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Mellotron Storm
4 stars I mentioned in my review of "Weila" that THORK was a side project of the Maurin brothers(NIL). Well apparently this has become Sebastien Fillion's baby, as only Samuel Maurin is left and he only plays bass on two tracks. Sebastien meanwhile has added guitar, bass, low and tin whistles, glockenspiel and vocals to his usual role of synths and piano player. Each THORK album has been different, the first more in the Folk vein, while "Weila" was dark and experimental with gothic and classical themes. I really think the band has found their sound with this album. It's modern sounding, dark, mid-paced and very full sounding. The music is so lush, and unlike "Weila" the vocals don't stand out but simply add another layer to the sound.

"Ex-Slave" is a perfect example of that modern sound I was talking about. This might be the best song they have done so far. Percussion is joined by an atmospheric guitar melody as haunting synths arrive. Vocals and bass before a minute.There is this powerful undercurrent throughout. The tempo picks up. Incredible sound. Dark, atmospheric and heavy. Love the guitar solo 3 minutes in. Violin follows. Vocals continue from Sebastien with help from Violette Corroyer. She really adds a lot. Violin and keys 5 minutes in. Acoustic guitar sounds great as well.They contrast beautifully the lighter passages with the heavier ones the rest of the way. Listen to the intricate drumming. Fantastic tune ! "Ici" opens with some raw sounding guitar before the heavy beat comes in. It lightens as vocals arrive. The heavy and light are contrasted throughout. This is catchy. The beat stops 3 1/2 minutes in briefly as it becomes dark and atmospheric. More raw guitar with background synths this time. Nice. "La Lumiere" is very atmospheric as the percussion beats and the guitar grinds away slowly. Vocals replace guitar a minute in. The guitar comes back but it's faint. The sound starts to build as instruments are added. Female vocal melodies before it becomes pastoral again. The guitar is back 6 minutes in grinding away. Percussion to end it.

"J'Aurais Pu" is dark with processed vocals. It's rather slow moving. It becomes more powerful and uplifting after 3 minutes. Great second half. "Danse Des Airs" is my second favourite song after "Ex- Slave". The synths sort of swirl around as drums and a full sound comes in. The guitar makes it's presence known as the soundscape becomes heavier. It suddenly becomes very atmospheric with faint vocals and no melody. The guitar makes some noise before the melody returns. The bass is prominant 4 minutes in. Piano follows as it gets quite emotional. "Au Ciel" opens with a guitar melody as fragile vocals come in.This is such a moving track. Violin after 2 minutes as we also get some guest trombone, trumpet and flugelhorn on this track. "Revoir" sounds great with the bass, drums and synths leading the way. Vocals a minute in. This is a great tune to drift away in. "01" opens with piano, bass and then vocals. It kicks in around 3 minutes to a full sound. Heavy. The guest horn players are back for this one. Violin 4 1/2 minutes in. The song calms down with piano to end it. "Ces Reves-La" is a very cool song with percussion, acoustic guitar and processed vocals. Something uplifting about this one.

I have to go back and re-listen to "Weila" to see if I really do like this one better.They are very different from one another so it boils down to taste I suppose. Both are must haves.

Report this review (#159710)
Posted Friday, January 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Let the nostalgia begin ;) I mean in each review I'm telling a story of my introduction into certain band's music, and this is no exception. I was involved into THORK through ''We Ila'' last spring, and it was one of the most amazing albums from Modern Prog I ever heard! Dark, epic, heavy, mystic, complex but melodic - even French singing didn't put me off as usual! :) This year I caught an opportunity to review fresh THORK album entitled ''Nula Jedan''. And on my first listening I was disappointed.

Gone were all the receipts of ''We Ila''. No darkness, no heaviness, no complexity (though melodies were even more catchier). Is this really that THORK from France I use to know? But then I just remembered the old truth that what is too conservative may be regarded as STAGNANT, so I gave it another spin. And then another one. And one more!

OK, fans of previous DARK works - beware. ''Nula Jedan'' is soft, light, balanced and even catchy. It's just DIFFERENT. There's no need in comparison or seeking for related hooks. New THORK is more meditative and accessible, but I wouldn't say less INTERESTING or PROGRESSIVE. It's just like when you put PORCUPINE TREE after DREAM THEATER, that's it - the same high level but different musical thinking. The only thing left untouched is ATTITUDE - ''Nula Jedan'' is the same way professionally created, played and recorded. Recommended, but don't be fast with conclusions - listen to it attentively and don't compare to anything. Wonderful Modern Prog!

