Meridian
Released 15 Oct 2021
9.00
Mixed vocals

Hippotraktor – Meridian: A wonderfully cohesive and technically outstanding debut

"What's a Hippotraktor?" I hear you say. I'm not entirely sure either, but what I do know is this might just be thé name of the new generation of Belgian metalbands. This band shares guitarist and vocalist Stefan de Graef with Psychonaut, another post-metal outfit that recently got more and more light from the international metal audience. Both bands have found a home under the label Pelagic Records which also houses the amazing The Ocean, a perfect fit I'd say. Originally Hippotraktor was an instrumental progressive postmetal band, but with the addition of Sander Rom (Guitar, Vocals) and the aforementioned Stefan de Graef (Vocals), they're now a five-headed behemoth.

Hippotraktor releases its debut album Meridian on Friday the 15th of October, but for some reason you can already listen to it through a secret YouTube url. A bit weird to soft-launch an album like this, but I'm not complaining. I'm beyond stoked to get my ears on this record.

Album opener ‘Manifest the Mountain’ is one of three singles already released. So I've heard this one before. The track is a rhythmic beast that has you submerged in hard-hitting riffs immediately. This primal cadence is also what I love from bands like Gojira. I can't help but think that Hippotraktor is doing it better here than Gojira did on their latest offering Fortitude. What we're hearing on this first track is just so uncompromised and full of raw energy. Gojira kinda lost that excitement for me.

Next track ‘Mover of Skies’ is another single I've heard before. A bit less groovy in nature compared to the opener, but nothing short of spectacular in the atmosphere department. The warm vocals take you to the dreamscape within your mind. The guitar tone and multi-layered vocals on top make this such a soothing track. Baroness and Mastodon come to mind with this one. I'm totally in love with this track.

Sons of Amesha’ starts off in yet another gear. I really love this textured musical landscape they're now drawing before my eyes. It's bright and full of light, right up to the edge of the cliff. That's where it drops you in a darker mood with a heavy rumbling machine-like riff. For some reason the name of the band starts making sense. Nearing the end of the track it lifts you up again with these beautiful vocal melodies. A rollercoaster of a track that shows the wide variety in technical abilities of this band.

God Is In the Slumber’ is another track that perfectly blends the ethereal and more atmospheric parts with raw aggression. Much like The Ocean they manage to bring a delicate mix of post and progmetal. Where bands like Amenra sometimes bore me because of their long-winded meandering structures, Hippotraktor manage to bring in some contrast. This is noticeable in both the vocal and instrumental parts. Quiet against heavy guitar work. Light against dark moods. Clean against harsh vocals. Heavy riffs weave seamlessly into psychedelic sections. It's remarkable how spontaneous they make all of these technical tour de forces sound.

Tracks ‘Juncture’ and ‘Beacons’ are both proof to these statements. Hippotraktor's music sounds their own. Influences are obvious, but it always sounds like Hippotraktor. For a debut, that's already an amazing feat. Add to that the fact that all tracks on this album are amazingly well written AND performed and it's safe to say this band is putting Belgium on the map of metal again. Admittedly, after The Black Heart Rebellion released Har Nevo in 2013, I probably said the same thing. But in hindsight and compared to this, there's just no going back.

I'm now listening to the last track of the album ‘A Final Animation’ and it's probably my favorite. At this moment I just lack the words to describe this. This is the perfect closing track to this album, tying it all together.

I can imagine Meridian being like an onion, revealing more of its inner workings by peeling off layer after layer. I highly recommend any rock or metal enthousiast to sit down with this record and to start peeling. Everyone's findings will be different, but I promise you, it'll be worth it.