Hibria – The Skull Collectors - 4.5/5
How many years has it been since 'Defying the Rules'? A mere four years separate that instantly classic album, and the sequel that might be one of the most anticipated sequels of the year. First things first, this is a good album, and its main influences include the fathers of metal themselves, Iron Maiden and Judas, specifically Painkiller, Priest. Almost as vital, is the feel that this was aimed at the underground in general, as opposed to some power acts that appeal only to the fans of Flower Power. More importantly, how does it compare with the debut of the Brazilian group that took the power metal scene by storm?
Much of the original criticism for Defying the Rules was in the form of “It’s not memorable enough” or “It feels too long”. I knew, based on the problems within the first album, that the greatest danger the band would run is releasing Defying the Rules 2. It is one thing for a band to release a classic album, even if it is their first attempt, but I sincerely hoped this band would recognize the threat of stagnation. After all, if a band cannot release an album without feeling like they were repeating themselves, how far could they go with their career? Therefore, it comes down to the question of whether Hibria have managed to build on their sound and create an album that is great like their debut, but different enough to be considered an improvement.
Hibria certainly show that possibility with the opener ‘Tiger Punch’. A strong crunchy riff, highlighting a steaming bass solo is now in my favorite ways to open an album. Then it descends into that overly familiar, ridiculously catchy chorus. The drums are as good as before, with consistent and exciting fills, and the bass shows improvement. The guitar playing is as great as I remember, with a dirtier tone that helps counter-act the cheese. They still sometimes use chord progression as opposed to actual riffs, but of course the solos are as blazing as DTR, if not more so. The vocalist’s range is still hanging out around the upper stratosphere without falling into a falsetto.
My complaints with the music are minor, really only added for the sake of impartial criticism. Sometimes the lyrics are nonsensical. There are some cringe-inducing pitch harmonics in ‘Reborn from the Ashes’. Occasionally the chorus goes on for too long and appears over-done. Sometimes the riffs are lost in favor of drawn-out notes. Finally, yes, the songs do begin to blend, and while the overall is that of great metal, I wish they could have given more tracks individuality. Nothing serious, just slight things I would not have personally added to the songs.
So why the half-point missing from this apparently perfect album? Call it sequel syndrome or personal hype, I simply expected more from these guys, and while their small improvements kept this from being as repetitive as I prepared myself for, they have more potential. Don’t get me wrong, ‘The Skull Collectors’ is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, and I’m already anticipating the third album from this Brazilian powerhouse of an act.