Album Review – Ways. / Aftermath EP (2018)

One of the most promising alternative bands from France returns with another powerful, dynamic and melodic display of modern-day rock and metal music.

After a promising career start with the release of their debut EP Watching From Afar, in 2016, Paris-based Alternative Rock/Metal act Ways. is back with the second installment of their always-evolving musical path, entitled Aftermath, an 8-track EP that brings all the band’s characteristic elements from their previous release, sounding powerful, dynamic and melodic throughout its almost 27 minutes of music.

Featuring a minimalistic and stylish artwork by Maxime Larrouturou, Aftermath once again presents an inspired band mixing several influences and styles in their music, from Alternative Rock and Metal to Post-Hardcore, while at the same time maintaining a very cohesive and solid core essence. Comprised of Clément on vocals, Bruno and Nico on the guitars, newcomer Niko on bass, and Tony on drums, Ways. are ready to strike once again with their uncompromising, unrelenting and modern music, and I’m sure you’ll have a good time listening to their unique creations in Aftermath.

Sheer melancholy flows from the guitars by Bruno and Nico in the introspective intro Twilight Until Dawn, before the band begins firing an acid message together with their aggressive, adrenaline-fueled instrumental in the modern-day Alternative Metal tune Death Row, with Clément growling the song’s lyrics in a desperate and anguished mode (“But the people around me / Don’t seem to want to play with me. / My neighbors, day after day, / Are caught, / The cages emptied and filled, / The door is closed behind me, / I believe in a game full of life and joy”). In However…, Rock N’ Roll riffs are blended with the more aggressive lines of Alternative Metal, with Tony smashing his drums and, consequently, giving the song a stronger vibe, while Clément presents some cleaner vocals amidst his furious screams; whereas in And Nobody Cares, Ways. accelerate their speed and increase their electricity, bringing hints of Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore to their characteristic sonority. In a nutshell, this is the song tailored for banging your heads nonstop, thanks to the crushing riffs by Bruno and Nico and the violent beats by Tony.

So Far So Good brings forward a belligerent sound led by the razor-edged riffs by the band’s guitar duo, while bassist Niko joins Tony to create a beyond dense background. Then we have a somber, pensive instrumental bridge titled Thirteen, setting the tone for the also fierce With Love, the most alternative of all songs from the EP, ignited by the metallic bass by Niko and with Clément delivering his piercing clean vocals as well as his deranged growls while the rest of the band fires melodious and heavy sounds from start to finish. And lastly, as a bonus track the band offers us all I See No Beauty, showcasing more of their slashing Alternative Metal and Rock and presenting austere lyrics about ecology, global warming, poaching and animals mistreatment (“Dropped in the jungle, / Still so young, / I try using violence, / I test, / I experience, / I grow up and feed myself / I see no beauty in the species that made me”).

To sum up, the second step in the career of Ways. is beyond solid and promising, showcasing a band that’s even sharper and more focused than before, and if you want to show your support to this French quintet go check what they’re up to on Facebook and on YouTube, and purchase Aftermath (which is available for a full listen on Spotify or on YouTube) from the band’s own BandCamp page. I’m certain that the next step for this talented Post-Hardcore/Metal act will be the release of their first full-length album, which will represent the combination of a lot of hard work, dedication and energy, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes for that to happen, if it’s as half as good as the music found in Aftermath it will certainly be worth the wait.

Best moments of the album: Death Row and And Nobody Cares.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Twilight Until Dawn 2:01
2. Death Row 3:14
3. However… 3:13
4. And Nobody Cares 3:32
5. So Far So Good 3:44
6. Thirteen 2:20
7. With Love 6:02

Bonus track
8. I See No Beauty 2:41

Band members
Clément – vocals
Bruno – guitar
Nico – guitar
Niko – bass
Tony – drums

Advertisements

Album Review – Vanguard X Mortem / Amberosia (2018)

A blend of atmospheric and symphonic extreme music known as “Vampyric Metal”, highly recommended for all admirers of the underworld with an insatiable lust for fresh blood.

