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



Symphonic Prog

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars This is one of the better written album from France but not one of the best recorded because of the quality of the recording , as this seems to have been done in a cheap studio. The french vocals are typical from them and will influence bands like Carpe Diem. As for the music, this is strongly influenced by Genesis but does not sound like a clone band and it has a life of its own .Iit has become a reference to describe some french symphonic prog that was not Magma (zheul) or Ange (theatre prog).
Report this review (#19394)
Posted Thursday, February 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of the best French progressive bands of all time IMHO who blended all the right elements. The music of ATOLL is complex, very elaborate and yet beautiful and delicate. Arrangements are sophisticated yet melodic and powerful. Their music exudes a certain degree of that of YES and GENESIS yet still remaining characteristically French and original. "L'Araignee-Mal" is a masterpiece and in relation to their debut "Musiciens Magicians" works slightly more on the fusion elements. Album contains lots of great symphonic keyboard work with the addition of violin on this album which sounds great when mixed with their guitar, bass and drum interplay. Side B of this album is consumed by the 1 epic title album track which is truly wonderful.
Report this review (#19398)
Posted Thursday, March 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I own 2 cds from Atoll..I like both. This one is superb, Yes/Genesis mets Mahavishnu Orchestra; with all those amaizing duels between guitar-synth-violin that indeed will make your head absolute must for any fusion fan.
Report this review (#19399)
Posted Thursday, April 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I must admit that- ¨we humans do need to realize that time is passing by without us seeing that opportunities are lost in favor of some useless meanderings...¨ What I'm I talking about...? For numbers of years I've seen this record (on vinyl) and totally ignored it for reasons that only life's ¨determinism¨ can explain... But after reading a very interesting review by a very ¨capable¨ collaborator (*****) I decided to give it a try the next time it would cross my ¨vinyl junky's¨ eyes. And yesterday- LO and BEHOLD- there it was looking at me. Without further adue I took the ¨thing¨ home. I'd love to give the full measure of my total astonishment ...but I just can't find the right superlatives here. If we're talking about 70's sympho-prog-rock-fusion you should not look any farther cause here stands the absolute unpretentious gem. Since yesterday my Technic SL-1210 is totaly devoted to this record. The long track on side 2 is literally -to DIE for- and everybody must live once to hear it. So to all of you proggers around the world - please make yourself a favor and commit yourself... MASTERPIECE Now let me go back to work and let ¨Musiciens-Magiciens¨come to me.
Report this review (#19400)
Posted Friday, October 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars ATOLL was one of the brighter stars in the constellation of classic French '70s bands, and might be better remembered today if only they had been a little more productive. As it is, their reputation rests on only two albums produced over a five year period, the first of which was this 1975 release, in retrospect one of the pinnacles of French Progressive Rock and a highlight of the group's all-too brief career.

Certainly it's a dramatic improvement over their lackluster 1974 debut "Musiciens- Magiciens", with moments of real emotional power and instrumental urgency. The production may sound primitive by today's standards, and the mix is sometimes less than ideal (some of the solos are buried in a haze of dreamlike echo). But the music is undeniable ambitious, ranging from the romantic grandeur of "Le Voleur d' Extase" to the hair-raising nine-minute album opener "Le Photographe Exorciste, in which singer Andre Balzer's seductive whisper is gradually seized by an unearthly panic suggesting the more grotesque apparitions of an H.P. Lovecraft story.

Then there's the four-part title suite, a mini-marvel of passive/aggressive mood swings, from orchestral color to near-demonic pandemonium and back again. The track never once loses any momentum over its epic 21-minute length, and at the end of the final movement stops dead in its tracks, closing the album with all the finality of a pulled plug.

But what really elevates this LP above the pack is the addition of Richard Aubert on electric violin, giving the music a unique jazz-rock flavor lacking elsewhere in the ATOLL discography. A lot of heat is generated in his duels with guitarist Christian Beya, but make no mistake: this isn't genuine jazz-rock, however closely it may at times flirt with a fusion vocabulary.

