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Last Flashes of a Dying Star - 82%

Sean16, May 19th, 2007

[NOTE: This is a review for the French edition, with all tracks sung in French and coming with an extra bonus CD. The rating doesn’t take this extra CD into account.]

Neither the title nor the cover make a lot of sense. But after all we’re talking about Misanthrope, the unclassifiable French act whose titles and covers rarely made any sense, so this isn’t surprising.

The music, for anyone familiar with the band’s evolution, isn’t really surprising either. Misanthrope has been more and more dropping out progressive and avant-garde elements since Libertine Humiliations, what for some is a regression, for some others an improvement. Because Visionnaire might have been a work of art, but of this sort of art I’ve always been very suspicious about – of the sort “I don’t understand anything to it so it HAS to be art, right?”. On the contrary Sadistic Sex Daemon is straightforward, almost simple, by Misanthrope standards of course. And it works well.

One of the strengths of the Misanthrope guys has always been the huge palette of musical styles they have been using, and Sadistic Sex Daemon is no exception, even if it’s wiser than the directionless early albums. The background is as always melodeath, the heaviest songs almost summing up to this style: Grand Démonologue is a harsh, violent track, and probably for this reason a tune present in every Misanthrope setlist. The excellent Armageddon à l’Elysée is as chaotic as the democratic decadence Philippe “SAS” de l’Argilière is waging war against, and furthermore exhibits one of the few bass solos this album is still featuring, remnant of the past avant-garde days. The title track has also been written in the same vein, though being less remarkable.

But Misanthrope is also the band which released Misanthrope Immortel and, coming next, Sadistic Sex Daemon also pays tribute to that album. If bombastic keyboards and power metal influences may be less present, both can’t be avoided though. It’s all the more true on the mid-tempo tracks which are La Marche des Cornus, Révisionniste or Romantisme Noir, all solid songs provided one likes the subjacent style, and songs Philippe de l’Argilière’s both harsh and exalted voice fits wonderfully to. And furthermore songs more complex than it could seem at first glance, with their several breaks and complex bass lines – it’s THE Misanthrope unavoidable trademark, you know. Power metal again, and pushed to its extreme boundaries, in L’Extinction d’une Etoile, a kind of miss-or-hit, controversial track. Was the band serious while recording this upbeat, keyboard-laden, double-bass driven, far-fetched, grandiloquent, CRAZY tune, showing deliberately cretin lyrics but not devoid of a certain catchiness? I doubt it. But I like it. Maybe should I hate it?

Eventually if there is no genuine ballad on this album, which isn’t a bad thing considering the nihilistic level of Misanthrope ballads, this doesn’t mean it’s deprived of slow parts. The beginning of Bonaparte for instance – but it’s a lure, as the song soon speeds up to more death-metal-oriented realms. La Marche des Cornus on the other hand can occasionally show a strong doom-ish vibe – or even gothic, with its abundant use of sick keyboards, organs and electronics. The same could be said about the melancholic Conversation Métapsychique and its disturbing piano leitmotiv, another song pretty difficult to classify in any specific subgenre.

A kind of discomfort subsists though. As good as it is Sadistic Sex Daemon also seems to announce a certain decline of the band, decline which will be confirmed in the overall mediocre Metal Hurlant. Heaviest songs especially (excepting Armageddon à l’Elysée, which is one of the strongest numbers) sound more simplistic and monotonous than before, letting every technical, original and novel element apart to focus on standard melodeath. As if megalomania was now slowly overriding music, the digibook becomes harder and harder to lift up, and lyrics more and more far-fetched and grotesque. Granted, Misanthrope lyrics have always sounded, depending on the way you were looking at them, either genial, or stupid. But when it comes to L’Extinction d’une Etoile or Romantisme Noir (without mentioning this inept song intro where de l’Argilière’s dad is talking), it takes a good lot of bad faith to call them genius. While Sadistic Sex Daemon was still far from reaching the mystic deliria backed by indigestible melodeath of the next opus, it already let the bitter impression that, after having reached the top of the mountain, there only was one option left for Misanthrope – going down again.

Highlights: Révisionniste, La Marche des Cornus, Armageddon à l’Elysée, L’Extinction d’une Etoile


(VERY) QUICK REVIEW OF THE BONUS CD:

Saying the second CD would lack of any interest for anyone but the Misanthrope fan is still a euphemism, as even for the Misanthrope adulator it is of little interest. Well, I’m not considering I belong to this last category, but I nonetheless highly doubt instrumental versions of Conversation Métapsychique and L’Extinction d’une Etoile are making a single bit of sense, given they only consist in the standard songs deprived from their vocal lines (a good idea for Misanthrope to release new tracks: they now should only keep Jean-Jacques Moreac’s whimsical bass lines). English versions of Sadistic Sex Daemon and La Marche des Cornus are hardly more relevant as, once again, they’re the same songs with different vocal lines.

The two first tracks deserve more attention, as those are only available on this release. However they’re far from being what Misanthrope has done best. Nouvel Enfer is the twin brother of any “heavy” track of the first CD, meaning this isn’t really a glowing masterpiece in spite of an agreeable, but too short, bass part. Chair Organique is a softer, more melodic mid-tempo track reminding of Conversation Métapsychique, but weaker, though remarkable for its sick lyrics about (I guess) some putrefying cyborg.

Eventually the last track consists in a video, typically the kind of useless stuff you never watch but once.