There are several amazing bands out there who play what fans like to call “Vampire Metal”, or that at least add a few strong elements of this idiosyncratic subgenre of heavy music to their sound, such as Powerwolf, Theatres Des Vampires, Lord Vampyr, Cain’s Dynasty, Draconian, Lacrimosa, Mandragora Scream, Type O Negative, and perhaps the biggest exponent of the genre, British titans Cradle Of Filth, just to name a few. Hailing from the French capital Paris, here comes a very interesting project named Vanguard X Mortem, also venturing through the realms of Vampyric and Baroque Metal and, consequently, joining all the aforementioned bands in the comfortable darkness where vampires reign supreme.

Formed in 2011 by guitarist and songwriter Christophe Florian (also known as L.C.F), from bands like Comédie Macabre and Lords of the Cemetery, Vanguard X Mortem birthed in stylistic blending of Atmospheric and Symphonic Extreme Metal to create their debut album titled [vanguardismortem], in 2012, followed by the full-length album Neptune Fragrance, in 2014, and the EP Anthropomorphism, in 2016. And Christophe returns now in 2018 with a brand new opus entitled Amberosia, a powerful and somber album of extreme music featuring a fiendish artwork by RectopusArt, highly recommended for all admirers of the underworld with an insatiable lust for fresh blood.

The phantasmagoric keys in the horror movie-inspired intro Séraphin set the stage for Christophe and his Vanguard X Mortem to darken our minds in Amberosia, where blazing riffs and an ominous aura permeate the air before Christophe begins firing his vampyric gnarls, accompanied by the ethereal voice by Alix Rousselet. Furthermore, its headbanging, heavy and somber pace is spiced up by elements from old school Cradle of Filth, therefore enhancing its impact on the listener. La Morte Amoureuse, which is French for “the dead woman”, is top-notch Gothic Metal bringing all elements we love in the genre such as theatrical keyboards, slashing riffs, sexy female vocals and huge doses of melancholy, with a fantastic job done by the band’s skillful trio with their instruments, in special Chrisophe with his devilish guitar; whereas Automn Orchard feels and sounds more romantic and melodic, but with the demonic vocals by Christophe giving it a harsher twist in a solid fusion of Gothic Rock and Metal with Atmospheric Extreme Metal. Alix once again embellishes the music with her delicate vocals, while drummer Marco De Barros keeps the pace as mournful and obscure as possible with his Doom Metal-ish beats.

In the excellent Parish of Disillusionment the band offers us orchestral and symphonic music thoroughly fused with Extreme Metal, resulting in a song perfect for breaking your neck headanging while its fiery keys penetrate deep inside your mind, feeling absolutely macabre from start to finish. Then we have L’Emperesse (or “the empress” in English) beautifully impersonated by Alix, who effectively tells us who the empress is and how evil and mischievous she can be, all embraced by nuances of epicness and mystery flowing from the band’s impactful Symphonic Gothic Metal, followed by Nocturne in the Moonlight, carrying a classic song name for a flammable hybrid of Gothic Metal and Symphonic Black Metal. In addition, the paradox between the hellish gnarls by Christophe and the operatic vocals by Alix brings a very interesting taste to the music, not to mention the song’s amazing guitar riffs and solos.

The Flower’s Blood is another song that puts together in a compelling way the more brutish sounds emanated by Christophe and Marco with the angelic voice of Alix, all boosted by its background symphonic elements; while Solstice, the second to last ode to vampirism by Vanguard X Mortem, sounds as dark as expected, but not as exciting as the rest of the album, falling flat after a while despite still bringing some interesting guitars and keys. And in the eerie outro If the End…, gracious and smooth lines make the perfect ambience for Alix to mesmerize us once again with her lecherous vocals, concluding the album on a high note.

If you’re one of those creatures who only come out at night and enjoy a good blend of atmospheric, symphonic and heavy music as the soundtrack of your never-ending nocturnal quest for blood, I highly recommend you go check what Vanguard X Mortem are up to on Facebook, YouTube, ReverbNation and SoundCloud, and of course purchase Amberosia through the Noir Carrousel Records Big Cartel as a regular CD or as a special CD + T-shirt bundle, as well as at other online retailers like Cultura and Fnac. And then you’ll become addicted not only to fresh human blood, but also to French Vampire Metal.

Best moments of the album: La Morte Amoureuse, Parish of Disillusionment and Nocturne in the Moonlight.

Worst moments of the album: Solstice.