Report this review (#163614)
Posted Monday, March 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Thork have gone through some personnel changes - that's the starting point to comprehend the musical decisions and changes there are on Thork's new album Nula Jedan.

At the time of Urdoxa, Thork was a clear five piece band, young and ambitious. While their music was already stunning in their debut, there still was some defects in there: The band was young, unexperienced, they were short on singer and good production. These all were corrected on their second album We-ila that was a pure perfection in every point: They now had a brilliant lead singer Sébastien Penel, they had more experience not only for themselves, but in complementary personnel too - that was David Maurin, a stunning guitar player, plus a pile of brilliant guest stars like Roselyne Berthet, Renaud Burdin, Sébastien Lacroix, Stéphane Lagarde and Ian-Elfinn Rosiu. So they were on the top in every way... and things tend to change in situations like that.

At first, after Urdoxa, Antoine Aureche, one of the founding members of Thork, left the band and later went to form TAT. He played guitars and did the vocals on Thork's debut Urdoxa and he then resigned the band. On We-ila he was still in, but in a visiting role of playing acoustic guitar, and even if the acoustic guitar playing is excellent on Nula Jedan, Antoine still took a part of Thork with him, a part of the dark, anxious atmosphere.

The second to leave was David Maurin, Samuel Maurin and Roselyne Berthet! Well, Roselyne was only a quest on We-ila, but her absence is still remarkable :) But the most remarkable thing is the absence of Maurin Brothers: No more twisted, utterly complex songs, no more absolutely stunning stick and bass, nor brilliant picking of guitar or their fantastic interplay and heavy bursts! These three excellences brought a huge piece of NIL among, that's no more on Thork. And then went Lebeau. Even if he was replaced by an excellent drummer Philippe Maullet from Syrinx, still he is a 'quest' and Lebeau wasn't.

And then they kind of went everyone, even Penel! Excluding Sébastien Fillion, who now is Thork, in a way, and I don't know the reasons. Thork has turned to his personal project, he states and Sébastien Fillion is alone responsible of the songwriting, composing, vocals, guitars, bass, synths & keyboards, percussion,... Almost everything and the other musicians are only some kind of quests from the past... like Claire Northey on violin, the only remaining member from previous Thork besides Fillion himself... and from the present.

A sad story, isn't it?

Oh, it is. When playing We-ila and thinking 'that was it, this band is no more', it's really sad. But let's not hurry, there's the Nula Jedan still to be played! Onto that then...

Nula Jedan has a very concrete meaning: it means "Zero One" in Bosnian, and it's the core concept for this album. The album's thread is a man-machine duality, presented under various shapes : in war time, trouble, souvenir, distance, etc. The man apart from his soul becomes a machine, and conversely the complex machine manages to judge, dream and imitate the man, reproducing or drawing lessons from his mistakes. « Zero One » is an allusion to the binary code present in the heart of modern technologies nowadays. [Sébastien Fillion on Progscape]

1. Ex-Slave. This song makes me suspicious about all the things I just wrote, because there is a lots of old Thork in it! This song is dark and deep and it has got the atmosphere of Thork, only less heavy. The composition is long with ups and downs, fasts and slows, and there's a theme it follows, gets sidetracked, comes back... so there's at least some of the complexity too. The drum work is just stunning (well what did you expect? It's Philippe Maullet, no less) and the sounds are chrystal clear a very deep bodied and great harmonies are presented all the way with different instruments, acoustic guitar, drums and violin being on the top!. The duo vocals of Violette Corroyer and Fillion just do work, like all the vocals in this song! So, this is a stunning song, why to look back?

2. Ici is then a beautiful and joyful curiosity where a sampled vocal melody is used to let the music blow. There goes a slow part ending into vocals and blow... Some synths are being used almost in some disco style and the song is somewhat repetitive... right! Far from the Thork style we used to know. But hey, it's brilliant anyhow!

3. La Lumiere starts slowly and it remains as a restrained ballad for several minutes till it reaches the full bodied balance. Again, one of the pearls of this album, but different to old...

4. J'aurais pu is the song that gives your spine some massive chills! It's pure beauty of slow sampled vocals and percussion - maximal expression and feeling with a minimal playing. This song grants the final confidence of new Thork, what it is and what is the style of Thork! Thork has turned to reaching the maximum beauty, thus there is a crucial difference to the old Thork.

Maybe it's time to draw a conclusion - It's pointless to tell something about every song. I miss the old Thork, I miss the brilliant vocals, I miss the dark heavy play,... I miss many things about it, things that Sebastien Fillion isn't capable of alone. Like vocals that is performed here greatly and really beautifully, just that the loud passionate highlights are missing... But let's face the reality! Thork is now beautiful, elaborate and kind of minimalistic expression progressive rock performed with a very high standards - Nula Jedan is astonishing work, a truly original album straight into the top of this sub genre... sub genre? Dark Progressive Folk? Maybe Thork plays now rather in the sub genre of Elaborate Progressive Fillion. Anyhow, a very beautiful work indeed!

Report this review (#166352)
Posted Friday, April 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars An astounding, amazing release from this French outfit. A big, positive musical surprise of the kind that really deserves recognition.

It's probably not a good release for a novice listener though. There's just so much happening here. The pace is mostly on the slower side, but everchanging and ever evolving compositions will make it a taxing experience for many; and French lyrics may alienate a few as well.

But the delightful sonic landscapes here, careful piano melodies, sometimes soaring and sometimes floating synths in the back, acoustic guitar patterns - all mixed in a package where elements are added and subtracted; themes explored in many variations. Always with a melancholic feel, always with a distinct focus on the atmospheric environment even in the most complex multilayered segments. To add folk music influences is just as natural and belonging as the psychedelic touches; jazz-tinged bass lines fits like a glove too; soaring violin soloing, fragile flute themes and soul-tinged horns all seems like natural additions as well.

Highly recommended release this one; in particular for those enjoying complex, melodic rock with symphonic, folk and jazz touches in a mostly mellow setting.

Report this review (#189819)
Posted Tuesday, November 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An album from the French mood-masters who created the band NIL, the leadership of the brothers MAURIN (one of which has by this album left the project) have given way to that of Sebastien FILLION (with the help of brother/cellist Arnaud) to produce this enigmatic collection of hard-to-describe songs. The music is modern, perhaps "ahead of its time" in its odd, sometimes ethereal, sometimes jazzy sounds and passages. It can thus be said with some confidence that this is truly progressive rock music as its songs take the listener to places and in directions that you have likely never travelled before. While listening through this album I find myself reminded at times of DEAD CAN DANCE, FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM, AKT, STING, LUNATIC SOUL, STEVE JANSEN and, of course, NIL.

Favorite songs: 1. "Ex-Slaves" (12:51) (10/10); 3. "La lumière" (9:12) (10/10); 5. "Danse des airs" (6:25) (9/10); 7. "Revoir" (7:55) (9/10); 9. "Ces rêves-là" (4:24) (8/10); 8. "01" (8:15) (8/10), and; 6. "Au ciel" (7:12) (8/10).

4.5 stars. A refreshingly original musical journey.

Report this review (#1590080)
Posted Saturday, July 23, 2016 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars While French prog has garnered a somewhat deserved reputation for theatricality via melodramatic vocals, the adjective that comes to mind when listening to this third release of THORK is brooding. The pieces are mostly over 7 minutes long and slow to mid paced, with an emphasis on the mood conjured by succinct, rarely soloing but frequently reverberated guitars, blended vocals, atmospheric or hypnotic keyboards, creative percussion and occasional strings and winds. Most of these diverse sounds are from the hand and mouth of leader Sébastien Fillion, but he has the audacity to pull it off without sounding like a solo project, perhaps due to the evolving history of the band.

While billed as and influenced by progressive folk, THORK proposes a plodding and heavily symphonic sound with robust folk roots that vacillate between Celtic and Middle Eastern in flavor. Given the track durations, I find the pace lumbers along a bit too much for the step dancing blood that apparently courses in my veins, but the sound itself is exemplary, and my personal favourites are the paradoxically folkier and harder edged "Ici" and the genre busting "Au Ciel" with its swirling dervish joie de vivre. Recommended particularly to those who revel in the alchemies of prog rock. 3.5 stars rounded up for originality.

Report this review (#1841419)
Posted Wednesday, December 13, 2017 | Review Permalink

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