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(66:18 / Musea Parallele Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Les Errants 3:43 2. Ether 3:59 3. Drop-dead Gorgeous 4:13 4. DNA 5:47 5. Watching You 4:40 6. Ancient Smiles 5:19 7. Les Bordes 3:47 8. B Lutins 3:39 9. Invaders 3:54 10. Doorway 5:50 11. Clouds 21:25 LINEUP: Fredrik Martin-Bonyer - vocals; guitars; piano Julien Zondan - bass; organ, piano Michael Galand - drums With: Astrid Karonal - vocals
Prolusion. The press kit only says CITADEL is a French trio which came to existence in 2002 and that "Pluies Acides" is their second CD with the music being influenced by Pink Floyd and Muse. I've linked up to the group's website and learned that their debut album bears the same name as the band and was released in 2004. Prior to starting on the review I must confess I have no idea what kind of band Muse are.
Analysis. In my view, these French musicians are inspired by the work of several bands (to be named in due time), but as they resourcefully intermix their influences with their own ideas, they have created a rather organic output where the quantity of, say, natural products noticeably exceeds that of modified ones. Put analytically, "Pluies Acides" is a container of several musical styles, those belonging to contemporary mainstream Prog and those referring to the genre's glorious past being approximately equal in number, though some elements of traditional Rock music can be found on the album as well. Nine of the disc's eleven tracks involve lyrics, some of these being in French, some in English, which is almost always directly linked with the language that their respective titles are done in. I won't discuss the band's choice to appear before the listener as a bilingual entity, but their pronunciation of French seems to be:-) better than you know what, though to be fully objective, I must note this badly-covert criticism concerns to a greater degree only guest female singer, Astrid Karonal. With the exception of three tracks (Watching You, Ancient Smiles and DNA), the keyboards are used very sparingly, so the sound in most cases corresponds to the kind we usually expect from a power guitar trio. The shorter tracks - those five in the track list above, none of which exceeds 4 minutes in duration - all consist for the most part of fast-and-hard, energetically-saturated arrangements, the islands of relative calmness just accentuating the tunes' primal, impetuous nature. The songs, Les Errants, Ether, Les Bordes and B Lutins, are each an amalgamation of U2's (instantly recognizable) style with fully original progressive Hard Rock, though the album's opener is also notable for some expressive techno-thrash movements, its follow-up for those bringing to mind the concept of Alternative. Despite some reiterations on both the vocal and instrumental angles (which is typical for most of the other tracks too) and a slight mainstream feeling in places as well, each of the songs is listenable at the very least. The fact is that Citadel appear to be a union of well-rehearsed musicians, who play with ease and confidence alike, effortlessly jumping from style to style, wittingly trying all their best to eschew 'square' measures, as well as trivial minor/major sonorities, all of which I sincerely appreciate. The remaining short cut, the vocal-free Invaders, alternates space-metal constructions with still rather hard space-rock architectures, thus being the heaviest number in the set. The remembrance of Voivod circa "Outer Limits" and Hawkwind's "Levitation", respectively, might help you get some clearer idea of the music. The two tracks sung by the invited female vocalist all alone, Drop-dead Gorgeous and Watching You, declassify another strong passion of Citadel, namely Pink Floyd, the former at times instantly evoking the first post-vocal movement of Welcome to the Machine (although the guitar riff suggests rather Black Sabbath's Zero the Hero in its structure), whilst the latter is strongly reminiscent of the Great Gig In the Sky - all through its first half, to be more precise. Both the songs feature some highly impressive movements in the vein of heavy Space Rock, the latter being especially rich in these - particularly within its second half. I only regret these often develop alongside Astrid's singing, as the lady's high-pitched vocals are just out of place there, not so much diversifying the picture as destroying its cohesiveness instead - like rain blurring the colors on a canvas, in a way. Doorway begins and evolves much like Watching You, save the fact that the music remains slow even at its heaviest, therefore being progressively somewhat less saturated. The other tune that I like rather less than the others would be Ancient Smiles, revealing some nice moments within its piano-laden sections, but otherwise only drawing a harder version of Alternative. Finally, it's the turn of my favorite to be described. The one with organ, being generally the richest in keyboard patterns, DNA is the absolute winner, embracing probably all the progressive directions that are available on the album and beyond and, at the same time, leaving overboard most of those lying outside the idiom. The track's overall stylistic panorama includes progressive Hard Rock, Doom Metal, Space Rock, some art-rock-like patterns, plus the piano postlude as the curtain falls. The allusions take place here and there and are as follows: Levitation and Motorway City by Hawkwind and Pink Floyd's Astronomy Domine. The last track, Clouds, first reveals a lush, very beautiful piece of Classical music, which sounds like being performed by an excellent up-to-date string ensemble. Lasting for four-and-a-half minutes, it could've been a really great conclusion for the album. Then, however, follows that very strange trick which we meet often enough during the last decade to consider it a kind of infectious disease - a lengthy cut of the sound of silence (over 13 minutes in this particular case), after which the patient listener will be 'felicitated' with straightforward heavy Alternative. Absurd. So, the real playing time of the recording is about 50 minutes, and not 66:18 as indicates my CD player.
Conclusion. Please stop listening to this disc after the classical-like piece is ended - well, in the event you are going to purchase it. Counting all the pros and cons of "Pluies Acides" (mainly from a viewpoint of contemporary Space Rock), I find it to be something halfway between a good and a very good album, though certainly not as great as "Signify" by Porcupine Tree, just for instance.
VM: March 10, 2007
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