We’re a harsh nation, filled to the brim with snakes, spiders, sharks and other things designed to poison, serrate and otherwise make our lives difficult. To top that off, we have a perpetual numpties on rotation in Parliament and often oscillate between searing heat, flash floods, cyclones and drought.
It’s no wonder that, for a sunburnt happy-go-lucky culture of larrikins, we have a thick under crust of doom in the metal scene. Stalwarts such as The Eternal, Virgin Black, Mournful Congregation and Pod People are hanging around the edges of this viscous pond, giving rise to new talents such as Lizzard Wizzard, Space Bong and Sydney’s Hypergiant.
As the name of the band and album both imply, Hypergiant’s latest effort ‘Father Sky’ finds a band who have set thrusters straight from the swamp and into the stars. Boasting as much of an astral prog aesthetic as a worship of the low-and-slow, the band have outshone themselves on their latest opus. Owing as much to Karnivool and Deftones, as Neurosis and Candlemass, these progressive doomsters straddle both sides of their heavy spectrum in a near-nova state.
Notably, in my discussion with frontman Nathan Lee, the songwriting approach mirrors the exploratory style of the new album. ‘We haven’t really had any discussions about what music we will and won’t do, which has led to us having a wide range of influences in our music and has helped us steer clear of being too much of a genre-band.’ And after being quizzed about the slight tinge of Mastodon and Baroness in their latest? ‘And we all definitely love the ‘Don and Baroness.’
Lee gives a nod to the burgeoning Australian scene – ‘There are heaps of great bands coming out of Australia right now’ – citing bands such as Aver, Motherslug, Dr Colossus (who recently suffered the tragic loss of their drummer), Hawkmoth and Comacozer as contemporaries, irrespective of their desire to avoid pigeonholing.
As for the thematic appreciation of space and science, Nathan believes the band owes credit to the luminaries of both fields. ‘Carl Sagan would be the biggest influence, as well other science popularisers such as Neil deGrasse Tyson, Paul Davies and Stephen Hawking’. When prompted about what else may have inspired ‘Father Sky’, Lee eschews the usual citation of classic science fiction novelists, apart from being ‘into Heinlein when I was younger, arguable fascism aside, as well as horror writers with a cosmic slant such as Lovecraft, inarguable racism aside’. ‘I wind up getting a lot of inspiration from movies, games, music and things of that nature’, Lee notes.
Like the music on ‘Father Sky’, don’t mistake this upfront-ness and lack of pretence with lack of depth. The scope of the new album reaches from the internal, the intrapersonal all the way up the celestial ladder to well, the scale of a hypergiant. This visceral connection is something Lee feels as an unavoidable, integral part of the process. ‘I find that when I’m writing about something, even if it’s on a subject that’s foreign to my experience, it’s unavoidable that some of me gets thrown in there with it. If I’m not getting that emotional connection to what I’m saying, I think it’s pretty obvious to the listener and they aren’t going to feel that connection either.’ Even a track such as Colossi, which is ‘ostensibly a science fiction story about a caste of brutal oligarchs ruling the world through an army of autonomous killer drones’ boils down to a permeable, personal level. ‘It’s more than half about me hating my shitty factory job and being a slave to the grind, same as everyone else.’
Perhaps that is the appeal both of Hypergiant’s space-faring doom-prog and space itself – a dimension much larger than the scale of petty human concerns, something vast into which we can escape. Speaking of escape, I couldn’t resist but ask who’d be the one person he’d go into space with. ‘Very tough question. I’m going to go with Devin Townsend. I’m sure he’d have a simultaneously wondrous, bleak, insightful and hilarious point of view to share.’
Good answer. Like ‘Father Sky’, that sounds like one hell of a ride.
‘Father Sky’ is available for purchase here.