Released in 2018 Noir Carrousel/Socadisc

Track listing     
1. Séraphin 1:51
2. Amberosia 6:45
3. La Morte Amoureuse 5:16
4. Automn Orchard 4:41
5. Parish of Disillusionment 4:34
6. L’Emperesse 4:32
7. Nocturne in the Moonlight 3:46
8. The Flower’s Blood 5:17
9. Solstice 4:48
10. If the End… 3:14

Band members
Christophe Florian – vocals, guitars, programming
Alix Rousselet – female vocals, violin
Marco De Barros – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Marjolaine Bernard

Behind shivering drops of my soul… Dancing under a dry sky the void’s pouring inside…

Let’s take a flight to Paris, the capital and most populous city of France, where among several activities and attractions you can visit the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum and the Notre Dame Cathedral, or simply find a traditional French café on the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées to enjoy a nice, traditional croissant. If you’re a metalhead, there are also some excellent metal pubs and venues for you to go, such as Le Black Dog, James Hetfeeld’s and Le Cavern, and if you’re lucky enough you might enjoy a live concert by Wildpath, a female-fronted Symphonic Power Metal band formed in Paris in 2001 where, since 2008, our metal chick of the month has been giving life to their lyrics. I’m talking about French vocalist Marjolaine Bernard, a very talented and young musician who will certainly attract the attention of fans of melodic female voices like Floor Jansen and Tarja Turunen.

Born on June 4, 1983, Marjolaine started in the world of music at a very young age, first with the piano, then by joining a choir after watching a children’s concert, and since then she has never stopped singing. Furthermore, our French girl has been singing metal for a long time, being part of different small independent bands as a teenager and being clearly inspired by names like Floor and Tarja. However, Marjolaine stated that, despite Floor and Tarja (among other renowned vocalists) still being a reference to her, they’re not necessarily what she listens to nowadays and she doesn’t see herself as a Symphonic Metal singer, but just as a musician among other musicians trying to work with her voice in the best way possible, always in line with the music being played.

Marjolaine and her bandmates from Wildpath draw inspiration to create their music from several distinct sources, from electro to reggae, from metal to ambient music, like a giant melting pot. Furthermore, she mentioned she loves movie scores and soundtracks, being highly influenced by amazing composers such as Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman, also getting ideas from music from video games. She said that metal is a style where you’re allowed to let go with musical expressions and experimentations, and that’s the path that’s being constantly explored by the band in recent years. Forging elements from rock, metal, electro, folk, symphonic and traditional music, always caring for harmony and energy, Wildpath are a band in continuous evolution, and Marjolaine’s voice is exactly what the music needs to become more lively and appealing, as you’ll see below when we talk about her career with the band.

However, before Wildpath, there was Ad Vitam Aeternam, which is Latin for “To (or Towards) Eternal Life”, a Melodic Gothic Metal band formed in 1999 in Paris with whom Marjolaine played until 2005. She recorded the album Abstract Senses with Ad Vitam Aeternam in 2004, that being the only official release by the band since their inception. You can take a listen at the entire album HERE, or also enjoy individual songs from the album such as Dementia and In The Throes of Apocalypse, always paying attention to how different the music style by Ad Vitam Aeternam was from Wildpath, which only shows how versatile Marjolaine is as a vocalist.

It was in the year of 2008 that she finally joined Wildpath, which as already mentioned was formed back in 2001 by keyboardist Alexis Garsault and guitarist Olivier Caron in Paris, having released their debut album Nyx Secrets in 2005 (without Marjolaine on vocals, obviously). After Marjolaine became the lead singer for Wildpath, the band released three full-length albums, Non Omnis Moriar in 2009 (which by the way had its name inspired by the Odes by Roman lyric poet Horace and means “I shall not all die” or “not all of me will die”), Underneath in 2011 and Disclosure in 2015, as well as a very special release featuring acoustic versions of tracks from previous albums in 2016, titled Still – Acoustic Live Experience. You can get a very good taste of how smooth and tuneful Marjolaine’s vocals are in songs such as Petrichor, The Raven, Absentia, Confined and Excinere, listen to the entire albums Disclosure and Underneath, enjoy the acoustic versions from Still for the songs Everlasting Wish and Unborn, or also have fun with Marjolaine and the others with two live “studio” versions for the songs Buried Moon and Secret’s Case.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you prefer Wildpath live in front of a bunch of metalheads, I recommend this 2012 version of Buried Moon and Dive live at Le Grand Rex in Paris during the IronSquid StarCraft 2 World Championship Finals, as well as Non Omnis Moriar live in Eloyes, France in 2010; Unborn and Ghost Memories live at Le Divan Du Monde in Paris in 2015; or even this full concert  in 2012 during a mini-festival named Metal Symphonic Quest II in Tours, a city located in the centre-west of France. The festival also had the bands Adrana, Lost Opera, Roman Rouzine The Tria and Eidon, but it was Wildpath who headlined the night. And if you think you need to go all the way to France to watch Wildpath live, you’re wrong, as in 2016 the band played their first gig in the UK at The Quinphonic Festival 2 at The Roadhouse Birmingham. How far do you think Marjolaine and Wildpath can go?

