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Atoll - L'Araignée-Mal CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.11 | 171 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Between the somewhat naïve Ange-inspired symphonic pastoral prog of their debut album and the gradually commercial indulgence from 1977 onwards, Atoll made a hell of a French prog masterpiece with their sophomore release 'L'aAraignée-Mal'. And I mean business, since intensity, creativity, excitement and colorfulness reach their ultimate expressions and mingle in a kaleidoscopic repertoire that is really jaw-dropping. The incorporation of a Jean-Luc Ponty school violinist into the band's line-up and the augmentation of percussive sources into the instrumentation (lead singer Andre Balzer helps at it when not singing) fit the demands of the material perfectly: this is symphonic progressive with a strong jazzy feel added that raises the level of majesty in the band's overall sound. The album kicks off with a sinister, solemn number that sets an ambience of mystery and impending tragedy: Balzer's soliloquy is so typically French in its dramatic flavor, with those guitar phrases and keyboard adornments doing nothing but enhance the track's spiritual darkness. Quite close to "Larks' Tongues"-era KC with an extra Floydian element. From track 2 onwards the material unabashedly reveals the jazz-tinged renovation that the band set out to provide for their prog trend. Track 2 is an amazing instrumental which is solidly stated on the trend of prog fusion. The violin almost assumes an undisputed starring role on this one, so Beya must try real hard to allow his guitar be noticeable in the mix. The rhythm section behaves as a solid column for the ensemble sound, while Taillet displays a taste for Corea. As a whole, the track sounds as "Birds of Fire"-meets-"Sound Chaser". 'Le Voleur d'Extase' starts in a bucolic mood, not languid but clearly serene, in a way leaning closer to the most intimate side of Yes and Genesis. However, it won't be long before the fusion thing returns with a vengeance, making the song shift into the jazz-rock territory, somewhere between the joyful and the furious. The album's second half is occupied by the 4-part namesake suite. Part 1is pretty much ethereal, with a dense sound that sounds as a hybrid between Pink Floyd and Camel, but not tense or dark, just predominantly serene. Part 2 I based on a recurrent harmonic sequence led by the synth and the electric piano on a 7/8 tempo. Balzer's singing reaches its peak in this album while the instruments gradually grow stronger and louder in an amalgam that uses repetitiveness as a mesmerizing power. The third section begins when the final synth arpeggios are still to be faded out, with a clavinet that paves the way for an exhibition of space-rock and fusion. Part 4, since it's the closing one, is in charge of providing the final climax for this epic number. Its bombastic, dramatic aura works perfectly right as a closure - its firs t4 minutes find the band concentrating on the symphonic side of things, which they leave behind in favor of the fusion element for the definitive coda. Atoll has never been to me as brilliant as other distinguished symphonic prog acts from France (Carpe Diem, Pulsar, Mona Lisa, Ange), but I can't honestly find a way to deny that this album really makes them worthy of being regarded as a very important musical force within the genre. This is a masterpiece.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |


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