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The debut full-length from Greek band Automaton is weighty, sludgy, coffin-lid-slamming Doom perfection.
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Angellore : Rien Ne Devait Mourir


Angellore's third full-length is a perfect Gothic Doom epic.



Author's Note: There is a disclaimer to be made here - if you've elected to purchase the limited, luxury double-album vinyl release of this album produced by The Vinyl Division, you'll also be the owner of the rather smart 40-page booklet it contains, titled "Angellore: A Story" and written by...me. Well, that particular biographical project actually began back in 2017, as an idea to create some sort of special package to mark the band's 10th anniversary, and this is Doom...so what actually happened was that things took longer...long enough, in fact, that the release of this third album became imminent, and the opportunity suddenly arose to include it as an exclusive bonus for the LP version. Aside from that, I have no actual investment in this album, per se: I just had the opportunity to hear it earlier than most, and have had something over a year in which to fully digest the content. So, I don't feel that the inclusion of the bio disqualifies me from reviewing this, and I figure that the additional familiarity with the material merely adds to the longer-term detail I can bring to this review. But - be warned - part of the reason the band wanted me to write their bio in the first place was precisely because I have been an undoubted fan since the days of debut 'Errances', so I may well still be bringing THAT particular bias to the party...

So, it is no secret at all round these parts that I'm extremely fond of Gothic music of all stripes, nor that when it comes to appending the /Doom qualifier, Angellore rank amongst my very favourite bands. It's probably not much of a spoiler, therefore, to begin by saying that I'm not in the slightest bit disappointed in the way 'Rien Ne Devait Mourir', their third full-length, builds on all of the steadily and patiently evolved hallmarks of their sound. On the contrary, it's as accomplished a follow-up to 2015's 'La Litanie Des Cendres' as anyone could have wished for.

I was actually introduced to it in the October of 2018, at a pre-release listening session on a warm evening in Paris, in the company of half the band and a dozen or so of their other friends. And, to be honest, it was quite the experience - the whole trip, that is, not just the music. 800 miles by motorcycle under unseasonally hot perfect blue skies, including an overnight stopover courtesy of keyboard player/vocalist Walran and his wife Florianne. Plus, of course, the first impressions of this new album, unveiled as it was in the romantic semi-darkness of a candlelit basement.

Not that I'm much of a one for basing too much on first impressions: I prefer to listen, study, inwardly digest, prevaricate for some while, and finally return to an album before committing to a verdict. Of course, that initial hearing does make an impact, and in the case of 'Rien Ne Devait Mourir' it was a thoroughly favourable one. Since then, I've had plenty of time in which to prevaricate, and now that the album is actually out, there's no excuse not to finish the work.

Essentially the same core band as recorded 'La Litanie...', Lucia (female vocals) is now credited as a full member rather than a guest, and Rosarius (guitars, vocals, keys) has handed bass duties over to new member Celin. Walran and Ronnie (drums) complete the crew, so - unsurprisingly - there's a lot of recognisable continuity from the preceding work. There are also some new elements: the guest violin by Cathy Arquez may be familiar, but the use of organ, flute, oboe, cello, celtic harp and a slew of different vocal and choral contributions have moved on from being present as purely synthesised voices to include some full live recordings (some parts were even recorded in the same basement as the listening session...). Dynamically, there's just a fraction more balance here, with three lengthy pieces - 'A Romance Of Thorns', 'Drowned Divine' and 'Que Les Lueurs Se Dispersent' (May the light disperse) - ranging from eleven to twenty minutes, and three shorter five-minute-odd tracks interspersed between.

Those two key points are, I would suggest, both part-cause and part-effect of the main changes - and improvements - in evidence here, and those begin with the compositions. Not that Angellore were ever really lacking in the composition and arrangements department, but this format really suits their combined talents. The shorter tracks take on more of a singular focus, developing around a single theme - be it a lilting melody line for 'Dreams', the full-on driving Gothic Rock of 'Blood For Lavinia', or the gently swelling symphonic instrumental 'Sur Les Sentiers De Lune' (On the trails of the moon) - while the longer works are free to weave a much deeper and more involved multipart tapestry. That, perhaps, peaks with the fourteen-minute rock opera of 'Drowned Divine' (based on Donizetti's actual opera 'Lucia Di Lammermoor'), a tragedy enacted in several brief acts - but for those who appreciate a genuinely Prog-Doom slant on things, it's very nearly as prevalent in the remaining two pieces. Altogether, they simply project the band's greater maturity and experience in how to flesh out their ideas, with the aforementioned guest instruments adding a layer of lush and precise detail to that realisation. Technically, that's also the case - having returned to Florent Krist's Evertone studio for recording, and with Markus Skroch again at the helm for production, the entire team is clearly that bit more comfortable working together, and that bit more capable of intuitively extracting the very best from the material.

