Back in 2017, a friend suggested that I check out an EP by a young Canadian duo. The EP was Odyssey and the duo were Jupiter Hollow. That EP was amazing, and even more so for being made by just two young men. I was impressed enough to buy the album, but for whatever reason, I didn’t bother to follow the band so was unaware there had been a follow-up until this year’s Bereavement came to The Progressive Aspect for review. Bereavement is, apparently, a continuation of the story that was begun on Jupiter Hollow’s debut album, AHDOMN. Having never heard of that, I figured I’d look it up – whereupon I discovered that the title of the album seems to come from the initials of the song titles, four of which were very familiar to me. It seems that the only song from the Odyssey EP that wasn’t reworked for the debut album was the title track. The remaining four appear in a different order, before two new tracks of far greater length.
But it is “missing” song Odyssey that the opening track of Bereavement most reminds me of, which is kind of neat as it brings all three releases together. It’s a very subdued beginning to the album, compared to what I was expecting based upon Odyssey. However, I note that the new track order of the Odyssey songs does start AHDOMN on a similarly slower pace. But although it wasn’t really what I was expecting, it’s a beautiful acoustic introduction that makes me think of a mix of 2112-era Rush and Placebo played as Indian classical music via George Harrison.
After the delicate opening of L’Eau du Papineau (which given how reminiscent I find it of Odyssey should perhaps have been called ‘L’Eau d’Ici’), I was expecting the album to take off, and yet instead the following Scarden Valley begins with a lovely piano passage and delicate vocals caught somewhere between A Perfect Circle and iamthemorning. It’s getting on towards two minutes before there is any real increase in instrumentation, though the piano remains dominant – until the first guitar solo of the album. These two tracks are, I guess, meant to be taken as one, as they are bookended by some spacey and glitchy sci-fi sound effects.
Finally, my attention is grabbed by third track, The Rosedale, where the album truly launches itself into the exosphere. Both musically and vocally, this song makes me think of a mix of the prog of Aussie bands such as Breaking Orbit and Karnivool, and the funk of Living Colour. It’s the first track of the album where I get that feeling I did with the Odyssey EP, where I think, “Wow, this is just two guys!” This and the next couple of tracks all have a heaviness that is almost unrelenting and potentially overwhelming. Even when a quieter and more melodic passage finds its way in, the djenty heaviness comes back even harder. There are sounds and styles reminiscent of all kinds of heavier prog – SikTh, Tool, The Mars Volta, TesseracT – and it’s all awesomely brought together in a bruising barrage of enjoyable excess.
Mandating Our Perceptions is a short interlude, clearly referencing in its title the far longer Mandating Our Existence from the previous album. I’m not familiar with that song, as I’ve still not listened to AHDOMN, so I can’t say whether it reprises any theme or motif, but it does provide a quite welcome moment to recover from the preceding aural assault. A very brief moment, however, as the piano and multi-tracked wordless vocals lulled me into a somewhat false sense of security. The vocals build and build, in a manner more menacing than mollifying, before fading into background conversation and laughter from what sounds to be a large group of people – and a sinister message that our time is up.
A brief drum solo then leads into Sawbreaker, which is possibly my favourite song on the album, hitting the balance perfectly between hardcore and melodic. There are moments I’m reminded of Muse, Pink Floyd, even My Chemical Romance, but not one of those bands ever sounded as heavy as this. Jupiter Hollow may have plenty of influences (and I’m not suggesting that any or all of the bands I am reminded of are influences at all), but they have created their own unique and vibrant aesthetic. And as much as I enjoyed Odyssey, the duo have clearly both expanded and refined their sound. This is a massive leap in quality, and as the majority of AHDOMN is made up from material from Odyssey, I am completely confident in saying this is the greatest album Jupiter Hollow have made. And it’s not done yet.
With Extensive Knowledge, the sound is back to Rush, and another quieter moment of recovery. It’s not an interlude this time but a full song, and a good one at that which just gives the kick-arse ending of Extensive Knowledge that much more impact. The sweet sound of birdsong segues into the final number, Solar Gift. It’s the longest song on the album, and an epic finale. I will not be surprised if this turns out to be most people’s favourite song here. Of course, that’s if people listen to it, or even know about it. The Odyssey EP had huge promise, and I believe Jupiter Hollow were only around 18 to 20 years old when they made it. That makes them still in their early 20s now, and I think they must surely be one of the best new bands out there. Bereavement is not perfect. It’s not a five star album. But it’s very good.
Progressive metal can too easily be sterile or derivative. Even at its most complex it can sound formulaic. Jupiter Hollow create intelligent, challenging, and enjoyable compositions that are both powerful and emotive. Bereavement is the duo’s best release yet, but if Jupiter Hollow continue on this upward trajectory there will be far greater albums ahead. It’s a big if, though, as it can be a hard road to travel without recognition. I hope they find the audience they deserve because right now Jupiter Hollow are criminally unknown. After all, I knew the band existed (even bought their debut EP), but would have had no idea this new album existed (let alone their previous) if it hadn’t come up for review. Don’t let this one pass you by, as it almost did me.
01. L’Eau du Papineau (3:58)
02. Scarden Valley (5:12)
03. The Rosedale (6:26)
04. Kipling Forest (6:07)
05. The Mill (3:59)
06. Mandating Our Perception (2:29)
07. Sawbreaker (8:56)
08. Extensive Knowledge (5:41)
09. Solar Gift (12:37)
Total Time – 55:26
Grant MacKenzie – Guitar, Bass, Synth
Kenny Parry – Vocals, Drums, Synth, Piano
Record Label – Independent
Country of Origin – Canada
Date of Release – 12th June 2020