Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2020
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Three legs for a shaky stool - 55%

Sean16, May 26th, 2007

Bizarre is, indeed, the word. Bizarre, and also frustrating, as at first glance Misanthrope had everything here to record a great album. However, one is eventually forced to admit this 1666... Theatre Bizarre doesn’t raise much enthusiasm, nor prints an indelible trace. Even those praising Misanthrope’s avant-garde era over their recent, more melodeath-oriented albums, are likely to scorn this release and prefer the more elaborated Visionnaire.

Granted, the production first doesn’t help appreciating it to its true value. Every instrument may be heard, but every instrument sounds thin, weak and amorphous. The guitars, lacking of any sort of depth, seem in desperate need of a serious tonic even in the fastest, most aggressive death-metal-oriented parts – which are far from predominating in this album anyway. Keyboards, which play an important role, most of time sound fake and synthetic. Without forgetting the drums, likely to have been recorded on the cheapest imaginable toy kit, the snare especially sounding remarkably hollow and annoying.

The production problem aside, it furthermore seems “SAS” Philippe de l’Argilière, who for once is the sole composer on the whole album, took a special pleasure in butchering otherwise promising compositions. Indeed there’s only one intrinsically bad track, namely the atrocious ballad Aphrodite Marine where he croons in the most unbearable fashion on a background of trickling acoustic guitars and pop-goth keyboards. On the contrary, there are few of the remaining ten songs which didn’t initially show anything to become a potential killer. And there are few of them which eventually are.

Because it seems that, Misanthrope claiming at that time to be an avant-garde metal band, de l’Argilière felt compulsively forced to fill each of his songs with the most imaginable heteroclite elements, regardless of their relevance. Examples abound of promising riffs, delicate harmonies, majestic bridges or beautiful verses ending up drowned in a perfect senseless mud. L’Autre Hiver for instance is initially a powerful, crushing doom song (keeping in mind the production prevents any song here from sounding really « crushing » though), suddenly loosing its mind at precisely 2:55 to fall down into a mess of synthetic harpsichord flourishes, bass solos and random guitars to never recover again. Slow and impressive doom parts also in Courtisane Syphilitique, unfortunately lost into fast-paced death-metal-inspired nonsense – inspired only, as death metal it isn’t, it escapes to any proper qualification.

Vocals don’t make a lot of sense either, as de L’Argilière has most certainly tried to record every kind of sound his vocal cords were able to produce. Genuine growls, harsh-but-not-totally-growled vocals, whiny clean voices, not-so-whiny clean voices, exalted incantations, whispers, spoken parts and even some black metal shrieks: where all of those are used in the same track it leads to Pirouetting Through the Gloom, which could have been magnificent but, as you may guess, ends up devoid of any kind of shape. Amazing performance? Maybe. Pleasant to hear? Not really.

The rest isn’t really better. Mylène is random and absurd from the beginning to the end, Medieval Embroidery is better crafted but boring, and Schattengesang, in addition of exhibiting more superfluous keyboards and avant-garde idiocy than any other track, is sung in German, what is novelty for the sake of novelty. That de l’Argilière often writes his songs in French is logical, as Misanthrope is a French band whose lyrics are rooted in History, poetry and literature; but in German? Stupid.

Trumpets of Hypochondria deserves its own paragraph, as a particular homage has to be paid to an instrumental track which manages to show both an overall baroque vibe and a bass solo defying the most delirious imagination. A hit-or-miss, of course.

Actually it’s a pity a good part of this album is only painfully listenable for all the reasons stated above, as when it happens to exhibit some embryo of reason it can show an unexpectedly melancholic, romantic Misanthrope. La Dernière Pierre is likely to be the most touching song the band ever wrote, both musically and lyrically-wise. A complex song, as every song is complex here anyway, but for once there’s some semblance of intelligence in its complexity. Gargantuan Decline as well as the title track have also to be singled out for being relatively coherent and memorable: though they often flirt with the boundary of nonsense they still manage to stay on the right side of the line, unlike most of their counterparts. Anyway three legs are enough for a stool to stand, and 1666... Theatre Bizarre manages to more or less clumsily stand on these three tracks only. It may be an amateurish, rush job, the production is disastrous and most songs are headless, but believe me or not, I still can’t prevent myself from feeling a certain sympathy for it.

Highlights: Gargantuan Decline, 1666... Theatre Bizarre, La Dernière Pierre