Hillsphere – Florescence
A story of growing up, making one’s way from childhood to adulthood – in their debut album “Florescence”, Dutch prog/post metallers Hillsphere give us their take on the often besung topos of this first big struggle in our lives.
Hillsphere have been around in the Dutch prog scene since some years already, with changing personel – supporting bands like Pain of Salvation or Vanden Plas. Still, “Florescence” is their first complete album, and some of the songs may sound familiar to those who saw the band play live before. The album line-up consists of main composer, guitarist and keyboard player Elias Mayer, Eren Özilhan (guitar), Tom van Hogen (bass) and Jorn van der Wal on drums. They are accompanied by Tim Beimer who adds this warm voice to several songs. Since the recording, Özilhan was replaced by Robin Waij, Kevin van der Reijnst is kicking the bass now and Wouter Macare took over drum duties.
While Hillsphere started mostly as an instrumental post rock band, they have now involved into a full progressive metal formation, with the legacy of the ever-present Dream Theater shining through rather obviously in some parts. Still, they often find ways to give the songs a darker twist. Mixing this with calm, ambient parts as in the prelude ‘Florescence’ their music gets a very welcomed depth and variety.
The album starts a bit slow though, as the second song, ‘The Breeding Of Us’, also begins with one of those calm parts before opening up to a full instrumental prog metal song with clear hints to their post rock beginnings. That’s all well made, flawlessly played – but it feels a bit long.
The addition of singer Tim Beimer is what really adds interest to the album, and after the calm interlude ‘Home’ it is in the (previously released) ‘Our Physical Way Of Speaking’ that he has his first contribution, with harsh and clean vocals.
After the rather slow ballad ‘Aquarius’ we enter the most ambitious part of the album, consisting of the three longest songs – ‘Ghost Of You’ (10:28), ‘Mind At Rest’ (11:04) and ‘Clairvoyance’ (9:07). All three are well made prog metal epics, moody parts are followed by more technical ones and sections with nice vocal melodies, especially ‘Ghost Of You’ features an excellent performance by Tim Beimer! His voice would definitely have deserved more prominence in the mix, sometimes it seems to shy away (for no reason) behind the instruments (the same has to be said about the drums, the album would have generally profited from more dynamics in the production).
Also notable is the middle section of ‘Mind At Rest’, with a nice speed-up from the usual mid-tempo of most of the songs (and again some good vocals here!) and a powerful climax at the end.
Unquestionable musicianship, a good mix of ambient and more heavy sections (that could, from my point of view, use some more variety) and Tim Beimer’s excellent singing are the highlights of a solid debut. With some more streamlining here and there and a more daring approach (also with the production) Hillsphere are definitely on a right path here.