Recently, I was introduced to a French band called Hypno5e—just like "hypnose," which is French for hypnosis, but with a "5" in place of the "s"—on a rather amazing album entitled Des Deux L'une Est L'autre. They delivered an inventive brand of extreme, progressive metal that was, simply put, awe inspiring.
Hot on the heels of that endeavor comes A Backward Glance on a Travel Road, a side project for a couple of Hypno5e members. Could it be possible that this could be an even more extreme album? Or perhaps a more traditional metal excursion? It turns out not that neither of those thoughts were true. In fact, I could not have been less prepared for what I experienced.
While Hypno5e's music is extreme experimental metal, A Backward Glance on a Travel Road is an acoustically driven excursion into avant garde soundscapes. The sound is distinctly non-metal. As different as it is from their main group, however, the music crafted by Emmanuel Jessua and Thibault Lamy seems to be cut from the same cloth.
A Backward Glance Down a Travel Road's self-titled debut album is one of almost ethereal beauty, accessible enough for listeners to be almost instantly caught up in it while, at the same time, making for an utterly unique experience. This is the sort of soul-searching music that can take you on a journey into your mind. It is really hard to describe without actually having you listen to it.
What's worth noting are the elements that connect the two bands. Both are interested in creating soundscapes, making use of spoken word segments in French as well as English, and pushing boundaries while remaining eminently listenable. There is even a journey into Hypno5e territory with "Hier Regnant Desert." Imagine what an experimental metal track would sound like if played on acoustic guitar. While that may seem odd, the songs here appear to be derived from an electric-guitar-driven metal, which ultimately sound perfectly natural when acoustically played.
The album opens with "Regular Barbary," beginning with a cacophony of acoustic-guitar strings and abused piano keys before it gets to a groove that leads us through its layered musical nightmare. The guitar is our guide while the voices play with our mind and the piano shocks to keep you focused, before adding in the wailing voice towards the end, all adding up to an experience that cannot be denied.
The opening song leads directly into "Falling," an atmospheric piece built on a bed of synthesizers. There is something profoundly sad and morose about this song, especially as the voice comes in saying, "Falling… a rainy day," weighing on the soul as guitar strings are plucked over the synth bed. Everything adds up to a song dense with orchestration, simplistic in appearance yet as deep as an ocean.
"Johnny Got His Gun," with its frightening implications of a living nightmare from which there is no escape, is probably my favorite song. The guitar again plays as guide through the tragic landscape. The song is inspired by the film of the same name (which also inspired Metallica's "One") about a soldier who wakes up to find he has no limbs, cannot talk, and has no way of communicating. The song includes clips of the film's subject speaking (thinking?) about his predicament and his desire to die.
Bottomline. In total, the album is comprised of seven tracks, each one adding something more to the whole, expanding on what came before. It is an impressive work that takes the listener on a journey into the recesses of the mind. It's an experience that is not to be missed.
Be sure to visit their MySpace page to get the link to download the album for free! That's right, the band is offering the album free to help spread the word!