MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
With only 6 tracks, I knew I was going to be in for a prog-tastic time. Both the title track and “Elea” are divided into multiple parts! ‘A good start,’ I’m thinking to myself as I pressed play and part one of “Time of Awakening” started up.
Once past the ambient intro and the light polyrhythmic drums, the amazing voice of Laetitia Chaudemanche enters. First thought from me? ‘Wow!’ She has an amazing tone with a slight Gaelic influence. The vocal is bright and fluffy, reminding me of Lee Douglas from Anathema. Okay, so this is going to be a light, atmospheric album with subtlety? Not quite. About halfway through “Time of Awakening, Part 1”, I was treated to a nice angular, fuzzy riff from Terence N’Guyen, complemented by some heavy bass and thundering drums. Now we’re cooking! Things continue to build over the remainder of this track, and before you know it, from out of nowhere, a huge sawtooth lead solo comes in. Unexpected, gritty and glorious.
The track then moves seamlessly into part two, morphing into something quite unexpected. Crystal clear piano fills the speakers and really interesting melodies and chords dominate. Something reminiscent of an ECM style jazz/classical influence appears, which is more refreshing than the typical symphonic rock-ballad style that we usually get from so many prog bands of late. The guitar is also subtle and textural, again akin to someone like Alan Holdsworth or Terje Rypdal rather than Petrucci, for example.
After this relaxing interlude, it gets avant garde, providing even more textural changes. Sub bass programming and guitar effects make for something modern and unsettling, but not overbearing. The acoustic guitar makes its first appearance at the start of part three, continuing the low key feeling, but then the song just explodes! Surprise! Tool–style rifforama and dense drums pour forth. To heighten the excitement, we get another unexpected moment. Gone are the light and graceful vocals as Chaudemanche powers over the band with an effect-laden performance, fitting perfectly with the heavy riffs. As if I couldn’t like the song any more, an awesome guitar solo kicks in, leaving lots of space for the bass to come thundering through in support (one of my favourite sounds in rock). The final part of this trilogy ends with some super fast drum fills from Nathanael Buis. Song complete. Drop the mic, leave the stage! Phew!
VOCAL SUPER POWERS
Every band needs a superhero, and in Weend’ô‘s case, it’s Laetitia Chaudemanche. From her biography on their website, she lists Anneke van Giersbergen as one of her primary influences, which is apparent as the album progresses. Don’t let this fool you into thinking that she’s just a clone. Chaudemanche stamps her own personality on this album, adjusting her style and vocal effects to the mood of the music. This adds tons of interest and unique high points on every track. I’ve done a scientific and accurate account* in the graph below to give you an idea of the sheer variety in her vocal performance:
From her super high range, mic effects, staccato phrasing, whispering and different languages, she never ceases to amaze and delight throughout. This gives the band a different feeling from most other groups of this type and raises the bar significantly.
With the 3 part of the title track done, we are now into the only single song on the album; “Angel Dust”. This track gives us a taste of a more staccato vocal style, reminiscent of Bent Knee at times. The whispering is also a nice touch. There is also a ‘single edit’ version of this track, I assume to help people get a taste of Weend’ô’s style without committing to listening to the longer songs.
The album closes out with another multipart opus, “Elea”. Featuring more great riffs, awesome Steve Rothery-style melodic guitar solos, and as my graph points out, a blissful mix of the sweet vocal of Chaudemanche mixed with a dirty male vocal underneath. This is a sound palette that’s new to me and made me immediately sit up and take notice. Part Two winds up the album nicely with reverb soaked crescendos and high voices until the fade.
ENOUGH TO LEAVE YOU WANTING
After 45 minutes, it’s all over, and I immediately wanted to find out more about the band and see if there was an extensive back catalog so I could listen to more and get my fix (there are two previous albums)!
From the clear, punchy recording, great modern riffs and of course, that vocal performance, this is an album that deserves to be recognized as something new and exciting in this genre. I look forward to seeing how Weend’ô develop in the future (plus I’ll keep banging on about them to my mates!).
Notable Tracks: “Time of Awakening (Part 1)”; “Angel Dust”
FFO: Anathema, Bent Knee, Ayreon, Vuur, Enchant, Marillion, Anneke van Giersbergen