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Xaal - Seconde Ere CD (album) cover





3.85 | 29 ratings

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Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Xaal (or should be pronounced as Zal) are basically a french trio formed in the late 80's led by Nicolas Neimer on bass, Jad Ayache on guitars and synths and Patrick Boileau on drums. Both their albums and one EP included other musicians to spice up their sound and ideas, mostly by trumpet and saxophone. I don't think their RIO/Avant tag is justifiable, it could be very misleading to those who don't connect with this genre, they are really much more Crimsonian Zehul fusion than anything else. Their first album was actually a cross between those genres but it seems that here, in their second album they have decreased their fusion influences and mostly concentrated on much more heavier Zehulic sound, reminding me often of Crimson, Magma (without the vocals) and a little bit of Univers Zero for the atmosphere. Xaal really takes all those influences and efficiently mix them together to come up with something that is really their own. It's not really fusion, you can't really call it Jazz and it is certainly not metal, it is simply modern progressive rock that doesn't scatter to all directions but is focused and directed straight between your eyes.

Seconde Ere is not only relatively short but it also hits the target it's aiming for. It's recorded better than before and that's the reason it sounds fresher and definitely stronger. The material is precisely written and confidently executed. The album is strictly instrumental, but doesn't hold any complex or sophisticated arrangements, on the other hand what it has to offer is effective arrangements mostly leaning on improvisation, good ones too.

Nicolas Neimer has a punchy and grainy kind of sound, he uses a fretless bass and he's a very competent player, soft and caressing at times but can also be very fierce like a lot of Zehul bass players (Paganotti comes to mind here). Just check out his beautiful intro on "Jamais Tranquille" very tasteful and classy, I would rank this as one of my favorite fretless bass lines. Jad Ayache doesn't carry the endless soloing sin, his solos are in the right place and in the right lenth. On top of it he has all kinds of beautiful and imaginative leads, check out "Piege" for its cool minimalistic guitar intro lead. And finally Patrick Boileau on drums can be very jazzy but also very angry and violent, like a storm coming out of nowhere. Together they are not trying to sound polished at all, like almost every metal band that embraces that perfect production where every beat is on the spot. Instead they are very loose and I wouldn't be surprised if this was recorded live in the studio.

For some people the creation of the universe could have happened to the sounds of "What A Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong but others (cynics) might say it's this album's frightening opener "Rah". It opens up with a deep and low sound almost like a volcano is about to burst, then three notes appear and the tension is starting to build on top of them, it then calms for just a few seconds with a devine choir, like the lord is looking down smiling upon what he has done but then everything goes to hell with the album's first violent attack. Another thing about Xaal is the contrast they have in styles and sometimes within the same song. For example "Jamais Tranquille" (or maybe should have better been called The Great Flood) have a beautiful first part as I've mentioned before but then looses it when the mighty tornado is unleashed staring the three french men, it's like somebody has pissed them off. They are taking no prisoners on this one and simply demolishes everything, it's definitely my favorite piece here. On the other hand "Al Abad" starts with a mysterious calm haunting atmosphere and then continues to a long jazzy improvisation including guiar solos and a saxophone paddling in the arabian ocean.

"Piege" is another highlight adopting once again the fusion between quiet and aggressive, some good motifs and an effective change between different moods leaning on a remarkable bass work. But it seems Xaal have saved a lot of energies for the closing track "Force". A violent and aggressive coda that destroys the earth completely, nothing can stand in the way of those drums, having no problem keeping up with the already possessed guitar player featuring a manic guitar solo on top of that solid and punchy bass line. An end that leaves you wanting for more.

It seems Xaal have achieved the goals they have set for them selves and now can secretly vanish away without anyone noticing. This last recording catches them in great shape and is recommended to anyone who likes the more disturbing, aggressive but sensitive side of Zehul. A well deserved 4 stars.

Sagichim | 4/5 |


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