I’ve been following the Transport Aerian project for several years now, and it has been a pleasure to watch Hamlet grow from an entertaining curiosity to a full-fledged voice in the prog community, not to mention the great music he has produced along the way. His last album “Darkblue” was his best at the time and showed real promise for the future, and Hamlet has completely delivered on that potential in his new album “Therianthrope”, an album that is human and poetic to the core. The album releases on November 17th through Melodic Revolution Records.
I call Transport Aerian a “project” because, while it is primarily a solo outlet for Hamlet, various musicians are always present to help him bring his vision to life. This time around Hamlet himself handles vocals, guitars, keys, bass, programming, drums, and sampling; but his guest list is pretty long: Rachel Bauer for spoken word and vocals, Paul Sax on violin, Stef Flaming on guitar, Stefan Boeykens on guitar, Elvya on hammered dulcimer, Dyian on hurdy-gurdy, Peter Matuchniak on guitar, Marco Ragni on guitar and keys, and Darren Brush on the Chapman Stick. I almost ran out of breath just typing all of that. So, this project is a group effort this time for sure.
When it comes to music, Transport Aerian is a little difficult to describe. The music here is more ambitious and eclectic than anything the project has produced in the past, too. Eerie violin muses alongside post-metal guitars, electronic accents, odd soundscapes, unconventional song structures, and irregular beats, producing a sort of diverse sound that will grow on you the more you hear it. This is what I call “post-prog”, through and through, and that is no accident. Hamlet has long been vocal of his opinion of the by-the-numbers prog that is unfortunately rather popular nowadays, so I see the genre variety and unconventional use of the instruments as a statement, and a powerful one at that.
“Therianthrope” is an immersive and completely absorbing experience. While the music is part of this, another aspect is the emotional and human content of the lyrics. Hamlet is very open about the lyrical content as it revolves around human emotional reactions to various broken situations. The lyrics are very raw yet poetic in a profane sort of way, and you can feel every bit of the anguish, brokenness, and sorrow. The last part of the album, though, seems to elicit hope in this broken human condition, almost like peace and wholeness is possible, though a vicious cycle of anguish will always be a part of this life.
The musicial performances are certainly part of this poetic darkness, too. First of all, Hamlet’s vocals are a step above anything I’ve heard from him. He experiments with various tones and levels of grit, hitting notes I didn’t know he could and sounding much more suave than I realized he is. Rachel’s vocals, too, are a great complement to Hamlet, providing that needed contrast and purity that this album needed.
The instrumentation feels warmer than you might expect, and the various musicians are obviously very good at what they do. I especially like the brilliant guitars, whether solos or more conceptual in composition, and I also love Paul’s haunting, delicate violin that weaves its spine-tingling way through some of the songs.
As outside-the-box Hamlet is, he really does know how to produce genuinely great songs. One of my favorite things about this album is the five-part “Abstract Symphony” suite. In my recent interview with Hamlet, he made me aware that these five tracks are 100% improvised. I was shocked because the suite feels whole and composed, with lots of variety and moments of pure brilliance. The first part sounds electronic and beautiful, while the second part feels odd and swelling. The third part is my favorite with this spacey, electronic sound that feels almost like Vangelis at points. Part four is somewhat brief but contains some spoken word that orients it a bit. The final part feels exquisite and beautiful, presenting an almost celestial quality. This suite is spread out over the album, almost like interludes of sorts.
There are several songs that I absolutely love on this album. “Smirking Sirens” is a fantastic opener that showcases not only the oddity to come, but also the beauty. “Destroy Me” is a fascinating song with a grinding, pulsating tone that is produced more by violin than anything else. It is a mesmerizing piece. Another favorite, “September” might be the most beautiful song on the album with lots of gusto, a great guitar solo, and this surreal melody that feels smooth and almost accessible. Hamlet sounds fantastic, too.
More favorites include: “Eternal Guilt” builds like a smoldering furnace of pain and grief, and “Lions” is wonderful track that sounds atmospheric, with lots of sounds that, yes, remind me of the 80s. “Last Days of Peace”, the single, ends the album with folkish glory and a very personal touch. There is something hauntingly beautiful and darkly poetic about this song that has made it one of my favorite tracks on any album this year. It feels almost Gothic, in the medieval sense.
Transport Aerian has produced its greatest album yet. “Therianthrope” is a gorgeous soundscape ranging from peculiarities to whimsical beauty. The album communicates humanity at its darkest, most palpable state; giving us something to relate to while we experience the music. Hamlet himself seemed very excited about this production from the very beginning, and I completely understand why. He has crafted a masterpiece of provocative and poetic mortality.
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