Hidden Hospitals - Surface Tension Review

Originally posted March 25th, 2015 to Cabin Fever Collective Blog (Offline)

The first thing you’ll notice listening to Surface Tension is that it doesn’t sound like a debut record. Yes, the two EPs they released before help it sound more refined, but they have another secret weapon. Featuring members of New York indie rockers Kiss Kiss and Chicago math rock outfit Damiera, Hidden Hospitals have a reserve of collective expertise under their belt to draw from, leaving the album free of any awkward growing pains and sounding appropriately polished and ripe.

This leads to something else you may notice. Hidden Hospitals is often described as “alternative rock” or “progressive,” which are not necessarily wrong, but painfully vague in this case. Similarly, they’re both tags often used when a band’s style fails to fit into a set category or has a tendency to morph from one sound to another. This is certainly the case on Surface Tension. It’s aggressive, but it’s not metal or hardcore. It has a touch of digital flare, but it’s only as electronic as Radiohead’s OK Computer, using synths to accent and enhance. It is progressive, but not in a 20-minute-epic, Rush or Between the Buried and Me type of way. They are using all the tools at their disposal within the confines of conventional rock to make something fresh.

Feeling continually inspired across its 12 tracks is an element in which Surface Tension excels. With tight musicianship and excellent performances from singer David Raymond, Hidden Hospitals brings a unique flavour to each track: “Modern Saints,” hangs harmonies over a torrent of toms and kick drums, contrasting with slow, distorted guitar melodies, flowing into the textured “History,” introducing layers after layers of vocal harmonies. “From Toxin,” an album stand-out, journeys into a world of twisting time signatures and winding melodies, and “Rose Hips” offers one of the album’s finest hooks in its giant chorus. Additionally, each track maintains a fluid pace, rising and falling from moment to moment, tethering each song together. Surface Tension continually impresses with its depth, and rewards listeners who take the time to look below its surface.