I'm thinking of the track "Cazotten No. 1", a semi-improvised jam on which the rhythm section in particular doesn't sound entirely comfortable, although it may have been a question of studio inhibition. The Musea CD offers as a bonus track an earlier, live rendition of the song, with a guest saxophone player subbing for the violinist (who only joined the band a few weeks before the album was cut). The live version is twice as long, and played with an enthusiasm that apparently didn't quite survive the translation to the studio.

The album was a modest international hit (it was, if you'll pardon the expression, big in Japan), but that didn't stop the band from switching gears (again) for its next and last true Progressive album "Tertio" in 1977, and again two years later for "Rock Puzzle". It may have been a natural stylistic evolution, but the inconsistency didn't do their legacy any favors, especially since every next metamorphosis was in a retrograde direction.

The impression left by the exhaustive notes in the CD booklet is of a struggling young Progressive Rock band trying to find its voice amid the usual show biz frustrations of cancelled gigs, financial shortfalls, and an unstable personnel roster. This should have been their breakthrough album: the group even recorded an English language version several years later (quick translation: The Evil Spider), in a belated attempt to widen their appeal.

Thankfully, it was never released. But after nearly three decades the untarnished original can still be enjoyed in all its creative glory.

Report this review (#19401)
Posted Wednesday, January 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm sure this is one of the best records of the entire prog scene, if I had to choose ten, it would probably survive, first of all, I will listen to it one thousand times and I will not realize Yes or Genesis here, man how can someone find Genesis here? Maybe I got too much to here you will have superb musicians, where did they get this guitar player and this drummer, this guys are simply out standings, (to not forget the amazing violin). The first song is scare full and crazy with screams in French and a very beautiful melody in the middle, the second track is one of my favorite ones an amazing jazz rock track with great melodies (as in all the record), third track is another great track with pleasant French vocals, (the vocals sounds very beautiful, mysterious, and acceptable to a language that many people doesn't like in terms of music) the last song is divided in four parts and ends this massive masterpiece, this record is much better than many things done in England for example. I must congratulate MUSEA RECORDS by the quality of its cds cause they have pictures, history of the band, lyrics and details, its a shame many of my records has nothing, specially the Italians, so we don't have the lyrics and we know nothing about the band, the remastered king crimsons have great booklets too.
Report this review (#19402)
Posted Wednesday, March 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars It was issued on 1975 only (regarding of the other- already issued- best albums of prog rock) ,being soon one of the best French prog albums ever made...sometimes it seems their progressive music is characterized by a different style, closer to Mahavishnu Orchestra, but that's my idea. I don't get crazy for their hystrionic vocals, sometimes close but not equal to those ones by Ange;neverthless I recognize their personal and very interesting approach within their experimental music passages,with some good breaks-through and a certain virtuosity concerning their clever execution as well!!For instance the track Cazotte no 1 was different, in comparison to the music "clichè" within the progressive rock scene at that time, sometimes resembling the sound of "Arti & Mestieri", but also the other trakcs were remarkable and completed this good work...well check it out at least!!
Report this review (#19403)
Posted Saturday, April 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars A jewel of French symphonic progressive. Luc Serra out, Christian Beya in, and the band were augmented by violinist Richard Aubert and second keyboardist Bruno Gehin (Gehin wasn't a band member anymore by the time they got around to recording their second album, but recorded with them anyway, presumably because he had played on the tunes live). It's Gehin who gives the album its real symphonic depth, adding Hammond, Moog and Mellotron to Michel Taillet's rather paltry rig (largely Hohner Clavinet and Eminent Solina).

Aubert's violin, oddly, adds an element of fusion to proceedings. The instrumental "Cazotte No. 1" is essentially a fusion piece, and one can hear touches of it on the lengthy, four-part title suite that covers the B-side of the original vinyl. Ditto "Le Photographe Exorciste", which is the band's lone foray into Ange-like theatrical prog. It tends to go a tad over the top, but does so with a style which can't be denied.

