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Anthemon is an unknown and surprising band. After having greeted us with an awesome debut album, the gorgeous Arcanes, it goes on with this more doom-oriented Dystopia, a kind of concept album about... dystopia. Well, nice guess.
The line-up has changed since Arcanes: female singer Nathalie Bonnaud has left and has been replaced by a man, Loïc Malassagne. Here one can only thank the band for having been able to evolve, indeed, as you may guess, Dystopia will have lost the gothic element which added to the originality of its predecessor. However the music is still good, even if a bit more repetitive. Anthemon still plays heavy doom with haunting melodies, like this immortal keyboard tune of the second track, Foretell Omega. Actually the first tracks are what we could best expect from the band: the same plaintive sound that in Arcanes, a wall of guitar and keyboard sound backing a slow guitar leitmotiv repeated again and again – from the beginning of the opening track, Above Us. Then comes the singer and... ever wondered how Matt Barlow would have sound if he had sung in a doom band? Yes, I’m talking about the same Barlow of Iced Earth fame. That’s how Mr Malassagne sounds, and I’m not joking, even if there are of course some slight differences between the two, the doom singer sounding a bit more plaintive - that’s the law of the genre. Eventually, one may notice that growls (still done by the bassist Marc Canlers) are less present than in the previous album, and that the loss of the female singer restricted of course the range of vocal possibilities, reduced to the classic alternation clean vocals / growls.
Another difference is the use of keyboards, used now almost exclusively as backing instruments. No more piano solo parts like in Arcanes, gone are also the minimalist instrumental interludes; the only instrumental track here, Tuned to a dead Channel, being easily the worse on the album, sounding exactly as the previous tracks – like a song which was intended to have vocals on it, which were given up. Simply useless.
And here lies the weakness of this album. In spite of excellent tracks, oppressive atmosphere, memorable tunes, it tends to repeat itself, two songs being absolute fillers (Recall the Absence, Manifold of) which add nothing to the album. Luckily the wonderful track sung in French – this band must be so proud of its country it feels like writing a song in its mother tongue in every album – La Chute de l’Architecte (The Fall of the Architect) raises the level again after the crappy instrumental, with the best vocal performance of both singers (Loïc Malassagne’s style sounding closer to declamation than actual singing), more inspired (and of course, still slow) riffs and interesting lyrics for who can understand them. The following track, as said before, is no more than a filler, and the album closes on Serene Eves, the ending of this song being an apotheosis of despair (after a quite common beginning) which will once again haunt you long after it has faded away.
Dystopia is still likely to provoke sadness and uneasiness as its predecessor, and still boasts this melodic side which makes this band so pleasant to listen to, but unfortunately can’t escape monotony. But it could have been worse: from a gothic-doom band, Anthemon could have turned into a crappy gothic band instead of a good doom metal band.
Highlights: Above us, Foretell Omega, La Chute de l’Architecte, Serene Eves