The past few years has seen a wealth of good releases from France, Asmodee being of the foremost exponents of the new French metal front. Any new package from these gaellic masters of extreme metal is a cause for excitement, and those in the know can celebrate the coming of a new album with enthusiasm reserved for a few bands only (I can count those on both hands).
The new full-length , Chlorosis is no different than the past Asmodee releases, in that it maintains its individuality while proudly striding forward. It combines the best elements of the past releases into a monster of a record, while discarding any excess luggage, to make a perfectly honed progressive and technical metal masterpiece.
At a glance, this is a behemoth of intricate riffing, gymnastic basslines, classic leads and inventive drumming, all topped off with Thomas’s recognizable vocals. Dig deeper, and you will discover zany (yet strangely catchy) song structures, bizarre themes and a sense of otherness that distances it considerably from the other French BM bands.
It starts out as a state-of-the-art black metal blast, but within the first 20 seconds you know its no ordinary band, thanks to the jaw-dropping bass work and the catchy yet odd riff ideas.
The first 4 songs are a part of a thematic cycle inspired by a French poet Poddema is an imaginary land created by the French poet Henri michaux in Ici, Poddema in a collection called Ailleurs (Voyage en Grande Garabagne, Au pays de la magie, Ici, Poddema).
Something about the way the ideas are presented in the liner notes made me uneasy / queasy (that’s a good thing in metal). Each of the four songs extrapolate on speciific aspects of this fantasy world :
– Reprogramming of old people for benefit of sociey
– Pain calibration of all individuals
– Drop /music houses sound manipulation
– Harvesting of eyes from certain poddema as jewelry
The theme has inspired the band to pen what are some of the best songs in their arsenal. While the sound is clear and thick throughout, with a lot of intense fast segments, it never blurs into by-the-numbers extreme or death metal. The riffing combines aspects of late 80’s and early 90’s progressive thrash / death metal with mid-90’s classic black metal (I am definitely NOT talking about Darkthrone). There is sense of moving forward in these songs, but minus any of the clichés associated with such terms. “Langalore” is a standout here, with some guitar work that will hook into your head.
Let me first tell you what this album is not. There are no church bells, claustrophobic atmospherics, cheesy synths, choirs, female vocalists or NS samples on display here. The synths or pianos are used very occasionally and placed immaculately. The lyrics are mostly in French, but the titles conjure up bizzare imagery.
The power of anthemic riffs and great songwriting moves this beast, even when it is lurching in odd times. The band has an almost blue-collar approach to its instrumentation, yet manages to achieve a lot withthin the context. The production ensures audibility of all the highs and lows, including astounding bass work courtesy of Monsieur Matthieu. The blasting never gets excessive and is interspersed with more mid-tempo moments, which are used as and when required by the song, not just for variety. Ther is great subverting of traditional BM themes as the melodies start out familiar/traditional and then go places you didnt expect them to. Upon repeated listens it makes sense.
I found the later tracks to be more extreme or complex, but even that adds to the aura and flow of the album. The album does not lose any energy till the end, and the lenght is near perefct at 48 minutes.
The last song “Xthxr” is a relative oddity, being more of an electro-industrial metal piece (in sharp contract to the rest of the album) and is an interesting end to a elaborate album. I am still listening to this and trying to dissect how the band came up with something so interesting without the crutches so common to black metal. This is heavy but not brutal, dark but not evil and progressive without wankery. It effortlessly slides into my top ten list for 2009.
1. Aux Chambres D’oubli
2. Discomfort Scale
3. Langalore / House Of Noise
4. Angle Noir / Hanging Eyes
6. Scars Processor
7. The Cainist
8. Black Drop Journey