Report this review (#43770)
Posted Monday, August 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The second work released in 1975 "L'Araignee-Mal". Great masterpiece where the dense fantasy world is drawn by superior technique and expression. It is a work that mixed YES with KING CRIMSON. Music is romantic. For instance, a delicate emotion is put in the vocal of Andre Balzer. It is matchless only music. It is a unique artist. It keeps exquisite deeply and violently and is lucid. This work expanded the possibility of rock further. It is a work that represents progressive rock of Europe with the work of OSANNA and FOCUS.

The feature of music is darkness and cohesiveness. I got a hint of the madness in the synthesizer and the guitar of "Le Photographe Exorciste". The sound is far dark compared with YES and ARTI+MESTIERI. "Le Voleur D'extase" is a difficult tune.

Report this review (#79577)
Posted Sunday, May 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
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.
Report this review (#88823)
Posted Saturday, September 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars It's funny, you know...even the albums that I consider masterpieces usually have at least one weaker track or some sort of inconsistency...but that's not the case with " L'Araignée-Mal". It's concise and epic in the same time, homogeneous and diverse. Sound is beautiful, loaded with keyboards strings (string machines rather than mellotrons) and it sounds so...French.

The opening track, "Le photographe exorciste" is one of the scariest songs I ever heard. I consider myself lucky because I don't speak French, because if I do, I would probably wet my pants in fear. The rest of the album is less scary but not less beautiful. Strings, electric pianos, violins, guitars, vocals, everything seems to fit in music perfectly. I can't imagine a single note that could be improvement for the album. This is a masterpiece because all parts are beautiful, and well balanced, perfect ratio between furious soloing and meditative parts, between dreamy chords accompanied with vocals and keyboard passages that sound like a clarion call. This impression applies to all the tracks, including the bonus tracks.

There's an amount of fusion thrown in for a good measure, but this fusion parts are so...melted into the overall epic atmosphere that I wouldn't consider this record "jazzy" for a one second. If you can imagine finest TANGERINE DREAM's moments where you can fly thru the clouds, and add a good measure of CAMEL's dreamy "Snow Goose" you can -maybe- get the picture. Plus beautiful vocals (although some people don't like them) and, I must say, beautiful, wisely chosen palette of synthesizer sounds.

No weak moments. It's just too short journey. Journey through the skies and stars. Five stars.

Report this review (#96002)
Posted Friday, October 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars How mutch time does it take for an album to become a desert island disc? A year? 6 years 10 years?

For me, "L'Araignée-Mal" took me around a month to start as a unknown album and become one of my desert island disc!!!!!

"L'Araignée-Mal" as everything I like in music in one album...

1. Incredible musicianship. 2. Epic progressive song. 3. Jazzy instrumental. 4. Neo-progressive musical element. 5. Incredible guitar, mini-moog and violin soloing. 6. Great vocal performance. 7. Cool lyrical contents.

The album starts off a little bit like the album "The Wake" by IQ, that's the neo-progressive musical element I was talking about, keyboards background with bass and drums in a rhythm unison, then the signer starts saying differents phrases like: "...Their eyes corroded by vermin reject heavy showers of acid, their mouth blow a sulphur breath, who spit hatred and reject their plague on me..." very strong beginning.

The second song, "Gazotte No.1", is totally jazz and instrumental fill with incredible guitar, mini-moog and violin soloing, «Can I catch my breath please ?» ;)

The crazy soloing dosen't stop there because the third track, "Le voleur d'extase", is full of soloing too :) :) :)

The fourth and last track, "L'Araignée-Mal" is an epic divided in four parts, " i) Imaginez le temps", " ii) L'Areignée mal", " iii) Les robots débiles" and " iv) Le Cimetière de plastique". That epic is the summum of the album, especially part iii that has one of the greatest mini-moog solo ever been recorded on a album !!!!

The musea CD edition comes with a bonus track: "Gazotte No.1" live. It's the same as the album edition but with sax instead if the violin. This live version may lack in sound quality but not in performance, a perfect bonus track for a perfect album.

