LES FLEURS DU MAL
Les Fleurs Du Mal's long-awaited debut album is finally out. After two promising maxi-singles, "The Knife In My Back" (2012) and "Idolatry" (2013), the Swedish duo returns with their first full-length recording: "Concrete Ravings". Throughout the eleven tracks included, the qualities that they pointed out in the advanced releases has been confirmed. Not only that but Les Fleurs Du Mal has ironed out their recognizable virtues, resulting in a sound that is slightly more advanced, complex and mature than that of their previous work. But let's go into detail about what is offered in this album.
The album opener, "A Remorseful Day", begins with a poignant and touching recitation: /.../ "Past touch and sight and sound / Not further to be found, / How hopeless under ground / Falls the remorseful day" (a fragment from Housman's poem "XVI - (How clear, how lovely bright)". There's no better metaphor to illustrate what "Concrete Ravings" is offering us and, by extension, Les Fleurs Du Mal's personality: noir (literature/film) introducing noir (as the band likes to define their distinctive rock style). In its musical part, the song lives up the spoken one, driven by their characteristic guitar riffing, pulsating basslines, shimmery rhythm chords and frenzied machine drumming. All that can be expected from a goth hit, but also enhanced through Axel's elegant timbre and some sporadic synth notes that gives the song (in fact, the whole repertoire has this peculiarity) a subtle cold feeling which is characteristic of the Grim Brothers' music. The next track, "Idolatry: In Vain" (recently released in the "Idolatry" maxi-single), sets a groovy pace which is gradually taken over by mournful passages. A haunting synth line, along with the clear, impressive singing (featuring some falsettos backwards), introduce "Concrete Ravings". The title track is an unadultered piece of gothic rock glory (nineties firmly rooted) from start to finish. You will be swallowed progressively into these dynamic, atmospheric and darker, charming shades. Woven guitar and synth melodies provide an epic backdrop for Axel's deep, affectionated, anguished vocals, while preprogrammed beats and bass lines keep up a balancing act with them. "Nothing" recovers the up-beat hook, driven by a persistent bass performing, danceable drums, catchy chorus and a sticky string section (the latter brings to my mind some second wave German ghosts). Following it, "Strigoi System" (which was included in "The Knife In My Back" maxi-single the last year) makes its appearence slightly different. The album version ("Uncompromised") is almost twice as length than the previous one ("Sold Out Edit"). In consequence, the band unleashes its creativity adding to the new song some remarkable guitar solos, worrying radio samples and other arrangements. Besides the spare atmospheric touches, some rough edges has been also smoothed out. The brooding ballad "Celebrity Gala" freezes the climax through its deceptively simple structure. Cold semi-acoustic chords and synths create an unexpected density which intensifies the melancholy in Axel's vocals. The sadness echoes abruptly disappear when "Idolatry: In Pain" bursts with drumming energy into the scene. Along with the aforementioned "Idolatry: In Vain", this track was released as a foretaste in the "Idolatry" maxi-single. The rock noir gale strikes again, but this time the dark component is sharpen. Gloomy keyboard melodies and sampled violins surround the powerful riffs and drums, giving the song a deeper vibe, unexpected from a catchy structure. This paradoxical ability differentiates Les Fleurs Du Mal from other wrongly lumped bands. Also they combined in their compositions a wide range of influences as demonstrated by "The Storm", thunderously riff commanded again, but also showing astute voice games, constant changes in pace, and a rich variety of arrangements and effects. "Stink" follows that path, driven by feverish brass guitar rhythms, prominent bass lines and strong processed drums. Coming next, the "The Knife In My Back" (Issue 2), even increases the already frenzied rhythm. This new version has been conveniently polished and enriched with some extra arrangements, thereby increasing its potential. The track fades out near the end towards a solemn keyboard soundscape which serves as a preamble for the unsettling album closer: "Substanceless Abuse". Les Fleurs Du Mal can shift the moods successfully, as it's easily proved by this synth-driven tune. Chilling, icy and dark, the song seems densely textured in spite of its minimalistic structure. The suffocating (while placid) atmosphere is ruled only by a few somber keyboard notes, moaning strings, whispering vocals and constantly dripping of funerary drumbeats. A memorable trip to Floodland that deserves to be highlighted.
"Concrete Ravings" is a multi-layered gothic rock gem, held together by wiry guitar lines and driving dance beats. An addictive debut album, filled with tunes that will dig deep under your skin by its underlying dark nature. The proof that Les Fleurs Du Mal is no longer a promise, but an undeniable reality.
Review by Billyphobia