Instrumental Dutch band Hackberry have recently become stable mates with Inhalo and The One after signing with the Dutch label Construction Records (birthed in 2022), who have previously released vinyl from Long Distance Calling and The Flower Kings, amongst others.
Hackberry is a five-piece instrumental band, founded in 2015, who play a mix of progressive rock, stoner, metal, grunge and psychedelia, adding strange time signatures, tempo changes and dynamics. After the first self-released EP Desert Orchid at the end of 2016, the well-received debut album Hackberry was again self-released in 2018. Now they are back with a new record called Breathing Space and new single Manticore. They say the compositions have been carefully assembled and arranged by all five members of the band to reflect their individual musical influences and taste.
The album consists of four tracks, including the single, and wastes no time, kicking off with the extensive and expansive Lunares. A short bass riff and the track takes off like a rocket ship into space. After the frantic lift off, it slides into a slower pace for a spell, as we gain our bearings on the stars around us, then the trajectory adjusts to once more propel us on our way. Various instruments take centre stage. The ebb and flow over the first track provides contrasts and moods to hold the interest through the near sixteen-minute running time – at times reminiscent of Long Distance Calling.
The Sci-fi cover artwork complements the music, as you could be hurtling through space to distant planets, riding on the guitars and keyboards as they are propelled along by the drums, beating their way to the stars or floating by asteroids as they burn through the atmosphere.
We catch our breath for a while (and maybe a little oxygen) as second track Solitary March drifts into our ears on gentle acoustic chords, whilst the other instruments float like distant planets around us, gradually getting closer and filling the speakers. Heavier riffs kick in at the seventh minute and we are jettisoned through asteroid fields, dipping and swerving with the music. This is no psychedelic drift in space but journeying with purpose.
We reach the mid-point as if approaching our destination, a space station, to re-supply and refuel. As the music slows, we dock with a few calm piano notes.
Respite over, we march back to the ship with the beat of the drums and board, preparing to set off on the third phase, a Foreshadow of the planned journey. Guitars strum as we disengage from the airlock and heavier chords build with the firing of the engines and boosters, steering us away from the blinking lights of the station’s hull on the penultimate leg of this trip.
There is a feeling of the music bringing us closer to the end of our travels as again it builds into a fuller sound and we are navigated through the various fields of guitar riffs. Drums pound a rhythm and the bass throbs with energy as keyboards and time changes meld with musical influences. The pace increases, then, as on the previous track, it ends with keyboards, but slightly more downbeat.
We turn toward terra firma, heading through the exosphere into the thermosphere with the force of the band playing in full flow. The heat intensifies as we are driven toward the mesosphere and the logo emblazoned on the hull, of a mystical Persian creature, glows with the body of a lion, the head of a man, and the sting of a scorpion, alongside the spacecraft’s name, Manticore.
With a hint of straight rock and Hammond organ, we twist into other sub-genres and descend.
As we burn through to the next level, the frantic pace slows temporarily, reaching the last couple of atmospheric layers before the drama increases again. The recovery capsule drifts into the stratosphere before deploying the safety chute into the troposphere, landing safely on a celebratory guitar solo, nestling softly on a few notes that hang in the air.
Each track is complete in itself and can stand alone with its own identity, but linked together they carry us on an intergalactic ride of the most credible musicianship, delivering influences from all the aforementioned genres with technical excellence. Did I mention the lack of vocals? No, because this album does not need them; at no juncture did I think the music would be enhanced by voices.
There are quite a few instrumental bands in this area of music, but by combining their influences, Hackberry keep this album fresh and interesting enough to return to for further aural enjoyment. Personally, I have not come across a Dutch band playing this style of music before, and I like it. So I can highly recommend Breathing Space as a pleasant way to spend just under fifty minutes on a musical journey.
01. Lunares (15:48)
02. Solitary March (10:21)
03. Foreshadow (11:44)
04. Manticore (12:06)
Total Time – 49:59
Chris Bechtum – Drums
Francesco Bonardi – Guitars
Marijn de Boer – Guitars
Tim Hidskes – Keyboards
Simon Venema – Bass
Record Label: Construction Records
Country of Origin: The Netherlands
Date of Release: 12th May 2023