Full disclosure: I am a huge HIBRIA fan. I enjoy their first four albums immensely, from the seminal power/speed metal classics Defying the Rules and The Skull Collectors to the much darker and brooding Blind Fire and Silent Revenge. However, a lot of people that I know were turned off by the style change between the two pairs of albums, which is a fairly normal reaction in the hypersensitive metal community to big changes in a band’s sound. Will HIBRIA’S new self-titled disc win them back?

This release is more diverse than any previous outing by the band, by far. It’s still power metal, or more accurately, heavy metal with a big power metal influence to it. If you’re hoping for a return to the full-on power metal glories of Defying the Rules, you’re likely going to be a little disappointed. However, if you’re ready for a challenging and fun hour of music with a ton of influences, this just may be for you.

Let’s get this out of the way: there are horns. Saxophones and trumpets. You might think that they would sound horribly out of place, but they complement the songs (“Pain” and “Ashamed”) so well that you’ll stop feeling weird about them after just a few listens.

It doesn’t stop there, either – the songwriting is varied and will keep you wondering what will come next on your first few listens. “Abyss” and “Tightrope” are intense tracks that might have fit on the debut a decade ago. “Life” is a slower chugging dirge, and “Ghosts” throws my mind back to the late 1980’s with one huge hook of a chorus. The guitar solos are fresh-sounding, fun, and as diverse as the rest of the album, and the rhythm section is nice and solid.

Benhur Lima (bass) adds vocals on “Pain” and “Church”, and he knocks it out of the park with a classic traditional heavy metal vocal style. Also, special guest Mia Coldheart (CRUCIFIED BARBARA) contributes a female counterpoint on “Fame”, and as a result of her amazing performance, it’s one of my favorite songs on the album.

The production is good and the overall sound is pretty amazing, but there was one aspect that I really just didn’t enjoy: when singer Iuri Sanson uses his hoarse screams in “Legacy”, it really killed the song for me. They don’t sound good at all, and I think the song would have been better served with a different vocal style.

Overall, this some great music from HIBRIA, and I think a lot of people are going to enjoy it a bunch. Is it going to win back fans who lost interest after the style change? It might, but we’re a prickly bunch, so the jury will be out on that one for a while. For me, though, this is required listening, and I hope to hear one or two of these songs live this fall. I’d strongly suggest giving it a chance and picking up a copy – you might be pleasantly surprised.

STANDOUT TRACKS: “Fame”, “Ghosts”, “Words”, “Pain”, “Church”

RATING: 8.7/10


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