Misanthrope - Visionnaire ©1997 Holy Records
1. Futile Future
2. Bâtisseur De Cathédrales
3. Hypochondrium Forces
4. Le Silence Des Grottes
5. 2666
6. La Dandy
7. Hands Of The Puppeters
8. Irrévérencieux
9. Visionnaire

Visionnaire is the first really noteworthy album by French avant garde death metal band, Misanthrope. Their previous albums were full of ideas and creative energy, but lacked the direction and sharpness of Visionnaire. Misanthrope specialize in complex (and often brutal) death metal with a concise melodic edge and jazz fusion influences. Songs move from wildly erratic metal passages, into smooth jazz-laden territories and weird experimentation with little or no warning. The music has an ambiguous atmosphere of musical maturity and art school ambitions (though it's never base or pretentious).

The fusiony parts are slick, with heavy Latin bass grooves and flowing, crystal clear guitar lines; these segments are usually complimented with Caribbean-esque piano embellishments. The piano flows eloquently throughout the music, filling my mind with images of clear sea water and sandy coastlines. Special note must made concerning the bass work of Jean-Jacque Moréac. His bass lines are simply incredible and the music gives him ample room to fill with virtuoso performances and wild solos. His bass lines add a good deal of character to the music and his playing really stands out in a genre where the bass is hardly audible most of the time.

The vocals are provided by guitarist S.A.S. De L'Argilière and his performance is really multifaceted and dynamic considering its origins in the Death/thrash School of Singing. Besides the usual shrieks and growls (which he delivers with a good deal of inflection and emotion), there are also weeping vocals (where he sounds as if he's singing during an emotional crisis) and lispy, almost dirty sounding speech delivered in French. While powerfully emotional at times, his overall vocal performance sounds almost perverse and darkly erotic. I'm not sure if he should be commended or locked away.

As you can probably guess, Misanthrope is a very fey, artsy, wildly entertaining band. Having taken their name from the Molière play, they owe it to the world to extol such virtues in force. Many will be annoyed by the utter ridiculousness the music often exhibits, and many more will be annoyed by the perverse over-the-top vocal performance. But for anyone who likes obscure, difficult art school fare with a heavy dose of ugliness and raunch, check it out!

Review by James Slone

Review date: 04/2000

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