CREATURE (FRA) – Eloge de l’Ombre, 2021 🇬🇧
In the last years – or should I say, in the last decade – France has become a reference for the blooming genre commonly labeled as avant-garde. Even the word itself is of French origin. From bands such as GOJIRA, who are enjoying now their sweetest moment, to a myriad of other minor but equally interesting artists as VOUS AUTRES, AU DESSUS, or DELUGE, the list can be quite long.
A prevalent characteristic of the approach taken by these bands is the combination of sound textures that have equal parts of extreme metal and of other genres that at first glance are less related, but that end creating a stunning listening experience, at least in the first spin of a record. Another peculiarity of those groups is to strongly emphasize the thematic coherence of their albums: music, lyrics and even the numbering of the songs answer to a pattern thought in advance, and all are tied together to create a coherent whole. As I surely have written in the past, this tendency in modern music probably has its roots in the rise of progressive rock from the 1970s, and if you ask me, it should never be lost.
Without any doubt, CREATURE has conceived a rich and diverse album with Eloge de l’Ombre. From as early as the first song, the relevant presence of synthesizers is announced, not only as long sustained chords to enhance the melodies, but also as beats that have a lot in common with electronic music. And this is only the beginning: during the majestic 50 minutes that the album delivers, we can also find acoustic guitars, voices in different registers (gutturals, clean, choral, and even some rapping in the title song), and synth solos with a clear psychedelic rock vibe («Météorite» or «Les fragments«).
Despite all this diversity, we can’t forget that we are facing an extreme metal band, and an extreme metal band from 2021, and everything that we could hope for is also present: from GOJIRA-inspired riffs to more atmospheric black metal passages («Rétrogade«), but always with a pinch of the groove in the rhythms. This leads us to another one of Eloge de l’Ombre‘s strengths: yes, the record is quite long, but oh it is fun to listen, and this is because compositions never stagnate in the same idea for more than half a minute. In fact, most of the songs clock around the five-minute mark, which gives us a hint of the intentions of CREATURE.
The mixing is excellent, as it achieves to highlights both the metal elements and the more «foreign» ones. This is another example of the relevance that being heterogeneous has in today’s metal: it is no longer about ripping ears with guitars, there is much more to it, and bands such as CREATURE take good care in making this point. Regarding the interpretation, aside from the aforementioned voices and keyboards, it has to be noted the exceptional job of the drummer, that drives smoothly all the instruments through the sometimes complex arrangements of the album.
If I must criticize something about Eloge de l’Ombre, that would be related to the point I made in the second paragraph, which is that it lacks a certain thematic-lyric coherence. It is, that goes without saying, a full-fledged sonic trip. But, towards which direction is this trip taking me? Maybe it’s my fault for being short-sighted, but as a comparison, for a band at the same level of avant-garde such as OBSIDIAN KINGDOM, I can appreciate better which is the whole topic on which their albums are based. It is not, clearly, a problem of the lyrics quality, in fact they offer us some highbrow moments such as «J’aperçois le monde au travers d’un kaléidoscope défectueux/C’est beau/Comme un daltonien devant un Matisse, comme un cartésien devant Dieu «, but I don’t feel that they transmit anything to me that goes deeper than that. Nevertheless, CREATURE has released an excellent album, which deserves its place among the top albums of 2021.