For me, being a desert island disc, "L'araignée-Mal" is definitively a must have, 5 Stars, Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music, album. Keep on proging !!!

Report this review (#99930)
Posted Wednesday, November 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Here is my review of Atoll's ''L'Araignee-Mal'' cd...''Le photographe exorciste''(8:17) starts out with some keyboard and cymbal tapping for the first minute. Then the song eventually builds up,and at times, has a funk feel to it. Guitar work comes in at 6 minutes, and bass guitar riffing can be heard throughout most of the song. A 15 second violin solo ends the song. In this song, it sounds as if the singer is talking rather than singing. Next up is "Cazotte n 1(6:21),which takes on a kind of funk rock feel about 2 minutes into the song and continues on till the end. Then comes ''Le Voleur D' Extase'', which is just over 7.5 minutes long,and starts out quietly,with violin work and vocal chanting,along with tempo changes, from mellow to rocking.The title track,which clocks in at about 21.5 minutes,has numerous tempo changes, from jazz-rock fusion to mellow playing,along with violin work,swirling keyboards,etc. The cd bonus track, a live version of ''Cazotte n 1'' is about 2 times as long as the studio version. But, it does not sound like it was recorded live. You hardly hear any background crowd noises,if any!? I would compare this cd to Mahavishnu Orchestra/Jean-luc ponty, with a bit of early Yes and Genesis thrown in. I would also recommend getting this.
Report this review (#109288)
Posted Sunday, January 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is not an easy album to get into. I quite liked their debut album, and this one is a bit "short" in terms of meeting my expectations. To my taste, there are not sufficient symphonic moments here.

It starts with "Le Photographe Exorciste". A good song overall, fully Crimsonesque (but not the early and symphonic Crimson) for most of it and only featuring symphonic breaks during too short moments. When I listened to "Gazotte N°1", I could only think of one influence : Mc Laughlin (which is definitely not a fave of mine). It is a dull jazz improvisation. I just can't stand it (not to speak about the over-extended live version available on the remastered edition).

Things will get better with "Le Voleur D' Extase" although the jazz influence (and I can't think of no better than the Mahavishnu one - and I 'm glad that I am not the only one to think so). Production is rather poor I must say.

So, basically this album is a "one epic" one. A great song, indeed which is waaaay better than anything else you could find on this record. It fully reconciliates me with the band. Finally a symphonic song. Gone is the cacophony of "Gazotte". We are plunged into beautiful melodies, great music : peaceful at times and wild at others (but never noisy). The vocals are also rather performant.

And what to say about some fabulous guitar breaks ? Just wonderful. There will also be some complex keys passages. At the end of the day, this song is truely one that should please any prohead. It is not 100 % symphonic oriented but still : it is a great piece of music, without doubt. Crazy and wild finale with a devastating violin solo as well.

Still, I have some problems to rate this album. While I would rate the title track with five stars, "Gazotte" is really not worth more than one on my evaluation scale. For the time being, it will be three stars.

Report this review (#134662)
Posted Thursday, August 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Impressive sophomore effort.

Atoll's classic album "L' Araignee-Mal" was one of France's best 70s entries, the sound somewhere in the midst of Ange, Pentacle, Arachnoid at times, but also mixing in a good deal of jazz-fusion jamming and a bit of Yes/Genesis influence in places. The results were pretty spectacular. This album is overwhelmingly energetic and rocking with only a few mellow sections. It will please those who want to hear some of the theatrical Ange thing but with more muscle, more bite.