As a guest musician, Marjolaine was part of the only album released by French Melodic Heavy/Power Metal band Silent Fall, entitled Otherwise, from 2010, doing choir vocals in the whole album and main female vocals on the song This Could Have Been. If you’re curious to know how she was invited to be part of the album, the answer is quite simple. Olivier Caron, Wildpath’s own guitarist, was also the lead guitarist for Silent Fall, making it a lot easier for Marjolaine to add her vocals to their music in an effective and exciting way.

When asked about her favorite song of all time, including all types of music and eras, her answer was quite unique, citing the classic Sanvean: I Am Your Shadow (or simply Sanvean) by the iconic Australian musical project Dead Can Dance, featured on their first official live album Toward the Within, released in 1994, an album that contains 15 songs, of which only four appeared on their previous albums. Sanvean was later re-recorded by one of the masterminds behind Dead Can Dance, Lisa Gerrard, on her 1995 solo album The Mirror Pool. In regards to heavy music, her first rock album was the classic Angels Fall First, the debut studio album by Finnish Symphonic Metal band Nightwish. With cult songs such as Elvenpath, Beauty and the Beast and Astral Romance, it’s easy to understand why Marjolaine fell in love for Symphonic Metal, right?

Marjolaine was also questioned about her favorite or best moments as an artist, and albeit she said there have been already lots of amazing memories with Wildpath, one of her favorite experiences was a concert with a “quatour” (a special form of string quartet that developed in Paris around 1775 and became one of the leading genres of Parisian music until the French Revolution) and a choir at La Scène Bastille, saying that seeing a symphony coming alive was truly fantastic. In addition, she also listed as one of her favorite moments when the band played with French progressive guitarist Patrick Rondat, and lastly the band’s famous performance in 2015 at Le Divan du Monde.

As previously mentioned, among her main influences we’ll find names such as Floor and Tarja, with Floor in particular being a huge inspiration for Marjolaine as she’s one of the few contemporary female singers who can combine lyrical songs with very dynamic rock vocals in a precise manner. However, out of the metal and rock scene, her favorite singer is Lisa Gerrard, who apart from her work with Dead Can Dance was also responsible for several other renowned projects, including a Golden Globe Award for the music score to the film Gladiator, on which she collaborated with Hans Zimmer.

Another interesting fact about Marjolaine is that her stage outfit is created by one of her students, who proposed to create special clothes tailored for their live performances, working with the band’s colors and adding her own personal touch to the creations. That stylist is from a company called Le Paon, a new brand from the independent French scene. Marjolaine and the stylist collaborate with each other in the creation of the outfits, first discussing new ideas orally and then working together on drawings and other details, until the stylist begins working on the whole realization of the clothes. One of her first new looks debuted at the concert at Le Divan du Monde in 2015, and in her opinion it was already a great evolution from her previous costumes.

Lastly, when asked about places or regions she would like to play with Wildpath, Marjolaine answered she would love to go to Brittany (a cultural region in the north-west of France) because she has family there, or also other French cities such as Lyon. Outside of France, she mentioned Belgium, Switzerland and Luxemburg as countries she would love to visit with her band, as well as other more distant places like Japan and South America, but that the high cost of playing in those places make the trip almost impossible, at least for now. It’s interesting that she didn’t mention the United States or Canada on her list, two major markets for heavy music, in special our French-speaking province of Quebec here in Canada. Well, let’s hope she just “forgot” to mention Canada, and that one day we have the pleasure of seeing Wildpath kicking ass live in our home and native land.

