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(79:19, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Ne Joue Pas Avec le Feu 6:05 2. La Cite de Gaia 5:59 3. Non Retour 4:08 4. Ne Me Derangez Pas 4:10 5. Zap Infos 2:55 6. Les Trios Couleurs 7:22 7. La Source 11:06 8. Etrangers 5:21 9. El Dorado 4:55 10. Hackers 5:16 11. Restez Sous Vos Abris 7:01 12. Les Pantins 8:08 13. Les Enfants de Gaia 6:47 LINEUP: Thomas Boulant – guitars; vocals Arnaud Catouillard – guitars; vocals Guillaume Wilmot – keyboards; vocals Yohan Lampis – drums Alexy Wilmot – bass
Prolusion. The French outfit ABACAB was formed in the early ‘90s, at first named Contresens. In 2004 they issued their debut album “Les 3 Couleurs”, and early in 2009 their sophomore effort “Mal de Terre” was released through Musea Records.
Analysis. Many followers of progressive rock will without doubt have expectations of a very specific nature when they see an act using Abacab as their handle, as Genesis - still one of the most famous bands of the genre - issued an album by that name a few decades ago. In this case those expectations will not be fulfilled though. As with many other acts, you can trace the influence of Genesis also in this outfit's creations, but in the current case it is not a dominating feature of their sound. Slow, heavy guitar riffs are the most striking feature on this disc. Not because this element dominates the proceedings as such, but because it is present throughout and also because the guitar riffs at times have a gritty, almost primitive nature to their expression: more like raunchy hard rock than advanced progressive rock. In most instances the heavier riffs and riff patterns used are more streamlined and rather subdued in nature, with wandering undistorted guitar patterns, keyboard-dominated themes or the organ as the main melody provider. It is a striking feature, one not found that often amongst acts exploring what most would regard as Neo Progressive. The atmospheric, melodic soloing, wandering guitar patterns as previously mentioned, and the careful atmospheric moods provided by the keyboards all add up to this, despite the at times heavy guitars embedded in the soundscape, and despite another feature as well – both the bass and guitar add elements from funk to quite a few passages on this creation, which does lead to moods with rather conflicting musical contents at times. With French lyrics provided in what some refer to as the French tradition as an additional element here – theatrical vocal delivery with a dramatic flair – it does add up to a rather innovative overall sound. Not all the escapades manage to assemble the rather different stylistic elements into a concise and wholehearted whole, but I respect the band for trying out this at times highly creative take on a subgenre that does tend to produce many bands with a very similar sound. In quite a few cases Abacab is successful in its ventures too, and although not one for the history books this album might warrant an interest from followers of Neo-Prog looking for an album that pushes hard at the boundaries of said genre.
Conclusion. “Mal de Terre” is a somewhat uneven production, merging and blending contrasting musical elements with a variable degree of success; many compositions are pretty strong overall, while some contain too many wildly contrasting elements to function as a whole, even if select passages may be intriguing in themselves. I guess the best description of this disc is that it contains a somewhat atypical variety of Neo Progressive, where hard rock-inspired guitars are the main additional feature. And if that sounds interesting, this album may be worthwhile checking out.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: November 21, 2009
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