Monday, 2 August 2010

Svald - Loyal(e) Mutinerie (2005) 60/100.

Avant-gardé metal can be extremely difficult to get into due to its wide ranging sound. In most cases, bands will take influence from all over the music world and won’t stick primarily with metal. In my own personal experience, it took me a number of years to finally give in to its charms, despite the fact that the quirky nature of the genre (if you can call it a genre on its own), can easily transform into pretension. Svald are a relatively young and most definitely obscure French avant-gardé metal band. They’re spearheaded by a reasonably sultry female vocalist by the name of Audrey ou la Colombine Perdue. The very essence of this band is VERY French. They sing in French and have a quite romanticised sound due to the female input, something I consider French sounding, particularly in the metal world with bands like post-punk inspired Amesoeurs formally fronting this vibe. Unlike Amesoeurs’ generally charming sound, Svald certainly have a number of issues they need to address before they’re ready to release a sophomore. From the male vocals, to the production. Things aren’t as rosy as they may appear to be at first.

Svald are a very quirky band, submitting themselves to the ways of avant-gardé entirely by giving themselves odd names, dressing in an unusual attire and being somewhat unconventional instrumentally. This band and their debut full-length, entitled ‘Loyal(e) Mutinerie’ definitely original. As you can tell by the bands display picture, they’re an unusual bunch and the attire you can see them in there is something they do appear to perform in during live shows. The originality in terms of their appearance and the way in which they generally present themselves isn’t exactly transported over to their musical approach. From what I can tell this full-length was co-produced alongside Absynthetic Records. I don’t know the extent to which the record label had a say in the way in which this album was produced, but it sounds fairly flat in places, especially when it comes to the guitars. From the first song onwards, the guitars don’t particularly deal well with the subdued production.

Given the quirky background of the band, their general aura and the fact that they’re meant to be entirely unconventional, the production could do with splicing up. It needs to be more bombastic in its approach, expanding the music across the board, as opposed to what it does for long periods at a time here which is a whole lot of nothing. Even songs like ‘Mes Hommages’ -- which are meant to sound rich in textures given the fact that it only uses the sultry female vocals and a sole piano -- sound dim and drab when they’re supposed to be dealing with the height of emotions and, again drawing back to the bands appearance, seemingly a sophisticated sound, but the production is very uninteresting in places which is a stark contrast to what is taking place during the songs. The opening song ‘La Rescapée’, for example, is incredibly unique but the production is very restrictive when it comes to the guitars in particular. Perhaps it was a bit naïve of the band to use such levels of distortion on an album like this. Maybe the album would have benefited from the use of cleaner guitars.

The “harsher” side to Svald is definitely the least appealing. I knew that, at some point or another, male vocals would come into affect. For some reason bands of this nature cannot stop themselves from using male and female dual vocalists. The female vocals, which were a solitary addition until a few songs in, were fine by themselves. Audrey’s maniacal laugh, her normal singing voice (which is usually clean as she annunciates well throughout) and general presence on songs like ‘La Rescapée’, which reminds me of a circus sideshow due to the peculiar synths supplied by François ou le Maître Loyal (who also does the generic male vocals), are better off leading the band alone as the male vocals are sub par and in the form generic growls. The addition of male vocals on albums like this is very typical and also very annoying. The vocals add little to the style of the band. For the first few songs, despite the production hampering the guitars at every turn, the formula is original and unique, but as soon as male vocals are supplied, the album takes a turn for the worst.

I don’t like to criticise one musician alone, but the problems with this album all seem to be caused by François. His synth work, though it becomes far less noticeable after the first song, is generally good. The synths aren’t overbearing and are definitely not too symphonic. Bands like this have a tendency to become far too symphonic, especially when female vocals are applied over the top. In fact, on songs like ‘Le Quart d' Heure Loyal’, the synths take an unusual turn. They seem to take influence from dance, or possibly trance music. They’re quite spacey, very electronic. They make me feel indifferent. They’re neither good, or bad. They’re just there, lingering in the background of the song, rather than really taking over. The atmosphere of the album is quite relaxed in general, as songs like ‘Le Paravie’ indicate until the male vocals take over with horrible screams. His performance of guitar is also called into question. Perhaps the production is fine and he’s just a thorn in the side of the band? I’m not entirely sure. I definitely feel the band could do with omitting the male vocals, working on introducing softer touches from the guitar as, although its quite distorted, it lacks power and presence. For the most part, the bass overshadows it, shown well during songs like ‘La Douloureuse’. Overall, this is a reasonably good album with too many average aspects. With a lot of work it could be very good.

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