Baron Crâne – Les Beaux Jours

Baron Crâne – Les Beaux Jours Album Cover Art

Baron Crâne – Les Beaux Jours
Mrs Red Sound
Release Date: 15.10.21
Running Time: 48:01
Review by Dark Juan
Score: 10/10

Good afternoon, mes amis! I trust you are all carving your gourds, pumpkins, and turnips ready for the celebration of All Hallow’s Eve? I hope you all have your sexy, SEXY witch and warlock outfits and that your pet dogs and cats will hate you for the duration of it as you have dressed them up as bats or spiders, or some other outré outfit. Mrs Dark Juan and I are contemplating dressing up the Dread Lord Sir Igor Egbert Bryan Clown-Shoe Cleavage-Hoover as Pinhead and calling him the Heckraiser. Either that or it will be the matching sequinned pumpkin jumpers for him and Hodgson Biological-Warfare again. Never let it be said that I don’t allow the Smellhounds to enjoy Halloween as much as I do…

Which won’t be very much this year, as I have broken a fucking rib, having been rugby tackled by one of my young gentlemen at work. This bit of wrangling gone disastrously wrong was not (surprisingly) the result of said hulking young tough launching himself fists first at your correspondent (which, to be honest, is a fairly regular occurrence upon meeting me for the first time – just ask Admiral Of The Blue Beth “I’ve Got One Fist Of Iron, And One Made Of Steel, If The Left One Doesn’t Get You, The Right One Will” Jones, who had to sit on her hands to restrain herself from egregious levels of violence upon our first encounter. It is also the INSTANT response of young ladies when clapping their eyes upon my beauteous countenance, and hard, toned physique in order to control themselves, and the subsequent involuntary shedding of their panties. One of these scenarios is almost accurate and the other is a complete fabrication. I shall let you all decide which) and rather more because we were demonstrating different tackles on each other, and therefore it was a complete accident. Thusly, I have flung myself (gingerly and with considerable theatre) upon my chaise longue of abject pain and suffering, and am currently throwing the kinds of tantrums seen only by watchers of Axl Rose, and the parents of toddlers denied their millionth rerun of the fucking bastard furry (and therefore VERY confusing/ arousing to a certain demographic of their viewers. Also, Toyah voiced the yellow one. Toyah was my very first celebrity crush. This made me EXTREMELY confused about Laa-Laa and her watering can) terrorist multi-coloured handbag botherers that were the Teletubbies (NB: Actual autobiographical event from when the delightful progeny of my loins were growing up) and demanding vegetarian bacon sandwiches from Mrs Dark Juan every time she walked past. In response, Mrs Dark Juan has told me to “Fuck off because you’ve broken a rib, not lost your bloody leg, you ABSOLUTE drama queen” and retired to her craft eyrie, at the very top of Dark Juan Terrace, where she knows it will cause me pain to reach her, and I have been left to moulder in the First Reception Room with the hounds and absolutely no chance of a cup of tea.

It is, therefore, through the haze of agonising pain, that I bring you this finely crafted review of the latest album from French genre-bending mâitres Baron Crâne. You will all no doubt recall that I reviewed “Commotions” last year and enjoyed it very much indeed. “Les Beaux Jours” (“The Good Days” en Anglais) has a lot to live up to…

The immediate impression you get from the opening seconds of ‘Danjouer’ is that this album is a much more muscular record than the preceding “Commotions”, with some extremely punchy guitar work, and absolutely powerhouse drumming from guest tubthumper Simon Lemonnier (Wolve), after a droning opening, which leads to an almost pop punk slam into the song proper, which is a massively building, unstoppable juggernaut of Very Good Things all happening at once. This song stands as a rather intense statement of intent from this eclectic French trio. Influences combine and merge themselves into multi-coloured, fizzing new forms throughout the album, on which it appears that Baron Crâne have given up the overarching jazz-rock fusion of “Commotions” in favour of psychedelia, fuzz rock, and the kind of classic guitar sounds, and extended jams, that only come from colossal levels of drug abuse with added jazz abuse.

