Under the moniker of Hibernal the Australian multi-instrumentalist Mark Healy recorded an album called The Machine. Healy wrote all the compositions and played all the instruments including keyboards and guitars. As for the rest the album features Rowan Michaels, the voice of the narrator, Samantha Béart, the voice of Jane, and Robert Blythe, the voice of Mr Wilkins.
The Machine is a concept album based on the short story 'Welcome to the machine' written by Mark Healy in 2002, which has nothing to do whatsoever with the eponymous song of Pink Floyd. It contains a fine mixture of spoken words and instrumental progressive rock. The Machine is a compelling story about a man who makes a career in a corporation only to find out that he loses a part of himself with each promotion. It's a metaphor for the choices we make in our lives, the directions in which these decisions take us, and the influences we have on the people who surround us as we choose our paths; an album about identity, and about being true to oneself.
The story is being told in a wonderful way and the music fits this story perfectly. Sometimes it's very dark; at other times brighter. The musician knows when the song has to be up-tempo or mellow. He created the right moods and atmospheres throughout the album. You just can feel the tension in the story when things go right or wrong for the protagonist. Narrator Rowan Michaels exactly describes to the listener what goes on in the protagonist's head. He also talks about the meetings he has with Jane and Mr Wilkins. By means of Samantha Béart and Robert Blythe they tell their side of the story.
Music wise the album tends towards a style that sometimes reminded me of bands like Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd and a less heavy version of Tool. Then again other parts reminded me more or less of the music recorded by acts as Karnivool, Riverside, Sleepmakeswaves and Anubis. Hibernal never really copies these bands, which means that the music is quite original and that's rather uncommon nowadays.
The Machine is available as a physical CD and in download format from his website. I'm sure that Mark Healy will be very satisfied with the result of this debut album of Hibernal. Personally I liked it a lot! It's another fine addition to the list of albums recorded by other Australian progressive rock acts such as Unitopia, Ben Craven, Sleepmakeswaves and Anubis.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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