HamaSaari- Ineffable (Album Review)

March 8, 2023


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Formed out of the ashes of French progressive rock/metal band Shuffle, HamaSaari opts for a more serene and subdued approach on their debut Ineffable while still expanding outwards into some more powerful, booming layers.  Where some of their peers have opted to keep a lot of heaviness and weight that straddles the line between metal and rock, much of Ineffable’s approach goes for airier, melancholic instrumentation that has a bit more Pink Floyd or the lighter side of Porcupine Tree to it.  With Klone’s Guillaume Bernard assisting with the production, I was intrigued to hear what HamaSaari had to offer and while they still haven’t completely found a sound all their own, the foundation remains strong.

Opener “Different Time” makes it clear that HamaSaari has a very different vision and approach compared to Shuffle, as the first few minutes let softer guitar and keyboards sprawl outwards in a looser, airier approach before the tempo picks up and the band transitions over to a haunting melodic lead.  There are moments where the layers reach natural peaks and boom outwards over your speakers with considerable power, but these come as controlled bursts for much of the album and songs like “Old Memories” and “Prognosis” shine in their subdued, nuances approach.  There are moments that jump out at the listener, as certain melodies have a reflective yet bright tone to them, but there are just as many that require repeat listens to really get a feel for the softer flourishes that are at work.  As mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree influence, but sometimes the songwriting incorporates some alternative rock elements that reminded me of everything from Karnivool to Radiohead.  The main exception to this is “White Pinnacles”, where the keyboards and guitar go wild with a much heavier and darker tone that reminds me of mid-period Opeth.  It’s a good song, but given how much the rest of the album is focused on the softer elements I did feel some tonal whiplash, and it didn’t feel like it completely fit.  There are also a few moments that drag, especially “Crumbs” and Bleak”, which stick around just a bit longer than they need to, but the core sound that HamaSaari has to offer continues to draw me back. 

Vocalist/guitarist Jordan Jupin is a strong addition to HamaSaari’s lineup, as he has the type of voice that captures your attention during both the subdued and soaring passages on Ineffable.  When the rest of the band is exploring muted textures and light, airy layers his singing reflects this and seems to hover slightly over the mix, but it gains some additional grit and weight as the songs reach their peaks.  Sometimes Jupin gives off some range that reminds me of Thom Yorke, while other times he is likely to remind listeners of other alternative rock bands from year’s past.  Sometimes it takes newer bands time for the vocals to find their footing, but there’s a confidence to the performance that works to HamaSaari’s advantage.  The aforementioned “White Pinnacles” gives me some tonal whiplash on the vocal front as well though, as there are screams thrown in around the halfway point.  They’re not bad by any means, but they feel at odd with the rest of the album, especially considering just how light the two songs that follow it are.  This is probably a weird criticism since you’re reading this on a metal site, but I think if the group wants to explore these elements in the future having them on a few more tracks could make the move from light to harsh a bit less jarring.

Despite my criticisms, I really like what HamaSaari is doing on their debut and they’ve built a strong foundation that captures a lot of the elements that makes progressive rock so enjoyable.  But the sudden dip into heavier, metal leaning instrumentation and vocals doesn’t fully suit an album that’s otherwise exploring some entrancing, breezier textures.  There are certainly ways to do so in the future should they choose to expand upon this side of their sound, and I think in doing so HamaSaari will start to carve out more unique elements.  Ineffable is worth returning to in the meantime, though I suspect the best is still to come.  Ineffable is available from Klonosphere Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg