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Shylock - Gialorgues  CD (album) cover

GIALORGUES

Shylock

 

Symphonic Prog

3.65 | 50 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Disciplined French symphonic, both promising and frustrating

Shylock is one of French symphonic's little gems from the '70s that occupy their own little niche. They are often compared to King Crimson but I find them somewhere between the harshness of some Crimson works and the more romantic German symphonic of the time such are Novalis and Rousseau, and not quite as rich as either example. In terms of their own countrymen they are less acclaimed than Carpe Diem, less playful than Ange, less luscious than Pentacle, more powerful than Clearlight and Pulsar, and not as dark as Arachnoid.

According to their bio the band was born in the summer of '74 when keyboardist Didier Lustig and drummer Andre Fisichella left their Nice based cover band to do something original. It fell into place like a storybook tale. They saw an ad leading them to guitarist Frederic Lepee and one day after their first meeting they agreed to start a prog band, becoming instant friends and sharing musical ideals. They took summer holiday in the French alps to begin working on material. A local priest allowed them to practice in the little village church which is the one you see on their album cover. There they labored intensely in the truest spirit of progressive music and unbridled enthusiasm: each member throwing ideas forward frantically and democratically until the pieces began to take shape. After holiday and back at college they began to search for a bass player but they never found one and instead guitarist Frederic would handle bass duties. The band began to play live dates and the following summer recorded their debut in a mere 10 days. The original pressing sold about 3,000 copies but was very well received and instantly gave them a name on the French prog scene.

The album consists of two main pieces of 13 and 19 minutes with a short piece in the middle. Both main pieces alternate the melodic and flowing with occasional harsher, in some cases experimental passages (the latter particularly in the second long track which features strange percussions/sounds.) There are moments that are simply wonderful with nicely arranged melodic themes and in particular the guitar is my favorite, with some very intense riffs and fast picked progressions. I think the first track contains the best ideas. But while Shylock is an occasional spin for me they are not a favorite. I used a nice word in my opener calling them disciplined; another adjective could be "anal." This band is just a notch too tight for me. The drummer in particular sounds too often just overwound and this obsession with coloring within the lines runs through the others as well, never allowing me to get emotionally too involved. An example is between minutes 10-12 of the first track where some beautiful and nuanced guitar and piano are playing out.rather than laying back for a breather to give them some space he just plows ahead seemingly oblivious. Maybe I'm not sophisticated enough to follow his reasons but moments like this I'm ready to get the cane and start pulling from behind the curtain. Then in the second piece you get these juvenile, rather amateur sounding oddity noises and percussions sprinkled about that tell me they could have used more time crafting other bits from their repertoire which no doubt was larger than these three pieces by the time they recorded. Shylock's debut is not a disaster but nor is it a masterpiece. It has its moments of great interest but I would personally go for other French stuff first, the bands I mentioned above (except maybe Clearlight) are all more satisfying than Shylock. Oddly enough, I find the short, tacked-on bonus tracks almost more interesting than the original three tracks. They have the benefit of the band's experience being recorded after their game was essentially over, and feature only keys and guitar without drums. Without the frenzied sound of the early stuff, you can better hear and absorb some of the finer intricacies of their guitar/keyboard composition. 6/10

Finnforest | 3/5 |

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