Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Melancolia - The Dark Reflections of Your Soul (2005) 82/100.

Seven agonising years is a long time to spend “perfecting” a record. Well, that is precisely how long it had taken Eric Saumier before he finally unleashed his self-produced and self-released debut, ‘The Dark Reflections of Your Soul’. In his own words, Saumier believes he has gotten the very best out of his abilities on this record and, having spent seven years writing and recording, you would want to walk away feeling that you did the best you could with what you had. I always feel it necessary to give extra kudos to bands who successfully manage to manoeuvre away from the majority of problematic issues that can negatively affect a record, such as poor production values which limit the accessibility of the material. Especially when it comes to acts of this mould - those which express a symphonic side - as they require a clean and clear path with which to wander down from and into the long-term memory of the listener. Unlike many bands of this nature, Saumier doesn’t reflect an overriding, overbearing happiness in the symphonic ploys. There are a range of emotional ideas displayed here, expressing with it the true variety that comes with listening to this record. It doesn’t have a problem with mixing and matching either, portraying feels of loneliness and general problems with the self all at once.

Instead, there is a despairing, solemn and sullen feel to the material present here, including within the imaginative keyboards which express a wicked taste for variation. From darker realms of symphonic music to a light, airier sound, Saumier definitely has a talent for incorporating mesmerising keyboards into an extravagant mixture. I can pin point moments in all songs on the record, of which there are nine, including several lengthy epics, such as ‘The Taste of You’, where Saumier allows the keyboards to overwhelm the other areas of the instrumentation without overwhelming the listener and suffocating them with too many divergent symphonies which detract from the rest of the music. The keyboards are a central figure throughout the record, as shown from the very first moments on ‘Les Étoiles Aspirent Ma Vie’ which highlights the use of the many techniques which Saumier uses throughout. From the glittering atmospherics provided by the shimmering keyboards, to the hardened sections provided by the drums - which are a weak point for me, I’m afraid - to the guitars and even the strange vocals, which seem to find themselves combining the sound of iconic black metal rasps and screams.

This song definitely indicates a strong dark metal influence, as it weaves in and out of genres and sub-genres with consummate ease, highlighting potential death metal segments with stuttering drums and aggressive guitars. Although this may be the case, other genres are well represented too, with the softer elements, such as the bass, which features prominently, as indicated beautifully on ‘Les Étoiles Aspirent Ma Vie’, to the keyboards (which don’t always feature soaring soundscapes, as they also tend to lightly sprinkle the background with soft touches of melody). As I touched upon earlier, I do feel that there are a few negative aspects of this record. The drums feel too synthetic throughout. The general instrumentation is meant to be the epitome of beauty, but the drums have a different texture to them which is vastly different from the rest. The patterns tend to stick out like a sore thumb, especially when the vocals subside, which they do often. Songs like ‘Spiritus Ubi Vult Spirat’ are completely instrumental and neatly organise controlled chaos in the form of theatrical symphonies which remind me of epic movie soundtracks to grand films about mystical kingdoms, home to all sorts of dangerous, eerie and surreal creatures., or even bands like Tartaros who have pivotal keyboards, central to the themes explored.

Regardless of what is to follow on from the first few moments of this emotionally draining piece, there is no doubt that Saumier has gotten the best out of the production he had available to him. I assume he had to do everything on the cheap and despite this, he has still managed to come away with a lot of credibility because he is undoubtedly a talented song writer with vision and an originality which is sorely missing from many bands in existence by in the past and in the present. As well as being so-called musical genius, Saumier also has time to run his own record label, Winterart. He is definitely a talented man, it must be said. I just hope it doesn’t take him seven years in between each record. Though you can never put a time limit on adventurous records such as this. Certainly a beautiful record, definitely accessible despite the limitations and generally quite luscious in its attempt to explore varied, innovative atmospheres.

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