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(60:22, Progrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. The 92nd Flight 5:42 2. Cassandra 5:26 3. Unhearted 3:56 4. When 3:06 5. Miracles 4:06 6. Burning Skies 0:54 7. Enter Spaceman 3:16 8. No Second Ride 3:18 9. Before the Storm 1:22 10. Resilience 5:46 11. Falling Deeper 3:16 12. Miller's End 5:16 13. Coma 5:12 14. No Betrayal 4:36 15. A Better End 5:10 LINEUP: Matthieu Baker – guitars; vocals Julien Chometton – guitars Pierre Lucas – keyboards Adeline Gurtner – vocals Philippe Chauvire – flute Romain Fayet – drums Luc Babut – bass With: Elsa Claveria – violin Rachel Givelet – violin Samuel Hengebaert – viola Florian nauche – violoncello Elodie Poirier - dilruba, cello Guillaume Prost – darbuka Sylvain Gerard – djembe Tom O'Bedlam – voice
Prolusion. The French band AKIN was formed back in 1998. They issued a demo the following year which was favorably received by the metal press, with a full-length album following in 2001 and an EP two years later. After a spell of inactivity the band got together again in 2009, and in 2011 they were signed by the US label Progrock Records, which subsequently released their second CD "The Way Things End".
Analysis. Bands that twist and bend rules and perceptions are something I've always had a soft spot for. In particular if they do so in an accessible manner, the combination of unfamiliar and unexpected developments set inside a framework of relatively easy-to-grasp stylistic expressions is one that intrigues me, which is very much the case with Akin. This is a band with a background in metal, and even on a production as varied as this one the trademark features of a metal band of the kind that many would describe as gothic appears to be something of a foundation here. But this outfit has expanded way beyond those borders on this production. One of the main elements in a gothic metal band is lead vocals. Female vocalists are more common than not in that part of the metal universe, most of which have powerful but melodic voices and a tendency to opt for dramatic or emotionally-laden delivery. The latter is very much the case here; Gurtner has impeccable control and only a slight accent, which I find a rather charming feature. There are plenty of vocal harmonies to enjoy too, as beautiful to experience as the lead voice and the songs in general. And the songs as a whole make an impression. If you want variety you'll get ample amounts of it on this production, as the songs twist and turn from one style to the next, with an impeccable fluency I might add. Dramatic inserts are generally disregarded as an option to lead a song from one part to the next, the band opting for individual instrumental motifs or the vocals to cater for that component. There are changes aplenty to enjoy in this manner, as most of these numbers wander freely between a few styles. Melodramatic sequences featuring a participating string quartet as main-theme providers, backed by dampened guitars and vocals soaring on top, purebred mainstream-oriented progressive rock of the kind Radiohead used to explore, quirky riff patterns in a more elaborate progressive metal manner are all styles covered, and the occasional jazz-oriented theme led by piano or guitar is a secondary flavoring that also appears to fit this band quite nicely. Beautiful material, frequently heading off in a direction you don't expect or developing in a quite different manner from what one might envision at the onset, the inclusion of a string quartet that gets to have a subtly more important role in the proceedings than what is customary one of the main attractions. To my ears there's just a tad too much variety going on however: as beautiful and dazzling as the songs are they do get to be a tad too alike one to another, which is just about the only weakness of this production. The songs as such are splendidly performed and excellently produced. Personally, I was most taken by Miller's End, where Charles Causly's poem is recited on top of a musical backing, and then the song hits an elongated instrumental part liberally flavored with multiple expressions, with a rare psychedelic-oriented theme for the last minute or so, which fits this particular creation just about perfectly.
Conclusion. Akin has constructed a beautiful piece of eclectic art rock with "The Way Things End", blending art rock and progressive metal in a successful and easy-to-like manner, yet with enough twists and turns to satisfy many who crave music that is of a fairly challenging variety. The tight interaction with a string quartet and its role in the proceedings suggest to me that fans of US act District 97 may be something of a key audience also for Akin, and I would suggest those who enjoy one of those to also take the time and listen to the other, which, presumably, should give both these bands some new fans.
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