"Le Photographe Exorciste" begins with a breezy happy synth but soon the song turns from dream to absolute nightmare with a section that is positively scary, a complete hellish freakout in the theatrical flare that will no doubt bring some Ange comparisons to people's minds. This band does sound like Ange on occasion but they are more fiery overall on this album. The scary part passes and the mood is more contemplative again with synths and a middle gear pace. Percussion is very accomplished as is the bass playing. Some feisty guitar work at the end with percussion noises that sound like the middle section of Ritual. "Cazotte No. 1" is an amazing fusion send-up that positively jams, very aggressive and driving. "Le Voleur" calms way down with an opening of delicate violin preceding some dreamy vocals, keys, and bass. This one sounds a bit like their mellower countrymen Pentacle in the beginning but it eventually will get more aggressive. Wild guitar runs and intermittent violin bursts will get increasingly raucous as the song progresses. Next is the epic 4-part title track. Part 1 begins with violin, odd percussions and muffled spoken vocals in the background creating a disconcerting mood. The drums begin to get restless and the violin starts twitching with increasing tension. At 2 ½ minutes the tension breaks and the bass kicks in pushing the drumming to some real acrobatics. After building awhile things break again and we get a smoother section where the lead guitar and vocal join in. Part 1 ends on an up note with upbeat guitar leading straight into part 2's opening keyboards. This section will feature ever building keys, drumming, and gut wrenching vocals. Part 3 is a spacey and jamming vintage keys fest, a showcase that would make Wakeman smile. Part 4's finale starts off quite laid back (for Atoll) with dreamy leads over some lovely keys. The band kicks in eventually and by halfway the sound is pretty much full steam again. The climax is a blaze of furious solo tradeoffs of guitar, keys, and violin just wailing a bit and passing the baton to next guy.

This is a solid 4-star album for me that I can recommend to anyone looking for an adventurous ride. The remastered mini-lp sleeve sounds pretty decent to me although I notice others think the production is not so hot. There is a live bonus track that is a heavy jazzy jam and this has noticeably lower sound quality but still listenable. The booklet has a very thorough band history and unfortunately, lots of the spiders that are the theme here apparently. True I'm not a spider fan but Atoll still has a great album here. It seems pretty unanimous that this is their finest hour so Atoll newbies may wish to begin with this one.

Report this review (#151038)
Posted Thursday, November 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Another winner from France ! This six piece unit offer us a nice variety of sounds and styles, from Fusion to Psychedelic. And yes these guys could play with the best of them.

"La Photographe Exorciste" opens with spacey synth waves that are joined by spoken words as drums come in. The vocalist is laughing now as the sound is becoming quite intense. It relaxes again as the first 5 minutes of this song have more in common with Psychedelic music than the Symphonic flavour that follows. Love the guitar 7 minutes in.What an amazing tune this is. Violin arrives 8 minutes in to end it."Cazotte No.1" is an uptempo instrumental. The drums are very active as the violin comes and goes. Chunky bass lines as the guitar lays down some fine melodies. Violin after 3 minutes in outstanding. "Le Voleur D'Extase" opens with violin as the vocals take over quickly.The first 1 1/2 is nice and relaxing and then the tempo picks up as keys swirl with vocal melodies and violin also standing out. It calms back down 3 minutes in as contrast continues. A very pleasing long guitar solo after 6 minutes. Zeuhl- like vocal melodies to end it.

"L'Araignee-Mal" is a side long suite that is divided into 4 parts. The first part opens with percussion sounds as the violin makes some noise and the drums follow suit. A change after 2 1/2 minutes as we get a melody of drums, bass and violin. A minute later the sound becomes dreamy as it drifts along. Vocals 4 1/2 minutes in with a tasteful guitar solo a minute later. Nice. The second part opens with piano as reserved vocals join in. This is so warm and moving. The vocals become emotional and the mood is so uplifting. Synths become prominant as it blends into part three. This is catchy with some nice drumming. It calms down 2 minutes in before becoming bombastic with vocals. It blends into the final part as the melody all but disappears until drums and piano arrive after 2 minutes. Violin and bass join after 3 1/2 minutes. Great sound. Some scorching violin and guitar follows.

A very solid 4 star record. This band really impressed me with the way they arranged and developed the songs. A gem from France.

Report this review (#159755)
Posted Friday, January 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Atoll's L'ARAIGNEE MAL is a good album, not a classic and slightly overrated. Another album that has the _sound like_ factor going on. Imagine the jamming parts from Caravan's Dabsong Conshirto, mixed with Arti E Mestieri's _Tilt_ and the french instrumental band Terpandre. The copy I had on CD from Musea Records out of France had to be mastered from a *good* sounding LP as you can clearly hear pops and noise at the beginning and end of each track. But, back to the music. There's also a very minimal Magma influence here, expecially in the vocal department. The presence of the violin shows up solely on L'Araignee Mal, which gives me the impression they were still trying to find their sound outside of another French bands like Ange since the vocal delivery is very similar. To me, ATOLL finally found their sound on the following _Tertio_(3rd album) and _Rock Puzzle_(4th album) which were comparable to French Canadian bands such as Morse Code and Pollen. This is an OK to Good album, but if you really need just one album from ATOLL, stick with _Tertio_(their 3rd). Make sure you get the remastered version from 2002 on Musea Records(re: Tertio).
Report this review (#197607)
Posted Tuesday, January 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars After the departure of guitarist (and more importantly, backing-vocalist) Luc Serra, lead vocalist Andre Balzer developed a more out-front theatrical approach over the dream-like harmonies that saturated their first album. While retaining his own style, you can hear a clear Christian Deschamps/Ange influence... especially on the brilliant first song 'Le Photographe Exorciste'.

That opening song is an amazing masterpiece of deranged histrionics... and my favorite Atoll song. It starts off quietly, sounding almost like a continuation of 'Je suis D'ailleurs' (the last song from their previous album). I love this atmospheric portion of the song; it reminds me of one of my other favorite bands (English Goth Rockers 'And Also the Trees'). The song soon becomes surreal and nightmarish; schizophrenic screams and synthesizer squeals spinning around your head... while the end of the song turns into a near-Zeuhl concoction: full of heavy percussive madness, evil rhythmic vocals, and chaotic guitar soloing. This is an absolutely genius song.

The aggressive Fusion-styled instrumental 'Cazotte No.1' is a bit of a misstep, and is the one song keeping this album from being a 5-star masterpiece for me. It is filled with overblown guitar, violin, and synth solos which on the surface sound a lot like Mahavishnu Orchestra or some drawn-out Frank Zappa Jazz exploration. While Atoll deliver a very tight and convincing performance, I think this song breaks up the flow of the album too much and I prefer the vocal-centric songs that surround it. If it were 2 minutes shorter i'd like it a lot more... it's just too much, and gets boring unless you're heavily into Fusion.

'Le Voleur d'Extase' starts off very delicately; like a soft hazy dew-scented morning. It enters heavier terrain later on with more Magma-like chanted vocals and excellent synth and violin solos. The last third of this song sees a return to the Fusion style of 'Cazotte', but it comes in a much smaller dose and is thus more effective.

The four-part 'L'Araignée-Mal' suite covers a lot of disparate sonic climates. Ranging from near-Avant Garde spoken-word sound collages in 'Imaginez le Temps', to the very rocking synth-laden movements of 'Les robots Débiles' which remind me of a mixture of Atoll's fellow countrymen 'Arachnoid' mixed with Genesis and Yes' heavier moments.

The title track (the second part of the suite) is my favorite section of the entire album. It has a very free, liberating feeling... emotional vocals, which sound as though they were shouted from a mountain-top, are backed by captivating soaring Moog synth lines.

This is one of the very best French albums of the 70's, and probably the best this band ever recorded. I would highly recommend this as a starting point to anyone interested in the French Symphonic scene, and also to Jazz Fusion fans.

Report this review (#205691)
Posted Saturday, March 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars Overrated, or just simply masterpiece ? Opener Le Photographe Exorciste is a good track, except first two minutes (where singing/talking irritates me) and last two minutes (which is simply too crazy for previous symphonic performance. And something like jazz/RPI variations in Cazotte No.1 is nice, but maybe little bit too crazy and Le Voleur d'Extase closing first side (at least I suppose it's first side by length of tracks, I know just CD release) would be by far my most favourite, short, but with great ambitions. Symphonic, melodic, dreamy landscape of guitar, keyboards and strings and splendid guitar solo in the end.

