Hibria - Blind ride 4/5

Reviewed: 8-1-11


1. Blind ride (intro)
2. Nonconforming minds
3. Welcome to the horror show
4. Shoot me down
5. Blinded by faith
6. The shelter’s on fire
7. Beyond regrets of the past
8. I feel no bliss
9. Sight of blindness
10. Tough is the way
11. Rotten souls

Rumors of Hibria’s decline are greatly exaggerated. The uber-talented Brazilian quintet made quite a splash on the true/power metal scene with their incendiary 2004 debut CD, ‘Defying the rules’. The 2008 follow-up effort, ‘The skull collectors’, while a bit less immediate than its predecessor, was a highly impressive outing featuring the all-time classic battle cry, “Tiger punch”. What set Hibria apart from their colleagues were their adventurous virtuoso guitar/bass arrangements, their penchant for high-octane tempos and their remarkable vocalist, Iuri Sanson, who is blessed with leather lungs, loads of power, and a unique voice that shifts seamlessly between upper register and mid-range.

With the release of their 3rd CD, ‘Blind ride’, however, there have been mutterings that all is not well in the world of Hibria. The band’s insanely talented bassist and lyricist, Marco Panichi, left the fold on amicable terms before ‘Blind ride’ was written and recorded. More troubling still were reports that the band had abandoned their style and shifted to a more modern, aggressive approach, forsaking the frenetic melodic power metal that characterized their earlier work. Nonetheless, I shrugged off these fears and plunked down too much cash for a Korean import of ‘Blind ride’ so that I could get the 4-1-1 for myself. (Incidentally, right after I shelled out for the CD, I learned that a U.S. release is scheduled in the next few weeks, so it should be readily available domestically soon for a reasonable price.)

To allay any trepidation long-time Hibria fans may feel, ‘Blind ride’ is a most worthy CD that is instantly recognizable as Hibria. The guitar team of Diego Kasper and Abel Camargo reaffirms its reputation as one of the most skilled in the power-metal realm, with divebombing crazy guitar runs and flashy solos littering the songs. Sanson sings his ass off again, putting most heavy metal vocalists to shame with his jaw-dropping, power-packed performance, albeit not reaching for quite as many piercing highs this time around. New bassist Benhur Lima does a tremendous job cushioning the blow of Panichi’s departure. And songs like “Welcome to the horror show”, “Rotten souls”, “The shelter’s on fire”, “Shoot me down”, and “Tough is the way” emerge as highlights in Hibria’s discography, capable of holding their own with the finest tunes on ‘Defying the rules’ and ‘The skull collectors’. The melody, the energy, the passion, it’s all still there, folks.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there’s no kernel of truth in some of the less flattering reports about ‘Blind ride’. Lyrically, things have definitely taken a step down in Panichi’s absence. I’m all for giving foreign-language acts the benefit of the doubt when penning lyrics in English, and Panichi was certainly no Martin Walkyier, but the band’s lyrical struggles are evident as 3 different members strive to fill the void in the libretto department, with decidedly mixed results. Musically, the guitars sound like they’re tuned lower, the songs are shorter, and it’s fair to say that a couple of tracks do find Hibria branching out from their signature sound. “Blinded by faith” and “I feel no bliss” are midtempo, “groovier” numbers where modern elements seep in more than a staunch traditionalist might like, although they’re certainly not wild departures from Hibria’s established style. And “Sight of blindness” feels a touch brutal in the music, while remaining anchored in the world of power metal by Sanson’s soaring vocals. For my part, I wasn’t turned off by these occasional, tentative forays outside the realm of pure fast-paced ballsy melodic metal. Others may be. But if even if you despise that experimental stuff, the fact remains that the clear majority of ‘Blind ride’ adheres closely to Hibria’s time-honored sound. And dammit, if you’re not air-guitaring, singing along at the top of your lungs, and frightening your immediate family and household pets during cuts like “The shelter’s on fire” and “Welcome to the horror show”, you’re beyond help, my friend.

Hibria are no fresh-faced newcomers anymore. They are now 3 CDs into a career marked by impeccable quality, fantastic musicianship, and enough of an “own sound” to stick out in a horribly crowded market. If you’ve enjoyed their past work, take the plunge again, as ‘Blind ride’ should be a blind buy for you. If you’ve never heard Hibria and you like fast-paced exciting power metal with high-level playing and superb vocals, then ‘Blind ride’ would be a fine entry point into their catalogue, even if it’s a smidge below ‘Defying the rules’ and ‘The skull collectors’ in the quality department. My only request is this: How about a U.S. tour this time, guys? Hibria hit South America and even Canada on their last tour, but never played a show on American soil. If the metal gods are smiling, perhaps that state of affairs will change with ‘Blind ride.’




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