Album: Division Cycle
Label: Cryo Chamber
Release Date: 23/02/2021
Country: United States
Hilyard is a project by composer Bryan Hilyard, who hails from Aurora, Maine. Each release under the project is unique and for this particular offering the music presented is a blend of atmospheric soundscapes, drone, dark ambient and field recordings. The album has a concept behind it that will be discussed further. Bryan is responsible for all composing, performance and producing on the album, while the artwork and mastering is courtesy of Simon Heath. The only unique track on the album as far as contributors go is track 9, which was written, produced and performed by Bryan Hilyard, Oleg Puzan and Sasha Puzan collectively.
Bryan presents us with a brief explanation of the album’s theme:
“Under the solemn gaze of Furthermore the gears of hatred and wrath grind down the bones of humanity into sustenance, digested deep within the bowels of the earth, where the roots of its ancient trees pull the flesh from the ramparts of civilization and giants move as clouds of remnant dust above the lungs of the Internal Forest. Beneath our feet the earth quakes with hunger below, awaiting the spoils of The Division Cycle to rain down and fertilize the Innermore landscape.”
The album has a foundation built on droning dark ambient soundscapes that really draw the listener in. Across the top of these textures, we have the field recordings and haunting word-free vocal segments. There is an ominous undertone to the album that leaves you as a listener somewhat uneasy both during and after listening. I believe that this comes down to the emotions that the music draws out of you as it plays. As well as this the whole thing has somewhat of a monumental or grand tone, as if it is part of something larger than you as a listener or Hilyard as a project. The tones feel almost otherworldly in nature as if they transcend this realm. There is something mysterious about the album too, as if there’s more that needs to be learned and understood but where to begin is part of the mystery.
There is one more interesting quality to the music and that is its timeless nature. Somehow the music sounds like it could accompany a film set over a thousand years in the past; possibly focusing on the worship of old gods and reverence for forests and nature in general, a time where the world was still full of mystery and wonder. We however know that this is not the case, as the album is set in a dystopian future. The album art accurately expresses this theme, depicting a future where humanity lives in the ruins of its former self and faces inevitable decline and eventual annihilation. What we do not know (or maybe it’s simply me that doesn’t know) is if this story unfolds in a fictional future of our reality or an alternate universe. That fact is irrelevant though as the music perfectly suits either scenario. We have images conjured up in our minds of nature reclaiming the world and tearing down all remnants of our once great civilisations. We have destroyed ourselves and come to realise that the world was never ours to own and that long after we are gone it will continue and rebuild itself.
While some could say that the album seems repetitive or simple I would have to state that they either didn’t pay attention or don’t understand this style of music. Repetition is part of the drone genre, as well as of dark ambient music. The music also isn’t simple, its minimalistic, drawing on select tones to simultaneously conjure up images in the listeners mind and inspire inward reflection. The fact that the music is so moving despite the minimal number of tones and textures speaks true volumes to the ability of its composer. I believe that the concepts discussed in Bryan’s explanation of the album, as well as the stunning album art are accurately expressed through the music on this release without the need for any lyrics or words.
If you’re a fan of dark ambient or drone music or enjoy soundscapes, then I highly recommend this album. If that type of thing isn’t for you, I suggest giving this a try anyway as it may surprise you. Either way give the album a spin today.
Listen to and order the album below: