Album Review: HUBRIS Metempsychosis

Metempsychosis relates to the movement of the soul from one body to the next after death. Naturally, such a concept lends itself to the deeply philosophical, existential, and sensitive quandaries that post-rock artists embody so well. Case in point: Swiss ensemble Hubris—comprised of bassist Lucien Leclerc, drummer Nathan Gros, and guitarists Jonathan Hohl and Matthieu Grillet—whose third album absolutely lives up to the expectations of its namesake. Combining snippets of shimmering hopefulness with eruptions of radical metal discontent (and even a bit of insightful and mythical narration), Metempsychosis presents a handsomely cleansing experience that stays with you long after the journey ends.

Hubris justly compare themselves to excellent genre brethren like Russian Circles, Maybeshewill, God is an Astronaut, and Sigur Rós. Like them, the quartet aims to investigate and represent aspects of the human condition through mesmerizingly touching, polished, and changeable music. In particular, Metempsychosis “explores the cycle of life and death, but most importantly, . . . reincarnation and rebirth.” Beyond that, “The songs tell a story of the intricacies surrounding pivotal moments in the lives of characters from Greek Mythology,” with the hope that “their stories may mirror your own.” With such allegorical aspirations, it’s gratifying to find that that LP yields one passionately imaginative and transformative trip after another.

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Hubris (Photo provided by Tom Brumpton, Polymath PR)

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Hubris (Photo provided by Tom Brumpton, Polymath PR)

While the roughly hour-long sequence is full of heavy sparks, many of its most impactful and exemplary moments come via its softest selections. Specifically, the lengthiest composition of the six—opener “Hepius”—builds beautifully from metronomic percussive taps (that evoke handclaps) into an array of life-affirming textures (flexible syncopation, Floydian guitar lines, and subtly virtuous electronic soundscapes underneath it all). Together, they convey a sense of achieved destiny and liberation that’s simple yet awe-inspiring.  Likewise, “Adonis” surrounds its harsher proclivities with angelic ambiance and delicate playing that you can’t help but get lost in. It’s followed by the even more spiritually rich “Icarus,” during which swirling tones bear an appropriate air of cathartic aerial passage as a man matter-of-factly recounts the tragic tale of Daedalus (whose song comes next) and his son. Honestly, every piece of the Metempsychosis puzzle is breathtaking and moving to some degree.

When those bursts of bedlam come, however, they leave quite an impression.  For instance, “Dionysus” kicks off with danceable rhythms, glittery electronic tones, and mellow guitar work; but, it eventually transforms into a more hysterical array of zealous drumming, rough riffs, and impatient six-string puzzles. Elsewhere, “Daedalus” segues out of “Icarus” gently enough, but its commanding thrusts of panicked aggression are plentiful as well. In the case of closer “Heracles”—also known as Hercules, who ascended to Mount Olympus after his death—it’s “divided into twelve parts” and refers to “both [his] labours and the different stages of his life.” True to that intention, it’s perhaps the most temperamental and striking selection here, with an abundance of intense realizations (that include distressing piano strikes) amidst its milder measures.

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Metempsychosis accomplishes all it sets out to in terms of transmitting the complex arcs and affections of its subject matter. In other words, Hubris ensure that each entry resonates with the purposeful magnitude and emotional heft that such Greek folklore deserves. At the same time, they demonstrate just how blissfully understated and impressionistic post-rock can be when juxtaposed by flashes of frenzied insights. If you’re a fan of this style, Metempsychosis will undoubtedly captivate from beginning to end.

Score: 8.5/10

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