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[FOREWORD: This is a review for the French edition. The international edition is entirely sung in English, while 3 tracks are missing: Au Baiser de Vermeil, Conte Fantasmagorique and the general conclusion.]
Misanthrope may be a quite well-known French band, but even its proper classification remains an intricate puzzle. Not only because Misanthrope have evolved, from their unlistenable, headache-inducing progressive/avantgarde debuts to the more standard sort of melodeath they seem to be playing now, but because varied influences are often merged altogether in a single release, leading to a sonic maze; or mess, depending of how cleverly the mixture is done. Looking to the band’s discography as a whole, the latter is sadly more frequent than the former. However said discography nonetheless conceals a couple of gems, and Misanthrope Immortel is one of those.
This may not be the opinion of everyone though. Immortel is likely to become a hateful album to many, from the first listen. The reason stands in one word, OVERPRODUCTION. Never Misanthrope had used so many keyboards, so many samples. Not indus ones, but imitations of classical, or baroque, in any case pompous, music. This work is grandiloquent, ridicule, far-fetched, artificial, over-the-top, delirious and whatever you want. SAS de L’Argilière and Jean-Jacques Moréac, as megalomaniac as they’re both, never dared to go as far as in this very album, even on its predecessor Humiliations Libertines or its successor Sadistic Sex Daemon. Simply because Immortel is the kind of album which can be done only once. It sounds most of the times grotesque, but it’s genius. Sir, you thought Rhapsody was cheesy? Now, listen to this symphonic break in Les Lamentations du Diable! Or to the verses of the closing track Passion Millionaire! Is Rhapsody still the cheesiest band ever?
Without saying the whole music from the beginning to the end goes on par with the keyboards and orchestrations. De L’Argilière’s harsh vocals have never sounded so exalted, exalted in an almost religious fashion. He no longer plays the part of the Misanthrope, he IS the Misanthrope, the Misanthrope spitting at the face of the listener, of the overall mediocrity, even of Beauty – Beauty, which is nothing more than a slut, as he screams in Au Baiser de Vermeil, one of the best songs the band ever wrote, and which unfortunately lacks on the international edition, probably because its poetic and puns-filled lyrics weren’t really translatable.
Actually as soon as the first notes of the opener Eden Massacre have resounded De l’Argilière no more controls himself, and neither does the rest of the band. During almost one hour the guys play, and play fast, through an orgy of orchestrations, arpeggios-based guitar as well as bass solos, neverending double bass and occasional blastbeats, regardless of whatever could happen. Immortel is typically the kind of album which won’t let the listener breathe for one second, except when the time of the mandatory ballad has come. Said ballad being the subtle Nuit Androgyne, maybe the best slow song Misanthrope ever wrote, but alas it’s not saying much. Fortunately, De L’Argilière didn’t abuse of whiny clean vocals on this one, and it shows a rather pleasant chorus. Allright.
The above description could suggest a pretty linear release, some insanely fast but monotonous garbage a la Dragonforce. You’re dead wrong as, if Immortel undoubtedly is the most power metal-oriented Misanthrope work (a harsh sort of power metal though), it’s also one of the most varied one. There are in-the-face, aggressive melodeath-oriented tracks like Eden Massacre, The Soul Thrower or La Momie de Marianne, this last song exhibiting one of the strangest vocal performances De l’Argilière ever putted out, as he almost raps (!) on the bridge and chorus while he never sounds as high-pitched as during the middle part! On the other hand tracks like Les Empereurs du Néant or Passion Millionnaire are more on the mid-tempo, catchy side, though the whole album could be deemed “catchy”. It abounds in memorable melodies, riffs (because indeed, there are riffs), choruses and catchphrases. For instance, how could any true metalhead remain insensible when De L’Argilière barks, at the opening of Les Lamentations du Diable –
Prépare ton âme au pire des cauchemars
Ce soir le Diable t’a lancé un défi...
[Prepare your soul to your worst nightmare/ Tonight the Devil has challenged you...]
- It’s silly, outrageously silly... But like the rest of the release, it works more efficiently than anything else you could imagine!
The most surprising fact might be these tracks are both catchy and still incredibly complex. As Tranchées 1914, which sums up to a very chaotic tune well evocating the First World War it describes, or the aforementioned Les Lamentations du Diable. And let’s pointing out the shortest song, a little gem, the very syncopated Khopirron, one of the four tracks sung in English. English tracks which are welcomed to introduce further variations, even if De l’Argilière shows one of the worst English accents ever, as every good Frenchman!
Finally, is Misanthrope Immortel a concept album? According to the band it isn’t, and there’s indeed no explicit “story” written; however, what does it tell apart from the Misanthrope’s quest for immortality? A quest that may be fulfilled in the (grotesque, but that’s not the point) spoken conclusion, which end could be translated by “This time, I’m immortal... Well, I think I am...” Further, considering the number of songs dealing with immortality and resurrection, a storyline might be proposed. Expulsed from Paradise (Eden Massacre), the Misanthrope will nonetheless overrun the Christ and reign in his place from the Judgement Day on (Les Empereurs du Néant) – a goal announced in the last lines of Passion Millionnaire. How? By a pact with the Devil (Les Lamentations du Diable, The Soul Thrower), the practice of ancient black arts (Khopirron), and a return to forgotten values which shaped the glory of France in the past (La Momie de Marianne). Remaining tracks would finally fit in this concept admitting they represent the plagues of the material world the Misanthrope is willing to escape: war (Tranchées 1914), incomprehension (Maimed Liberty) and disillusions of love (Au Baiser de Vermeil, Nuit Androgyne). Only the musically as well as lyrically messy Conte Fantasmagorique would be missing...
Highlights: Les Empereurs du Néant, Les Lamentations du Diable, Khopirron, Au Baiser de Vermeil, La Momie de Marianne