But then we get to second side with its respective epic L'Araignée-Mal, where over first two minutes is again some strange talking (but better, than in first track and something that I'll best describe with words: "kitchen dishes, pots and, um, cutlery playing together", but it soon turns around to even better guitar solo and great composition that lasts a long minutes across four parts. It seems a lot that at times, these musicians are just playing for fun, like in some jazz/rock session (which taste carefully), together with not so pleasing vocals (believe me, Peter Hammill's voice is pleasant for me), I'm obliged to give

4(-), because of failure to attract my attention, despite undisputed qualities of music itself. Live version doesn't save it much. I ask myself, where's that spark I need to wake my feelings, not just appreciate musical technicality, but also ENJOY it.

EDIT: OK, after more and more listening of this record, I've decided to ascend it a little bit. If just because of guitar solos, it deserves better rating.

Report this review (#245127)
Posted Sunday, October 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars A classic, beautifully done french masterpiece. But not quite essential...

So the album begins with the track Le Photographe Exorciste. This is probably my least favorite track on the album, because it is extremely repetitive for about the first 5 minutes. During this time it is mostly just talking with the keyboards in the background. The rest of the track is surprisingly well done after such a boring intro. It probably could have been a 4 star song if it weren't for the first 5 minutes. ***

Cazotte No.1is more of the jazz fusion track of the album. This song equally blends in every instrument of the group in an almost funky, yet complex way. Their are no vocals but that's okay because this song doesn't need them. ****

Le Voleur d'Extase seems to show every side of Atoll or at least in L'Araignée-Mal. The well sung vocals, the jazz rock, and mostly Atoll's symphonic side. Richard Aubert brings out his skill on the violin. He's no Jean Luc Ponty but definitely a strong violinist. ****

Drum roll please, its time for Atoll's greatest song! The progressive masterpiece L'Araignee-Mal. I mean why do you think this is the name of the album? So it begins with the long creepy intro. It is a little more boring than the rest of the song but still a spectacular intro. Once again you see Aubert's skill on the violin but now also Gozzo's talent with the drums. As the song goes on you see Atoll's emotionally beauty. You can feel the mourning and sadness. But also there are times of happiness and hope. Every instrument works together to form Atolls ultimate magnificence. Without a doubt 5 stars. *****

This is indeed a great epic album. And actually one of my favorite French progressive rock albums. There are the strong moments and the weak moments but overall an amazing work of art. I probably would have given this album 5 stars if it were not for Le Photographe Exorciste. That does not mean it is a bad song, it just doesn't compare to well to the rest of the album.

Report this review (#356588)
Posted Saturday, December 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Opening as it does with the dark and foreboding Le Photographe Exorciste, dominated by spooky Mellotron and bass, you'd be forgiven for thinking that L'Araignee-Mal ("The Evil Spider") would be an intriguingly original horror-prog album. Sadly, the dark tone is not sustained over the course of the entire album (though some dark Crimsonish guitar sections do creep in here and there), with the titular sidelong epic sounding rather anonymous and pedestrian to my ears - ticking all the symphonic prog boxes without doing anything particularly novel with the format. A competent and well-performed but not spectacular album from this French band - probably the best one I've heard from them so far, though there's really not much to choose between them.
Report this review (#546018)
Posted Saturday, October 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars The second album from Atoll. And a pretty big break with the debut album too. Chris Beya is in and I refer to the Atoll interview with him for his views on Atoll.

I have now become side tracked so let me get back on track again.

Out is the pure Genesis rip offs and in is a blend of French symph prog (Ange) and Mahavishnu Orchestra'esque like prog rock. There is also some strong King Crimson and Magma elements on this album. The music is complex as in a blend of symph, eclectic and jazz. But there is also some pastoral bits here. The use of violin is a dominant force here. So is the keyboards and there is also some guitars here. The vocals are very good btw.

I would label this album as a symphonic eclectic fusion album. Or as a French prog rock album. The French scene is not like any other scenes and they do their own things. Something I really appreciate. What we ends up with in L'Araignée-Mal is a great album with great songs and musicianship and a lot of intricate details.

