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Philanthropy and Optimism Hurled on the Wind - 92%

bayern, May 10th, 2017

This is Misanthrope at their most complex and ambitious. However, even at their most elaborate state of mind the fabulous progressive deathsters can play more than half the death metal fraternity under the table, even after a feast with the contents of tens of bottles of champagne swallowed. And this is what pretty much happens on this “Metal Hurlant” which slightly more optimistic aura may have been prompted by the guys’ other engagements, like the avant-garde doom/death metal formation Argile, and the gothic/doom collaboration with the diva Ayin Aleph. So the musicians were getting busier elsewhere, but still found the requisite amount of time to properly shape another complex, multi-layered opus regardless of its colossal length, clocking on just under an hour, the material split into two discs with instrumental and English versions of some of the songs added to the second disc.

After the multifarious “octopus” that “Sadistic Sex Daemon” was the band definitely needed a break, but not willing to interrupt the creative process with a lengthy hiatus, here they are “hurling” themselves at the field for the umpteenth time. Not to worry as this effort would be a delight for the band fans all over, and for the metal community in general. “L’exaltation de la Croix” opens the album in the usual intense manner the guys battering down any hurlants… sorry, hurdles, along the way producing a nice complex opus in various tempos and moods. “Theologie du Misanthrope” isn’t a sloucher, either, and its brutal accumulations would be a wonder to listen to helped by some gorgeous complex thrashing and stunning melodic leads. “Sentiment Nocturne” is a more relaxed mid-pacer leaving the more flamboyant embellishments aside, compensating with copious amounts of melody including such from several keyboard sweeps. Balladic lyricism starts “Reine Martyre” the pensive tone later upgraded to the doomy parametres, but nothing extravagant or speedy. “Le Tryptique des Enfers” largely compensates for the few “idyllic” moments encountered earlier, raging hard with fury to spare not without the help of several aggressive thrashy sections which aggravate the scattered blast-beating outrages. “Le Haras D’Amazones” relies on the atmosphere and the mid-tempo the final result strangely captivating also thanks to several superb melodic lead sections.

The title-track is a death/thrashing progressive masterpiece, an 8-min roller-coaster full of sharp cutting riffs, blazing leads, atmospheric sprawls, “keyboards vs. riffs” duels, and plenty of vocal drama with cleaner croons provided to bond with the main death metal rendings. “Le Supplicie” is a hyper-active complex deathster with blast-beating crescendos dominating the scenery giving way to virtuous melo-thrash rhythms in the second half. “Maitre du Temps” is a formidable steam-roller with heavy squashing riffs rolling remorselessly with more dynamic dashes thrown in as an afterthought. The most ambitious part of the album is yet to come, though, reflected in the exiting trio which comprises the exuberant progressive extreme metal ”symphony” “Sulfureuses Contestations”, a supreme riff-fest worthy of later-period Death; the 12-min behemoth “Le Commerce du Crime” where the progressive death metal panorama reaches operatic proportions with the assistance of numerous doomy and balladic configurations without a single dash of speed utilized; and “Plus de Descendance”, a fabulous technical/progressive thrasher with brilliant virtuoso lead performance and mazey riff “salads” which flow seamlessly into each other creating an uninterrupted string of intricate compelling guitar work.

Even after the indomitable “Immortel” the band continue to excel with each subsequent album nearly matching the manic grandeur of this supposed magnum opus. It’s true that with such a wide palette available to them the guys have plenty of variations to play with without repeating themselves, but these gargantuan landscapes drawn with such meticulousness beggar belief at times including on the album reviewed here. The band adroitly toss the death, thrash, doom and progressive metal ingredients always finding the perfect balance between them, never messing it up. Certainly, high musical proficiency is mandatory for this eventful blend to work, but it’s not only the perfect command of the instruments that makes the Misanthrope sagas sound so irresistible. There’s also this unique, not very often found, skill in weaving all the nuances in a characteristic, difficult to imitate manner, the band’s works often acquiring larger-than-life operatic dimensions having won them the “classicists of metal” tag. Some blame them in overdoing it with so much music thrown at the listener at any time, but with this abundance of ideas and this compositional swagger one can only make that “small” a contribution to the metal scene…

This “hurlant” here came close to being the second creative peak for the band although both “Irremediable” and “Aenigma Mystica” have their moments of genius, and are by no means flops offering a very similar compendium of all the mentioned styles with a bigger emphasis on death metal perhaps, the guys looking in nostalgy at the genre that shot them into the stratosphere. It seems as though France’s finest will always be around providing their complex, multi-faceted products every other year. And the fans can’t help but be optimistic about the future with regular dozes of exquisite “philanthropic” metal thrown at them on regular bases.

A step down, and a huge - 40%

Sean16, March 2nd, 2007

Philippe “SAS” de l’Argilière has become fat. And old. He’s looking at us from the inside photo with a little satisfied smile, the smile of the one who’s done enough money through years with his nice Avant-Garde/Progressive/Melodeath/Whatever act to have ensured himself a comfortable retirement. And who’s sure to do a bit more money with his last full-length to date, Metal Hurlant, again released in a plethora of editions: the luxurious numbered digipack is lying before me, with its bonus CD and extra pieces of art to discover (at least I guess so). So yes, I’m currently reviewing the copy number 540/3000, fro those who’re fond of precision.