Marjolaine Bernard’s Official Facebook page
Marjolaine Bernard’s Official Twitter
Wildpath’s Official Facebook page
Wildpath’s Official Twitter
Wildpath’s Official YouTube

Album Review – Ways. / Watching From Afar EP (2016)

Mixing several influences and musical styles from Alternative Rock to Post-Hardcore, this up-and-coming French quintet might be exactly what you’re looking for in modern heavy music.

Rating5

ways_watching-from-afarMixing several influences and musical styles, French Alternative Rock/Metal act Ways. might be exactly what you’re looking for in alternative music, offering a wide variety of genres in their compositions that will please fans of heavier groups such as Deftones, Marilyn Manson and Killswitch Engage, to radio-friendly bands like Foo Fighters. And that harmonious but still fierce fusion of styles can be easily witnessed in their debut EP entitled Watching From Afar, a six-track album that nicely summarizes what Ways. are capable of, their main influences and their goals with their music.

Formed in 2013 in Paris, France, this talented quintet brings forward dynamic and melodic music displaying elements from Alternative Rock, Heavy Metal and Post-Hardcore, among others, always keeping their musicality fresh and vibrant throughout the almost 20 minutes in Watching From Afar. You’ll be positively surprised by the band due to all their sudden tempo changes and variations, going from harsh and desperate screams to gentle vocals and smooth guitar sounds. Featuring a sexy artwork by French photographer Sebastien Bessac, Watching From Afar can entertain you at a pub, at home, in your car or anywhere else good music is required.

In the opening track, titled My Blue Stain, a melodic beginning quickly turns into a blend of Metalcore and Alternative Metal, with lead singer Clément smoothly transitioning from harsh screams to clean vocals. Furthermore, it’s easy to notice influences from Deftones and In Flames, among other bands, in all instruments, which is also the case in As A Duty, showcasing a lighter side of the band with Bruno and Nico doing a great job on guitars, firing gentle lines and heavier riffs in sync with the vocals by Clément. Overflowing anguish and melancholy, this nice composition displays hints of Alternative Rock (in special during the song’s calm passages) that add an extra flavor to the overall result. And in Misty Hope, despite starting in a calm and relaxing way, vocal lines keep fierce and deranged, being recommended for fans of Foo Fighters and Deftones in pursuit of a higher level of aggressiveness in music. In addition to that, drummer Tony leads the song’s pace with his rhythmic beats, increasing its effectiveness and appeal for the delight of the listener.

waysThe title-track Watching From Afar is an instrumental track that’s more progressive and introspective than everything else in the album (and also the shortest of all songs), a nice display of dexterity by all band members leading up to the melancholic tune Something To Say…, where the groovy and smooth lines by session bassist Thomas Houche, together with the atmospheric riffs by Bruno and Nico, provide all the support for another passionate performance by Clément on vocals. Watching From Afar closes with Twenty First Sectuary, the heaviest and in my opinion the best composition of the album, getting closer to Melodic Death Metal without losing the harmony of Metalcore. Not only all guitar lines by Bruno and Nico sound amazing in this chant, but Tony also pounds his drums harder than in any other song of the album, translating into more electricity and consequently accrediting it to be one of the best options for the band’s live performances.

You can get more details on the music and career by Ways. by visiting their Facebook page, YouTube channel and Instagram, and if you want to purchase Watching From Afar, simply go to their BandCamp page for a preview of the album and to get a physical copy of it, or you can also get it on iTunes, supporting not only Ways. but the entire heavy music independent scene. As previously mentioned, Ways. can offer you a wide range of heavy, classic and soft rock in their compositions, making your day better with their pleasant musicality and showing you that Watching From Afar is just the beginning and a nice sample of what’s coming next for those talented French musicians.

Best moments of the album: My Blue Stain and Twenty First Sectuary.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. My Blue Stain 3:17
2. As A Duty 4:48
3. Misty Hope 3:17
4. Watching From Afar 2:13
5. Something To Say… 3:11
6. Twenty First Sectuary 3:39

Band members
Clément – vocals
Bruno – guitar
Nico – guitar
Elo – bass
Tony – drums

Guest musician
Thomas Houche – bass (session)