It's worth noting that the contrasts also put some clear space between this and 'La Litanie...', on which the consistent atmosphere could sometimes blend the tracks into one long flowing journey. Here you have more of a collection of distinct songs clearly standing alone within the album structure, more in the vein of debut 'Errances'. And whilst not as savagely raw as the most extreme moments of that album, there's certainly a case to be made that this is both the darkest and heaviest of Angellore's releases to date. Certainly, they can - and do - produce spacious, soaring melody lines which might create airy, light moments, but they also plunge into the depths of suffocating pressure, often within the same track - check out the way 'A Romance Of Thorns' progresses from melancholy regretfulness through uplifting melodies to a slow-tempo death march and a transcendent climax for a perfect example of the way darkness is woven through even the paciest and most accessible of passages. And it's nothing like as simple as signalling those changes with a switch to beauty-rather-than-beast, obvious tempo changes, orchestrations or the like, because all of those elements participate across the board. For my money, the exemplar of creating that kind of gloomy chiaroscuro which both includes and defies the most coruscating of components has always been Draconian - and, frankly, I'm of the opinion that what Angellore has done here, in that vein, is as atmospherically accomplished as the Swedish band were at the height of their powers with 2005's 'Arcane Rain Fell'. 'Rien Ne Devait Mourir' carries that same torch of honesty and investment, and the same feeling of having poured communal heart and soul into its creation.

I held back a little on completing this, just because I wanted to see what the physical releases would offer. Well, obviously, I can only recommend the LP pressing! It's quality heavyweight vinyl in a chunky gatefold sleeve, with an extra side of exclusive bonus tracks taken from the 'La Litanie...' sessions (the unreleased 'Rassembler Des Cendres' and a version of 'Twilight's Embrace' with vocals by Empyrium's Thomas Helm). And of course, you get the "Angellore: A Story" booklet - which, I'm told, is actually quite a good read : ) - illustrated and presented beautifully by The Vinyl Division. For the CD, there's a top-loading mini digibox designed by Shunu Records and pressed by Finisterian Dead End. The box comes with a nicely embossed outer logo, inner cruciform cut-out and some extras: band logo sticker, label flyers, lyric booklet and card-sleeved CD without the vinyl bonus tracks. It's not quite the visual equal of the radical fold-out format of 'La Litanie...', but nonetheless a high-quality, interesting and unusual package. And if you want a purely digital version, the band are offering that through their Bandcamp site (and on Spotify etc); it has the same tracklist and PDF booklet as the CD.

Well, I've quoted a number of other Prog, Gothic and Doom bands in previous reviews, and those are no less true here - you may still find yourself, depending on musical background, thinking of moments of everything from Camel to Lacrimas Profundere to Saturnus. But, really, by this point, there's little excuse for not just thinking "Angellore". They've come a long way down their own path since starting out with the inspiration of 'Veronika Decides To Die', and this is the album which brings together all of the talents that the slowly expanded band line-up have to offer. And in terms of the title's deliberate ambiguity - the loose translation of 'Nothing should have died' carries both an optimistic and pessimistic interpretation, where you could easily add "..and it hasn't" or "...but it did" - Angellore demonstrate exactly where they excel in creating their melancholic beauty, somewhere in that fragile and bittersweet balance between hope and loss.

Even knowing at the time that they could better 'La Litanie...', I wouldn't for one moment row back from the idea that that album, especially given its uniquely beautiful presentation, was well-deserving of a perfect score. 'Rien Ne Devait Mourir' presents me with the slight problem that I don't have any higher numerical accolade to stick at the end, but, just as its predecessor was one of the most absolutely essential albums of 2015, this repeats that feat for 2020. There's simply not a thing I'd want to change about the way it encapsulates everything Gothic Doom should be.


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Reviewer's rating: 10/10

Information

Tracklist :
1. A Romance Of Thorns
2. Dreams (Along The Trail)
3. Drowned Divine
4. Blood For Lavinia
5. Sur Les Sentiers De Lune
6. Que Les Lueurs Se Dispersent
Bonus Tracks (LP version only)
7. Rassembler Des Cendres
8. Twilight's Embrace (feat. Thomas Helm)

Duration : Approx. 79/61 minutes (LP/CD)

Visit the Angellore bandpage.

Reviewed on 2020-04-14 by Mike Liassides
Thermal Mass
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