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Conservation of Mass
Conservation of Mass
Image © 2001 Unicorn Records

(03 June 2001) The debut album from Canadaian progressive rock group Hamadryad is entitled Conservation of Mass (Unicorn Records (Canada) UNCR-5002, 2001). While they are not fronted by a female vocalist, their close stylistic resemblence to Yes and Rush and vocalists' angelic sound make this album equally appealing to Musical Discoveries' readers. Yes (review) fans are going to adore this album. While there are strong allusions, there is no attempt to copy.

The name Hamadryad comes from the legends. The Hamadryads were wood nymphs who lived and died with the tree they were believed to be trapped in. Their mission was of intermediary between the mortals and the immortal entities. Hailing from the Montreal, the band is comprised of Jean-François Désilets (bass guitars, lead and backing vocals, Taurus and midi bass pedals), Denis Jalbert (six and twelve string electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals), Yves Jalbert (drums and percussion, Roland octapads, backing vocals), Jocelyn Beaulieu (lead vocals, six strings electric and classical guitars), and Francis Doucet (B3 and C3 Hammond organ, Mellotrons, Minimoog, Roland synthetizers).

This cohesive album full of epic-length tracks opens up with "Eternal Loop"/"Amora Demonis" reminscent of Yes in many ways, especially from their Relayer period. Tracks blend nicely from one to the next with breaks almost non-apparent. Jocelyn Beulieu's similarity to Jon Anderson continues in the vocally-rich introduction "Carved In Rust" and subsequent choral harmonies used throughout the short track "Still They Laugh." We especially enjoyed the inclusion of the bass pedals in the arrangement.

The dynamic progressive rocker "The Second Round" effectively blends guitar melodies with mellotron and other keyboard arrangements, a shattering guitar solo and Yes-style harmonies before an intense and spacey keyboard-laced reprise of "Still They Laugh" returns. "Shades Of Blue" is a song-based progressive tune of widespread appeal. "... Action!" is instrumentally harder—almost metal-edged—at times with loads of shimmering electric guitar and lead vocals drifting away from the Yes or Rush style yet the symphonic keyboards and percussion clearly reveal the band's progressive roots.

One of three standout Yes-style tracks from the album is "Nameless." The keyboard-rich arrangement supports a highly accessible Yes-style vocal harmony and progressive rock melody. Bass pedals again add tremendous texture while the guitar solo during the instrumental bridge and keyboard passage at the song's conclusion are especially notable. "The Second Coming" is written and performed in a similar Yes-oriented style, but sung over lush acoustic guitar passages underscored with symphonic keyboard support. Delicate percussion adds to the track's texture. The four-part epic concluding track "Watercourse Hymn" is dramatically performed blending stunning vocals with lush acoustic and electric guitar passages and swirling orchestral keyboard arrangements.

Conservation of Mass has been one of the most intriguing progressive rock albums we've heard this year. Production quality, song writing and the band members' individual performances are all tremendous. By all indications, Hamadryad must be a fantastic band to see perform live. The album is currently available from Unicorn Records and the band online although more widespread distribution may be arranged later. Visit their website for further information. Clearly worth a cross-country journey, this album is most certainly a must listen!

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