Fine. I guess for taking the next Misanthrope output back to my lair, I’ll have to rent a special light truck. The Frenchiest of the French bands had never released such a heavy work. In every sense of the term, as Metal Hurlant is indeed likely to be by far their most aggressive one (“likely” only because I haven’t heard the two first albums I however imagine to be a complete avant-garde mess). It’s not surprising though: Misanthrope have from the beginning been huge Dark Tranquillity fans, and it’s no coincidence if Misanthrope’s most overproduced, though excellent release – Misanthrope Immortel – is contemporary with DT’s most keyboard-driven, and also excellent (at least for me...) output – Haven -, and if Metal Hurlant is in a similar fashion contemporary with DT’s return to a more in-the-face sound with Character in 2005. Unfortunately after only a quick comparison, Character wins.

Because Dark Tranquillity have always been a melodeath band; they might even be THE melodeath band. Misanthrope on the other hand always displayed important melodeath and Gothenburg influences, but through the years they also leant towards either power metal, symphonic, progressive stuff or even doom, so that they more or less only could fall into the huge mixed bag of so-called avant-garde metal. Jean-Jacques Moreac’s crazy bass solos, overwhelming samples, keyboards as-much-as-you-like, nowhere-going songs sometimes, awkward melting of melody and rage topped by De L’Argilière’s exalted and unique harsh, spitting voice, poetical or historical lyrics and monstrous egos, Misanthrope was all that altogether – and maybe much more. Now, apart from the monstrous egos, almost nothing remains.

Crazy bass solos? Forget them, Moreac only punctually escapes from the overall monotony of his now standard bass lines. Samples? Gone with Jean-Baptiste Boitel, who now he’s departed reveals how he’d been crucial to the older, characteristic Misanthrope sound. Keyboards? See last entry – even if some occasionally resound, but relegated in the background. Songs structure are rather wise, but it’s been a general trend since, let’s say Humiliations Libertines, so this isn’t a surprise. De l’Argilière’s voice isn’t as strong as before in the sense it’s become a more standard melodeath harsh voice and, worse, there are a non-negligible amount of clean vocals on this opus, of the worst kind you might imagine. De l’Argilière isn’t even whining in a pop-ish fashion like nowadays Nick Holmes for instance, he’s literally crying. The eternal misanthrope, crying like daddy’s little girl! Oh, the irony! And coming to the lyrical content it isn’t really better. Who cares about abstruse mystical, semi-satanic divagations like Théologie du Misanthrope, Le Supplicié, L’Exaltation de la Croix or the awfully long title track. Who cares for the grotesque sexually-explicit Le Haras D’Amazones. Please, Monsieur de l’Argilière, tell us about French History instead! And please not in the worst ballad you ever wrote, Reine Martyre, which would be laughable weren’t it pathetic. Don’t cry because the big bad Revolutionaries beheaded Queen Marie-Antoinette; you know, you won’t bring her back to life, without mentioning she’d been one of the worst rulers our beautiful country ever featured.

However if Metal Hurlant had been an outstanding melodeath album many things could have been forgiven. But it isn’t. Paradoxically, Misanthrope’s heaviest album is also one of the most boring. The band’s early releases were unlistenable because they were so intricate one couldn’t define when a song ended and the next one begun, and actually speaking about “songs” was already a challenge. On the contrary Metal Hurlant drags on because there aren’t enough variations between each songs. L’Exaltation de la Croix, Théologie du Misanthrope, Le Tryptique des Enfers – all random cuts from the same unimaginative melodeath cake with harsh vocals, hammering blastbeats and strafing, but linear, guitar lines, however still topped by occasional “progressive”, shredding solos. "Metal Hurlant" means "screaming metal" and it well sums up the album, in fact. It screams, shouts, blasts, and then? And then? While Misanthrope could almost have been despised for showing a dubious tendency to catchiness in their other releases, especially the two previous ones, only ONE song from the first CD (the only one you get in the “regular” edition if I’m not mistaken) exhibits a somewhat memorable chorus: Sentiment Nocturne. And if the ugly Reine Martyre is memorable as well, it’s not for the same reason... Songs have never been so long, long and devoid of any life, of any spirit.

The second CD isn’t really more interesting. The last four tracks are alternate versions of songs from the first part (instrumental, or sung in English), and the first four are the logical continuation of it. The second track Sulfureuses Contestations may show a larger amount of keyboards, but apart from that doesn’t fundamentally differ. Strangely though, the longest track is also the best of the whole release, Le Commerce du Crime. Eventually a slower, majestic tune! Eventually, variations, inspiration – especially in the sumptuous ending! Eventually, the bass can be heard! Eventually, historical lyrics! Given how this track is different from the rest of the work I first thought it had been a remnant from the Sadistic Sex Daemon sessions, but the (fortunately) scarce presence of the crying clean vocals invalidates this hypothesis. No, the band only put most of its remaining ideas in one single song, that’s all. And that’s very sad.

Some may like this album. Every keyboard-hater might, actually. It isn’t Misanthrope any more, but it isn’t a totally awful album. I indeed considered giving it a few more points (well, only a few), but I can’t forget the glowing digipack. Obviously Misanthrope are now cheating their long-time fans. Worse, I’m afraid Misanthrope are now cheating themselves...

Highlights: Sentiment Nocturne, Le Commerce du Crime