There are still lovely little jazz touches here and there though, not least on the title track, which, as well as being an almost ten minute epic, effortlessly stretches itself between Hawkwind style power electronics, jazz beats, languid, liquid bass work, and a VERY French Café Chanson vocal on the verse, and Tool-like dynamics and vocal (albeit in French) throughout the song, before it sheds its skin and morphs into its final form of mind-fucking psychedelic reality shifter. It really is a quite, QUITE breathtaking piece of musical perfection for the far-seeing fan of music. And that’s what I am. If you’re a prog metal fan, you’ll dig it big time, brothers and sisters. Stoners, too, will get it and be transported on mescaline fuelled voyages of discovery.

This is the story of the whole record. The jazziest song is ‘Mercury’ (featuring the midnight sex horn…. Sorry, I mean the saxophone talents of Gillaume Perret) which is a fiendishly complicated piece of music, and admirably showcases a band at the absolute peak of their talents. Everything on the record appears to have hit perfection. The song arrangements are sublime. The production is one of the best I have ever heard – pin sharp, with extraordinary clarity and magnificent power from the bass guitar especially, which rumbles and thumps its way through the sound in a meaty and satisfying fashion. Everything is very easy to discern, and when vocals are employed (Baron Crâne are an instrumental band) they are employed superbly and with power. From the point of view of a (a very very shit) musician, this record is notable for the sheer accuracy of the players, all of whom are frankly fucking astonishing – the musical interplay between guitar, bass and drums is just…. Well it’s fucking perfect, mate.

The second track, ‘Larry’s Journey’, amply demonstrates this as it switches from post-rock drone, to jazz fuelled metal guitar abuse, bass led shoegaze, and slowly building gothic menace, before the drummer crashes in in a very unusual time signature, and the whole band follow effortlessly and are tighter than a duck’s arsehole throughout. ‘Quarantine’ features the voice of Cyril Bodin, who offers the listener a superb, slightly gravelly hard rock delivery that the band build on with aplomb before taking a hard left turn into the misty hinterlands of prog for the middle part of the song, before his howl reminds us of Robert Plant, and the music and the chorus drags the listener back to the funky hard rock the song started with.

I cannot tell you how much I adore Baron Crâne’s music. This is metal (and it is metal, fact fans!!!) for intelligent people. The kind of metal fan who thinks that Avenged Sevenfold are super technical, or the fan stuck in 1986, and claims that metal died after “Master Of Puppets”, isn’t going to get this record. You have to have an understanding of music to fully engage with this album otherwise you’re just going to dismiss it as jazz-fuelled poncery. Which it really isn’t. It is jaw-droppingly stunning and vast in concept and execution. With influences from diverse sources (King Crimson, Tool, Air, Hawkwind and Led Zeppelin were some of the more obvious ones). It transcends the mere thought of music, and turns it into art you can hear. “Les Beaux Jours” is synesthetic perfection.

There I said it. The Chronicles Of Manimal And Sahara have a challenger for my favourite band of 2021. Sheer magnificence.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (le système breveté d’évaluation des éclaboussures de sang Dark Juan) awards Baron Crâne la crème entière dix sur dix. Full marks. Ten out of ten if you can’t speak French. Anything else would be a travesty, and I should know because I am one today.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Danjouer (feat. Simon Lemonnier on drums)
02. Larry’s Journey
03. Quarantine (feat. Cyril Bodin on vocals)
04. Mercury (feat. Guillaume Perret on saxophone)
05. Inner Chasm
06. Merinos (feat. Robby Marshal on flute)
07. Les Beaux Jours

LINE-UP:
Léo Pinon-Chaby – Guitar, vocals on “Les Beaux Jours”
Léo Goizet – Drums, percussion
Olivier Pain – Bass

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Charlotte Wessels – Tales from Six Feet Under

