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Harmonium - L'Heptade CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.06 | 256 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Harmonium: L'Heptade [1976]

Rating: 6/10

L'Heptade is the third and final studio album from French-Canadian progressive-rock band Harmonium. The group's sophomore effort Si On Avait Besoin D'une Cinquieme Saison is almost universally regarded as a masterpiece among progressive-rock fans. That was a transitional album from Harmonium. It showed them moving away from the pure folk-rock of their debut in favor of symph-prog grandiosity. On L'Heptade, the symphonic elements of Harmonium's sound take center stage. There is still folk influence to be found here, but it's only that: influence. Zealous ambition accompanies this stylistic development. This 90-minute double album is certainly a far cry from the band's simple folk roots. Unfortunately, I think Harmonium bit off a little more than they could chew on this release. Some of these tracks are incredible, but others are ploddingly overlong and dull.

"Prologue" sounds like a legitimate classical overture, with sweeping strings and quiet flute. "Comme Un Fou" opens with acoustic guitar and soft vocals. It grows more and more bombastic; drums actually show up about halfway through. This is one of the album's strongest tracks. The band is doing what they do best here. "Sommeil Sans Reves" is a short orchestral interlude. "Chanson Noire" is an interesting combination of jaunty ragtime and symph-prog. The woodwind section in the middle is fantastic, and Fiori's vocals are gorgeous as always. "Le Premier Ceil" fuses jazzy influences with the normal symph-prog sound. This track goes on a bit too long, but the fantastic synth solo near the end saves it completely. "L'Exil" is an overlong and rather dull track that takes far too long to get going. "Le Corridor" features some female guest vocals that don't do a whole lot for me. The atmospheric middle section is pleasant, but this is another somewhat boring track overall. The 14-minute "Lumieres De Vie" follows the same path of overextended mellowness, although the piano playing is impressive. "Comme Un Sage" is also similar. Nothing about this track manages to engage me. "Epilogue" is a suitably bombastic orchestral conclusion.

The first half of L'Heptade is superb, featuring fantastic musicianship and memorable songwriting. However, I wish that the band had nixed the entire second LP. It's not an entertaining listen, to put it simply. Compositions drag on beyond their capacities; for example, a simple guitar/vocal folk arrangement goes on for seven straight minutes. The entire album has a nice atmosphere, but the compositions fail to back it up. This is all the more tragic given the excellent first half of the album. Overall, L'Heptade is an inconsistent follow-up to the masterpiece that preceded it.

Anthony H. | 3/5 |


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