L'Araignée-Mal is one of those many great French prog rock albums well worth checking out.

4 stars

Report this review (#587610)
Posted Wednesday, December 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After ''Musiciens-Magiciens'' Luc Serra left Atoll, but the rest of the band immediately found his replacements in the nearby Metz-based band Divodorom, a band which included also future Ange member Jean-Pierre Guichard.Guitarist Christian Beya and violinist Richard Aubert enter the picture in 1974 and the next year comes the ambitious album ''L'araignée-mal'', recorded at Studio Gang in Paris and released on Eurodisc.

The addition of a violin player led Ange to a more complex and a bit jazzier album compared to the debut.Of course the opening ''Le photographe exorciste'' is on par with the previous release, dramatic and spacey Symphonic Rock along the lines of PULSAR with slight KING CRIMSON vibes and over the top vocals.Trough ''Cazotte No.1'' is delivered the more Fusion style of the group, all instrumental violin-driven Prog/Fusion with evident funky rhythmic parts, close to the likes of DIXIE DREGS.''Le voleur d'extase'', which closes the first side of the original LP, is a mix of the two Atoll styles.Very lyrical and atmospheric Progressive Rock supported by extended Fusion instrumental parts with violin on the forefront.Here PINK FLOYD and CLEARLIGHT meet DIXIE DREGS in a quite demanding piece of music.

The second side contains propably the most ambitious track ever written by Atoll, the eponymous 22-min. epic composition, divided into four part.It opens with the smooth and proggy Electric Fusion of ''Imaginez le temps'', featuring plenty of intricate moments, followed by the monumental ''L'araignee-mal'', where a lovely groove is built on Michel Taillet' synths and the great rhythm section, accompanied by Balzer's excellent dramatic, vocal performance.The Fusion side of Atoll returns with ''Les robots debiles'', rich and furious instrumental Prog with few vocals but sharp musicianship based on synths, clavinet and guitars.The closing ''Le cimetiere de plastique'' finds the group in a mood for more spacey, atmospheric textures, followed by a frenetic instrumental theme with angular guitar solos, violins and electric piano.

This is definitely the most demanding work of Atoll.Not entirely consistent, but certainly a very complex album of 70's French Prog with a very eclectic approach.Some of its parts are also trully intricate.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#935273)
Posted Tuesday, March 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Atoll was one of the front progressive rock bands from France in the '70s with at least two albums that are considered among the most intresting records from french school L'Araign'e-Mal and Tertio. L'Araign'e-Mal, their second album is their best for many fans and is the peak of the bands career for sure. Going shoulder to shoulder in mid to late '70s with bands as Mona Lisa, Ange , Pulsar or Carpe Diem, Atoll offers dynamic arrangements, complicated passages all into a symphonic prog direction, with a Genesis touch but not copying them at all. Le Photographe Exorciste opens the album in a very strong way, but only after this one are my fav pieces, the instrumental Cazzote wich really smokes remind me a lot of Edition Speciale here, Alain Gozzo is a fantastic drumer and together with Thillot bass this is a killer tune and L'Araign'e-Mal - a very smoth crescendo piece with nice keyboards and thetrical voice something not far from Ange fame. This album stands apart from the pack in those time, is one of the best prog rock albums from mid '70s for sure, I really love it but aswell I like it a lot their next one Tertion. 4 stars to L'Araign'e-Mal

Report this review (#986642)
Posted Thursday, June 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars This French provides us with an excellent album full of contrasts and different genres. Although the band is considered to be symphonic prog, this album contains only some elements of that sub genre. I see much influence of Gong or Magma in the first song (Canterbury and Zeuhl), and then, complete jazz fusion in a couple of songs, a lot Mahavishnu Orchestra in their playing. Then it is visible the influence of Symphonic prog, some influences of Yes in some parts and I also saw some Camel somewhere. What is clear is that ATOLL created a palette of sounds typical of progressive sounds and that aspect makes it an excellent album!
Report this review (#1012229)
Posted Tuesday, August 6, 2013 | Review Permalink

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