Tales From Six Feet Under Album Cover Art

Charlotte Wessels – Tales from Six Feet Under
Napalm Records
Release Date: 17/9/21
Running Time: 43:39
Review by Steven Hooke
8/10

On the 7th February 2020, Dutch symphonic metal powerhouse Delain released their sixth studio album, the foreshadowingly-named “Apocalypse & Chill”. It was a great album, full of pop hooks, character, and personality, giving hope that not all Symphonic Metal acts just want to rewrite The Phantom of the Opera. However, in a turn of events that caught nearly everyone off-guard, vocalist Charlotte Wessels, guitarist Timo Somers, bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije, and drummer Joey de Boer were all announced to be departing the band.

Undeterred by the events around her, Wessels has opted to double-down on her solo work, capitalising on the success and intrigue of her lockdown collaboration with Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz. Exploring her creativity via her Patreon audience, “Tales from Six Feet Under” acts as a greatest hits of the songs made during the aforementioned lockdown, forged in the fires of Wessels’ own home studio, dubbed “Six Feet Under”.

What follows is a whimsically diverse collection of songs and styles, ranging from indie, to synthpop, to alt rock, to folk, and everything in between. ‘Superhuman’ sees Wessels working a more intimate style, with gloomy indie pop, and a more refrained vocal style leading the way, offset with folk vocal calls and spoken word passages, before ripples of delicate electronica add a shimmering vibrance to the song. And that’s just the album opener.

“Tales from Six Feet Under” feels like an almost total-disassociation from Wessels’ Delain days. The closest she gets to her previous sound is in the cover of classic gothic rock anthem ‘Cry Little Sister’, the solo to ‘Source of the Flame’, and in the penultimate track ‘F.S.U. (2020)’ which handily out-heavies most of ‘Apocalypse & Chill’. Our self-proclaimed 21st Century witch excels at a modern folk-based sound, with ritualistic drum patterns, and soaring vocal notes often the base of a song to be built around. ‘Victor’ has a wonderful dreampop miasma, whereas ‘New Mythology’ is a bit more sprightly, executing a more electropop beat, and ‘Soft Revolution’ sees off the album as an electro rock stomper.

The true highlight of the album though comes from the appropriately-named ‘Masterpiece’, a cauldron of folk, indie, pop, and EDM, that is stuffed to the brim with attention-stealing hooks and a scintillating vocal performance from our new Dutch Queen. The song, and indeed the album, are all capped off by a brilliant production job, highlighting all corners of the album to perfection.

It almost feels like Charlotte Wessels has been secretly waiting for her departure from Delain, honing her indie pop craft (and home studio) to unleash onto the world at the earliest opportunity. There are many marvelous ideas on show in her debut solo outing, and with her monthly song via Patreon continuing as of November 2021, there seems to be no stopping the creativity. While knowing a lot about Wessels’ own personal creative process, it would be interesting to see what she could come up with, and the styles she could dabble with, were she to have a more traditional writing cycle and time for ideas to breathe, compared to the brainstorming and evolution of a single song at a time per month. Regardless, a rich vein of ideas appears to have been tapped by the former-Delain frontwoman, and it doesn’t appear to be running dry any time soon.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Superhuman
02. Afkicken
03. Masterpiece
04. Victor
05. New Mythology
06. Source of the Flame
07. Cry Little Sister
08. Lizzie [w/ Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy)]
09. FSU (2020)
10. Soft Revolution

LINE-UP:
Charlotte Wessels – Vocals, All Instruments
Alissa White-Gluz – Vocals (Track 8)

LINKS:

Charlotte Wessels Promo Pic


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Steven Hooke and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Midgar – Unity

Unity Album Cover Art

Midgar – Unity
Year Of The Rat Records
Release Date: 18/06/2021
Running Time: 50:52
Review by Beth Jones
10/10

This year has been 7 months of hell so far here at EMHQ. It’s almost as if it saw 2020, and uttered the eternal phrase “Bitch, hold my drink”! But, as always, the one constant for me is music, and the biggest observation of the music on offer this year is just how bloody outstanding it is. Picking my top ten albums of the year is going to be ridiculously difficult – I already have 14 on my list!

