent wife assures me translates to “Obscure, unique haze,” and that those words in tandem have no particularly idiosyncratic meaning in French.
“Acid Mist Tomorrow” is sort of like the earlier Pink Floyd albums (or “Animals,” for a later one,) in that there’s an awful lot of waiting around for something to happen. Like I do with all progressive or experimental metal albums, I gave Hypno5e’s creation a few extra listens in hopes that the allegedly more complicated musical themes would blossom into a keen understanding on my part. That never happened. Not necessarily because I couldn’t grasp it, but because I became acutely aware that the album may not contain anything revolutionary.
The album’s nine cuts boil down to five actual songs, several of which are told in multiple parts. “Story of the Eye” and the title track are the only two that are contained into one piece, and both clear the ten minute hurdle. That doesn’t by itself reflect poorly on the songs, but there’s an awful lot of nothing contained in that ten minutes. Where Pink Floyd would construct their payoffs on big choruses and sweet melodies, Hypno5e does not offer similar fare.
There are a few pops on “Acid Mist Tomorrow” worthy of commendation, the greatest of which is the drum cadences during the album’s final cut. But these moments fail to push the boundary enough to merit all the empty space leading up to them where the music is at best shallow and at worst sub-par black metal.
I suppose there is an argument to be made here, famously made by Lisa Simpson, that in the case of “Acid Mist Tomorrow,” you have to hear the notes the band isn’t playing. The man she says that to responds with an unforgettable riposte, telling Lisa “I could do that at home.” I had high expectations that I was going to hear something new and different from Hypno5e that pushed the envelope into angular, undiscovered musical country. I find myself let down. For experimentation, stick to The Devil’s Blood’s album from earlier this year.