Exclusive: Uneven Structure's new album 'La Partition' (p)reviewed
Last month, a bunch of us attended the 12th edition of Euroblast Festival in Cologne, Germany. A full festival report is forthcoming, so stay tuned for that. For some of us, the second day of the festival started with something special: we were invited to an exclusive listening session of the new Uneven Structure album!
"Long-awaited" would be a bit of an understatement: the follow-up to 'Februus' has been in the making for about five years now. Even though we got this sneak preview, the album is still not finished. The band are still tweaking some transitions, and a few of the tracks had not been mastered yet.
The band have also gone through some changes recently, which have undoubtedly affected the creative process to some extent: guitarist Aurelien Pereira has decided to pause his musical career and leave the band. Steeves Hostin of Beyond The Dust has stepped in to replace him. Arnaud Verrier of Kadinja, who had previously been recruited as stand-in drummer while Jean Ferry was off touring with The Algorithm, has joined the band permanently.
The new album, titled 'La Partition', is roughly 55 minutes in length and is due for release in early 2017. The exact release date is yet to be confirmed. The band explained that it consists of three parts, each in turn comprising three songs. Like 'Februus', this is a concept piece that tells a story, set in the same universe as 'Februus', and each of the parts forms a different chapter with its own characteristic sound and style. The protagonist of the story is tasked by a group of siren-like creatures, who have lost their voices, to retrieve some sheet music (in French: "la partition"). Apparently it doesn't end well for him, but we won't say any more to avoid spoilers!
What follows is a description of our listening experience. It's challenging to review or even just describe a record based on a single listen, but here's our best attempt!
Some artwork to go with track two, 'Brazen Tongue'. Available as a poster and a T-shirt from the band's BigCartel store. Click to enlarge.
The album begins with a very brief buildup and comes in almost immediately with some of Matthieu Romarin's powerful cleans. The first song, titled 'Alkaline Throat', is a heavy hitter. This sets the stage for a very different kind of sound compared to 'Februus', which is nevertheless still unmistakably Uneven. The soaring clean vocal parts feature harmonies that bring to mind some of Leprous's best material.
The guitar parts have an industrial sound at times, and this theme continues on track two, 'Brazen Tongue'. The lower strings are used extensively, but not just for chugging; the low notes form complex rhythmic patterns and often carry the main melody. This is somewhat reminiscent of the recent work of Intronaut, who had played the festival the day before.
The first part concludes with 'Crystal Teeth'. After hearing these first three songs, two things jump out: there has been less ambient buildup, everything sounds more "in your face" compared to the band's previous work; and there's been no screaming or growling, only clean vocals!
Part two of the album begins with 'Incube' and sounds strangely familiar: fans who have seen the band play live in recent years will recognise some parts, but it has undergone quite the metamorphosis. Here, the album is starting to sound a lot more like 'Februus' again, with a huge atmospheric buildup complemented by a complex rhythmic backdrop. It turns out that this is no coincidence: in this part, the stories of 'Februus' and 'La Partition' intersect and their respective protagonists meet.
At this point we also recognised a clip that was used to announce the 'Ramparts of Sageness' UK tour back in 2012:
'Ramparts of Sageness' 2012 UK tour announcement, already featuring a snippet of 'La Partition' that made the cut!
And then suddenly: screams! We were beginning to wonder if this album was going to feature clean vocals only, but rest assured, that definitely isn't the case. They arrive early on in part two of the album, and how! Their absence in the first part also makes their introduction here that much more effective.
Track five, 'Funambule', is up next. A version of this song was released last year. The album version has of course changed quite a bit, but is still clearly recognisable. If we hadn't heard it before, it would have been challenging to tell where one track ends and the next begins: the three tracks of this second part are strongly tied together, both thematically and musically.
'Funambule', track five on 'La Partition' and the only full track that's been released so far.
Track six, 'Succube', features an epic coda that should work really well live. Part two winds down into a calm atmospheric section with melodic references to the previous two tracks. There is a lot going on here and it sounds like it would take far more than one listen to digest all of it! Overall, part two of the album is sure to please die-hard 'Februus' fans, even if part one doesn't immediately click due to its higher degree of experimentation.
Before we get to listen to the third and final part of the album, the band announce that it features a death metal track! We aren't sure what to expect, but it's certainly piqued our curiosity.
Part three begins with an ominous sounding combination of noise and ambience, a bit like an alarm -- or rather, a siren! Overall track 7, 'The Bait', sounds more laid back than what we've just heard, and some of the instrumental parts even have a bit of a post-rock vibe. The ending is vaguely reminiscent of 'Elastic' by Meshuggah, but thankfully it doesn't go on for 10 minutes.
After this, things get very heavy all of a sudden: there are screams all over, and the band manage to somehow make a major chord progression sound menacing. What follows is Uneven Structure's take on death metal. We're guessing this song is track 8, titled 'Our Embrace', but once again it's hard to tell for sure where the song breaks are.
It's hard to describe, but yes, it does sound like death metal, and it still sounds like Uneven Structure as well. There are blast beats all over, and at some point they even pull off the "blast beats plus clean vocals" combo, which very few bands have been able to do (Opeth's 'The Lotus Eaters' is another good example).
The album concludes with 'Your Scent', featuring an outro that goes on for several minutes, only to end abruptly: apparently this part is not quite finished yet. We're very curious to hear the end result!
Album update video from June last year.
After the listening session, there was some time for a Q&A. The band explained that they took a very different approach to writing and recording this time around, expressly to avoid ending up creating a second 'Februus'. It was a long and arduous process, and all band members experienced some physical issues while working on the album. The band also indulged in various sound experiments: some of the vocals were processed with a Kaoss Pad, for example.
Benoit Friedrich, Igor Omodei and Matthieu Romarin were the masterminds behind the album, but all band members have contributed, including the newest members Arnaud and Steeves. They are planning to release several music videos, to showcase the universe in which the story of 'La Partition' is set visually. There will also be two tryout shows for the new material in early November: one in Moers, Germany and one in Utrecht, The Netherlands. If you're anywhere in the vicinity, don't miss out!
Album update video from November last year.
It's been five years since the release of 'Februus', and clearly Uneven Structure have evolved as a band. On their sophomore full-length album, they combine some pretty radical experimentation with a sense of familiarity. They have managed to develop their sound in a way that is sure to surprise, while at the same time avoiding to alienate their existing fanbase. Don't miss this album when it finally drops!
Facebook event for the tryout show in Moers, Germany
Facebook event for the tryout show in Utrecht, The Netherlands
Uneven Structure on Facebook
Uneven Structure's BigCartel store
Read Time For Metal's report of the listening session (in German) here.
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