Today’s subject has added another name to that list. Midgar are a London based band, whose sound is a grand mix of Progressive Metal, Symphonic Rock/Metal, and Cinematic Rock, driven by piano and strings, with sweeping melodies and vocals. At the helm is main man Andy Wilson-Taylor, and this new album, “Unity” has been his lockdown project, which he wrote, recorded, produced, mixed and mastered at his own studio. And what a project and album he has turned out! Please excuse me while I wax lyrical about it

There are so many facets to the sound of Midgar. At the forefront, as mentioned, are dramatic piano melodies and sweeping strings. But dig deeper and you’ll find elements of Modern Metal and Djent, along with symphonic hooks, progressive rhythms, and use of the double harmonic ‘Arabian’ scale, to add to the drama. There are influences from all corners of music as well. Vocally, and emotively, this album reminds me a lot of Muse, but there are a couple of points where it takes on a more ‘pop’ feel, and conversely, some points which are straight out of Symphonic Black metal and Nu-Metal territory. By day, Andy composes for TV and Film, and that ‘classical soundtrack’ element is the driving force behind the sound.

Now, as many of you know, I’m a sucker for a ballad, and there are some absolute joys on this album, whether it be full tracks, or interludes, with one standing head and shoulders above the rest. More on that later.

The album opens with a short prelude, of piano and strings, with classical orchestration, including dramatic timpani rolls, followed by ‘Ascension’, which starts out in ballad fashion, but rises and grows into a massive Cinematic Rock track. Then, after 3 more crunchy and punchy songs, we get the first proper ballad, ‘Isle Of Glass’. A beautifully gentle piece, it holds some deep and melancholy undertones within its lyrics, that leave you wondering if it’s a love song, or a mournful view of imminent loss.

This dark undertone, lyrically, is seen throughout the album, whether it’s loss, pain, or disaffection. It’s very, very clever because, even though a lot of the songs are in minor keys, their beauty somehow disguises the melancholy which lies beneath.

In contrast to a lot of the album, ‘Nemesis’ brings forth apocalyptic rage. It starts with some huge punchy Blackened Thrash riffs, with screamed vocals, and twists and turns throughout. It does have piano and string sections, but heavy guitars are in the driving seat here. Superb track.

The penultimate, and title track, ‘Unity’, is another laid back, ballad, driven by strings, which lilts along, and brings down the frenetic movement of parts of the album, but builds towards the album finale. And it’s this final track that really puts the icing on this mighty fine cake of an album. ‘Go, Carefully’, for me, is quite possibly one of the most refined and beautiful ballads I have ever heard. It’s a track that speaks of endings, and it really got me in the feels.

I spent a large part of one evening this week, after a particularly terrible day, listening to it on repeat and just sobbing. It’s that emotive. It’s that beautiful. It’s stripped back – just piano, strings, and Andy’s faultless vocals. It’s breathtaking, and an absolute masterclass in how to write a ballad. From the crescendos and diminuendos to slight rallentando at the end of phrases, and perfect pauses creating fleeting moments of silence. Lyrically, it is so beautifully melancholic that it grabbed hold of my soul. This piece alone left me speechless and is now firmly on my list of all time favorite emotive ballads. An absolute genius way to close an album.

Wow. Just…wow. That’s really all I have to say to sum up. I’m blown away by this album. It really has something for everyone in it, and from a musical perspective, displays not only supreme talent and skill, but also a level of passion and depth that is rare.

‘Go, Carefully’ (Official Audio)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Prelude
02. Ascension
03. We Don’t Make The Rules
04. Disciple
05. Sunburn
06. Isle Of Glass
07. Ira Vehementi
08. Nemesis
09. Erebus
10. We Found The Darkness In The Sun
11. Paradise
12. Unity
13. Go, Carefully

LINKS:

Midgar Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.