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Xang - The Last Of The Lasts CD (album) cover

THE LAST OF THE LASTS

Xang

 

Crossover Prog

3.61 | 23 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
5 stars I have been waiting for so long for something new from this great French quartet. Xang debut prog foray was well received (even Sean Trane liked it! I guess there is hope after all), a purely instrumental musical adventure that had the audacity to deliver a concept with lyrics and storyline but NO VOCALS !!! Very audacious to say the least. After a long wait, Xang finally released "the Last of Lasts", a loose translation from a World War I French soldier epithet "Le Der' des Ders'. The band chose a remarkable historical subject (that today's world sadly has little time for): the sheer brutality and inhumanity of war and in particular the bitter carnage of Verdun where hundreds of thousands of French and Germans soldiers were butchered by their idiotic generals, with complete disinterest and disregard. Obviously, this is no prog joyride but we should be used to stretching the emotional envelope! To illustrate the depth of their commitment, the artwork ( an integral facet of the prog phenomena) is first rate, each historical excerpt is adroitly combined with a color war painting, a black and white cemetery photograph and casualty statistics. Gruesome perhaps but very effective. The Xang crew have evolved nicely in the intervening years, with guitarist Antoine Duhem in particular, elevating his axe mastery to lofty heights, dipping his feet on dizzying acoustic guitar on the opening track, the solemn and yet monstrous " Sacrifice". He can also shred, growl, grind, scream and hurl with the best of them, with slight nods to Frederic L'Epee of Shylock fame, a little DiMeola (both on the acoustic and electric) , a smidgen of Ant Phillips (when he ripped through "the Knife").A fantastic six- string gunslinger that requires a little more notice. "On Leave" is a change of pace relief from the madness and panic of conflict. Keyboardist Vincent Hooge distinguishes himself on synths, also delivering a few blisteringly effective jazzy solos on electric piano and Hammond . The track "Verdun" is a real stunner, a wonderfully constructed and deeply evocative number that manages only to hint at the sheer futility of that senseless battle. "Sons of the Empire" is a collage of various noises that have a military connotation (no industrial "bruitage" here), commemorating the courage of the foreign brother in arms who died on French soil. I generally do not like this type of filler but here, it has a "raison d'etre" that cannot be denied. It's also short. "Mud" continues in a harder edged vein, subtly suggesting the bitter stench of metallic machines of war, slugging through the morass of foul-smelling trenches and decaying corpses. Bassist Matt Hooge and drummer extraordinaire Manu Delestre excavate some sizzling rhythm tracks in this brutal landscape, within pieces like "Roommates" and "Trenches", that address the hopelessness of friend and foe alike , as if creating a soundtrack for a modern version of the classic "All Quiet on the Western Front" , Erich-Maria Remarque's famous anti-war novel . To state that they are metal heads is absurd, as if King Crimson (Larks , Starless and Red era) , Rush, Nebelnest , Taal , Maldoror or Nemo would be tagged with such a false label. Intense, sad, hopelessly despondent, desperate, contrasting angry & gentle, subtle and creative is a better definition than "hodge-podge" of styles. If you listen to this intently a dozen times, the sheer genius of this epic album will forcefully come to the fore. On the final track, "Gas" is presented as a slow moving, delicate wisp of greenish cloud, looking quite innocuous but delivering lethal and gruesome death. The "Floydian" effect here is padded by a Hillage -influenced guitar tone, a slow funeral metronome and small gasps of panicked breathing through the futile gas masks that start and end this powerful 6 minute "coup de grace" . This is intelligent, advanced instrumental prog that combines all the great attributes of prog history and adds a modern, shimmering veneer to a military lesson we can be condemned to repeat if we do not pay more attention. Sadly, we are not even interested. I consider this record to be a perfect testament to the prog creative process and worthy of the loftiest recommendation . 5 buried bayonets
tszirmay | 5/5 |

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