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(50:28 / Unicorn Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Atomic Disco 5:31 2. Tokamak 3:35 3. Dementielle 5:44 4. Feedback 6:05 5. Un Dimanche Soir a St-Zenon 1:03 6. Caterpillar 5:17 7. Tunnel Nomero 2:51 8. Delirium 6:17 9. Jouer Encore 6:31 10. Brainstorm 7:32 LINEUP: Francois Blanchard - guitar; programming Marc-Andre Blanchard - guitar Philippe-Antoine Bernard - bass Maxime Brisebois - drums
Prolusion. CAPHARNAUM hail from the Canadian province of Quebec, which has always harbored the flagships of that country's progressive rock movement. "Le Soleil Est Une Bombe Atomique" is the first release by the group, although they started out more than fifteen years ago, in 1991.
Analysis. On their 10-track debut outing Capharnaum appears as apprentices of two quite different schools, being equally inspired by Rush and Wishbone Ash. With the exception of two short cuts, Un Dimanche Soir a St-Zenon and Tunnel Nomero (to be described last of all), the recording can almost be divided in half, where the first half is clear sonorous guitar Art-Rock, and the other predominantly Prog-Metal. On the pieces from the former category, namely Atomic Disco, Tokamak, Caterpillar and Jouer Encore, Capharnaum sound like they are much more influenced by Wishbone Ash than their own countrymen, their rhythms being no less diverse than those we meet in the best works of the English band, such as the title track of (their most progressive album IMHO) "There's the Rub". The alternation of intense and softer arrangements with simultaneous changes of theme and pace, as well as the presence of tasty, memorable, truly remarkable guitar patterns, is peculiar to each of the said four creations. However on Atomic Disco, one of these very beautiful solos runs almost all through the piece, thus making it sound a bit samey, though on the other hand such an approach seems to be justified, inasmuch as it's only used on the opening track. By the way, it is easy to perceive Atomic Disco as being the same for this recording as Hotel California is for the eponymous album by the Eagles. The other three art-rock pieces, Tokamak, Caterpillar and Jouer Encore, are all at once melodic and positively eclectic. The duel-interplays between the axemen, Francois Blanchard and Marc-Andre Blanchard, recall those between Andy Powell and Laurie Wisefield, while the guitar riffs are akin to those by Alex Lifeson in Rush, no matter that they're exclusively soft here, played without using an overdrive processor. Bassist Philippe-Antoine Bernard and drummer Maxime Brisebois don't stand aloof from events, providing a firm bottom line for all of their partners' flourishes. On the disc's second imaginary half things get much harder and at the same time more diverse, with the energy level remaining usually high on every track from that category or, to be more precise, each of the following, Dementielle, Feedback, Delirium and Brainstorm, contains only one section with atmospheric landscapes. Rush circa "Caress of Steel" would be a central reference point concerning Dementielle and Feedback alike, but nevertheless the influence of Wishbone Ash can't be disregarded - just because it's still also obvious, even though only here and there. Those familiar with the work of the latter band are well aware of how they can at times go all out to make a hard-hitting sound. Delirium and Brainstorm both reveal noticeably less prototypal features, combining Rush-style Prog-Metal with much heavier textures related to various manifestations of the genre, NWBHM at its most progressive included. Wonderful is the word. The only time that Capharnaum somewhat fall short is on the two brief tracks, Un Dimanche Soir a St-Zenon and Tunnel Nomero. Despite its title, the former piece itself is extremely so, barely exceeding one minute in duration, the music as such (an interplay between acoustic guitar and bass) only lasting for about 35 seconds. The second is too straightforward for my personal taste: fluid guitar solos slowly moving alongside an up-tempo rhythm section whose pace remains unchanging throughout.
Conclusion. Performed with competency and elegance alike, "Le Soleil Est Une Bombe Atomique" is overall a very good recording, and I wouldn't have deprived it of half a star if the two makeweights hadn't been included. The power of Capharnaum lies much more in tasty arrangements and group interplays than in technical acrobatics, which shouldn't be underestimated either. Recommended.
VM: September 11, 2007
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