I’ve been listening to this album almost constantly since I first heard it, giving it several playthroughs a day, and it’s still hard to define, to put into words. Florescence is the debut album by Dutch prog boys Hillsphere. The album is so well made, and so finely tailored that it’s hard to believe that it’s their first one. Hillsphere play a kind of mesh of progressive metal elements and post rock stylistics that was originally intended to be entirely instrumental. That’s how the album starts off; instrumental for the first few tracks, and it isn’t until Our Physical Way Of Speaking that Tim Beimer gets to shine. His vocals, firm and aggressive find a softer note to hit throughout the atmospheric, lofty parts but do well with the rumbling darkness and the grittier metal parts as well. Melodic and driving, with hints of the likes of Haken, and their well rounded fusion of progressive metal and rock, or even Beyond The Bridge and their strong, emotional pull in the instrumentals, which is also something that Hillsphere has nailed.
Then toss in the big chunks of atmospheric influences that gives a soundscape not entirely unlike those of Thence or post-rock group Aoria. Though, Hillsphere has perhaps put a bigger emphasis on the big sounding climaxes, making them something of a hallmark on Florscence. The whole style has given Hillsphere a unique sound that while reminding of other acts within the same territory, still feels like something new; fresh and invigorating. The songwriting is fine and precise and each song gets its quality time and attention to finer details that makes the album such a delight to listen to on repeat. The songs may follow similar-ish patterns, but still feel unique and interesting on their own, thanks to the diverse input from Elias Mayer on the guitars and the well seasoned keyboards, added liberally to give the tapestry a deeper sound. As the songs evolve and usually sink into some kind of glumness before the twist comes on and there is a sunburst of energy sparking through. The melodically punch packing guitars thriving in hypnotic leads and big sounding solos as the climactic energy delivers a huge swing upward for the already atmospheric soundscape in every damn song on the album.
And in a way, this breakdown of song structure works on the album as a whole as well; the calmer introduction that soon gives way to immediately ear catching instrumentals. This then followed by vocal parts so emotive you can’t help but be pulled in, with a slower ballad like passage in the middle leading to an inexorable high point in the climax, culminating in even more top of the line instrumental action with Mayer’s guitars and keys as well as second axe man Robin Waij’s guitars driving rhythms and Kevin van der Reijnst’s thick bass lines filling the scene, dancing along the densely woven tapestry. The album closes with nine minute Clairvoyance, a clear highlight, and it too, is an instrumental affair that sees the very best of the album comprised into delicate musicianship delivering all that the preceding 40 minutes had delivered; fiercely flowing melodics, great riffing, and emotion through instrumental perfection; even though Beimer’s presence on the album certainly is an important part in lifting it above “yet another instrumental prog album”, sometimes not a single word is needed.
Standout tracks: Our Physical Way Of Speaking, Ghost Of You, Clairvoyance