Now and again, an album comes along that genuinely surprises you. Having read the press blurb that accompanied this sophomore release from French six-piece MOADM, I was fully expecting to write them off as another bunch of Meshuggah wannabes. Well, how pleasantly surprised I was with what I actually discovered, as this is a clever, intricate, superbly conceived and extremely well presented album from a band who have obviously passed their musical baccalaureate with honours.
Opener ‘Tomorrow, At Dawn’ immediately gets you thinking, with its opening mix of ambient electronic background static blending seamlessly into a harsh, jangling guitar and drum riff: it’s a complex song, blending moments of pure hardcore with huge swathes of melody and a danceable, nu-metal feel – dare I say but like early Linkin Park, but with the ability to play their instruments – its contrasting use of harmonic and guttural vocal styles blending perfectly with the progressive instrumentalisation. It’s a song which both characterizes and summarizes the album – but that is not to say that it is the sum of it, as there is plenty more to explore in the following ten tracks.
‘On The Heights Of Despair’ is much more straightforward hardcore affair, vocalist Pierre Duneau’s snarling vocal exploding from the speaker: but, again, there is loads of melody, especially in the female-led backing vocals, and there’s an almost funky feel to Audrey Henry’s bass patterns (she’s also the one who provides the beautifully counterparted backing voice), while the guitars of Ben Debrun and Tony Garcia alternately deliver stabbing, almost punkish riffs and huge sonic solo patterns. ‘Under The Cross’ is very much in progressive metal territory, but still retains its hardcore sensibilities, mainly through Duneau’s rasping vocal – a trend that is continued with the even more impressive ‘Meshiha’, which starts with a funereal prayer recitation and develops into a darkly majestic piece of jazz/hardcore crossover – yes, very much in the Meshuggah vein, but with enough of it’s own identity stamped on it.
‘Good Mourning Child’ is vicious and acerbic, yet with a beautiful underpinning melody, while ‘Insomniac Animal’ is almost pure hardcore, very much in the Converge mode, and features another brilliant performance from Jef Ertle, who proves himself throughout the album to be an extremely dynamic and versatile drummer (even though the production sometimes overrides his quieter moments – one of few complaints). ‘An Ode To Myself’ is beautiful, starting with an almost-lullaby quality acoustic section, before building into a towering riff and even Duneau’s feral vocal interruptions fit precisely into the quality of the song, while the doominess of ‘Trismegistus King’ is its perfect contrast.
‘Leave Scars’ and ‘Diving Bell And Butterfly’ – the latter as subliminally bitter as the classic French novel of the same name – both swirl around the room like the smoke entrails from that cheeky Cuban cigar you’ve been saving for a special occasion. Which just leaves us with the closer, the epic instrumental (well, until the vocals kick in just seconds from the end) seven minutes that is ‘INRI’… the perfect balance to the opening track, it brings the album to a grand finale with its atmospheric melodies combined with harmonic brutality – and a last 30 seconds that, quite frankly, leaves you both shell-shocked and immediately hitting the “replay” button.
An eye-opening, surprising album, and a prime example of how progressive metal can be when truly talented musicians really put their minds to pushing the boundaries of the genre.[9/10]
- Tomorrow, At Dawn
- On The Heights Of Despair
- Under The Cross
- Good Mourning Child
- Insomniac Animal
- An Ode To Myself
- Trismegistus King
- Leave Scars
- Diving Bell And Butterfly
‘V.I.T.R.I.O.L.’ is out now on Klonosphere / Season Of Mist