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UNIVERS ZERO

RIO/Avant-Prog • Belgium


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Univers Zero biography
With a musical vision that is at the same time dark and ominous, yet stylish and sophisticated, UNIVERS ZERO are one of the most unique and influential bands ever to be associated with progressive rock, and the undisputed creators of the genre known as 'chamber rock'. Getting their inspiration from such diverse sources as rock, jazz, European folk and classical music (both ancient and modern), they have forged a distinctive sound that has received widespread critical acclaim, as well as influencing a vast number of contemporary avant-garde bands and ensembles.

Hailing from Belgium, the band was formed in 1973 by drummer Daniel DENIS and trumpeter Claude Deron, with the original name of Necronomicon - though this was changed to UNIVERS ZERO (after a book by Belgian novelist Jacques Sternberg) in 1974. At the time, their music was strongly influenced by electric jazz, though this changed when Michel Berckmans (reeds) joined the band. Their self-titled debut album (also known as "1313"), composed by DENIS and guitarist Roger Trigaux, was released in 1977 as a limited edition, and soon afterwards reissued by Atem, a label specialized in avant-garde music. The following year, UNIVERS ZERO joined four other groups from different countries (HENRY COW, STORMY SIX, ETRON FOU LELOUBLAN and SAMLA MAMMAS MANNA) to set up the movement known as "Rock in Opposition" (RIO).

Shortly after the release of their second album, "Heresie" (1979), Trigaux left UNIVERS ZERO to form his own band, PRESENT. Then keyboardist Andy Kirk joined the band, and began to contribute his own compositions. The new line-up soon embarked on a tour of France, Yugoslavia, Switzerland and the Netherlands. After the recording of their third album, "Ceux du Dehors" (1981), which featured only a portion of the material the band had composed in that period of time, UNIVERS ZERO ground to a temporary halt because of financial problems, and only resumed their touring activity after several months, with a revamped line-up (including Dirk Descheemaeker on clarinet, and Alan Ward on violin). Their heavy touring schedule in 1981-82, as well as other stresses, led to Kirk's leaving the band in 1983, and yet another line-up change, with Jean-Luc Plouvier (keyboards) and André Mergenthaler (cello) joining, as well as the return of bassist Christian Genet. This version of UNIVERS ZERO played concerts in France, Germany and Belgium, prior to the release of their fifth studio album, "UZED" (1984), c...
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HeresieHeresie
Remastered
Cuneiform 2010
Audio CD$11.07
$9.37 (used)
UzedUzed
Cuneiform 1995
Audio CD$11.17
$10.99 (used)
The Hard QuestThe Hard Quest
Cuneiform 1999
Audio CD$11.04
$8.38 (used)
Univers ZeroUnivers Zero
Cuneiform 2008
Audio CD$10.94
$10.37 (used)
HeatwaveHeatwave
Cuneiform 1995
Audio CD$10.70
$8.99 (used)
Crawling WindCrawling Wind
Remastered
Cuneiform 2001
Audio CD$10.97
$9.97 (used)
Ceux De DehorsCeux De Dehors
Cuneiform 1995
Audio CD$14.59
$10.07 (used)
ImplosionImplosion
Cuneiform 2004
Audio CD$9.91
$7.68 (used)
LiveLive
Cuneiform 2006
Audio CD$11.40
$5.99 (used)
ClivagesClivages
CUNEIFORM 2010
Audio CD$11.18
$11.42 (used)
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UNIVERS ZERO discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

UNIVERS ZERO top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.18 | 180 ratings
Univers Zero (1313)
1977
4.26 | 212 ratings
Heresie
1979
3.99 | 131 ratings
Ceux Du Dehors
1981
4.30 | 236 ratings
Uzed
1984
4.03 | 102 ratings
Heatwave
1986
3.71 | 59 ratings
The Hard Quest
1999
3.65 | 57 ratings
Rhythmix
2002
4.07 | 86 ratings
Implosion
2004
4.05 | 173 ratings
Clivages
2010
4.10 | 114 ratings
Phosphorescent Dreams
2014

UNIVERS ZERO Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.93 | 28 ratings
Live
2006
4.40 | 17 ratings
Relaps
2009

UNIVERS ZERO Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

UNIVERS ZERO Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.23 | 34 ratings
Crawling Wind
2001

UNIVERS ZERO Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.71 | 7 ratings
Triomphe Des Mouches
1981

UNIVERS ZERO Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Phosphorescent Dreams by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.10 | 114 ratings

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Phosphorescent Dreams
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

5 stars I must admit I was shocked when I heard that Berckmans, Chevalier and Kirk were not going to be on this album but then UNIVERS ZERO has always seemed to be a band in constant change. I read an interview with band leader Daniel Denis who said the lineup had to change for this album or he would have stopped the band because it was time for a change. The biggest difference in UZ's sound on this latest record is the guitar, not that there hasn't been guitar on previous albums because there has, but not like this where it's such a big part of the sound. It's odd that there is no accordion, aboe, english horn, strings of any kind, glockenspiel or bassoon. The music is what i'd describe as melancholic and Chamber-like but it's certainly not without the darkness and powerful sections. Lots of horns as we get clarinet and sax along with some guest trombone and trumpet. This has been a huge surprise for me because I rate this in my top three already behind "Heatwave" and "Uzed".

"Shaking Hats" has this determined beat of drums bass and piano as the clarinet plays over top. It turns dark before 2 minutes with some inventive guitar expressions. Great section! A calm with piano only follows then the clarinet and more join in. More guitar 4 1/2 minutes in as it becomes more powerful and it's quite dark here. Back to that opening sound after 7 minutes followed by a silent calm before sparse piano then clarinet arrive quietly to end it. "Reve Mecanique" is led by piano and horns early on in this mid-paced beauty. It turns fuller before 3 minutes but then calms right down and some marching styled drums join in as it builds. It's heavier 4 1/2 minutes in and I like the trumpet 5 minutes in. Back to the piano and clarinet then sax at 8 1/2 minutes as it continues to plod along, love this stuff. "Tres Affables" is melancholic with piano and clarinet to start. It picks up some and it's a little fuller too. A lighter sound takes over after a minute but those melancholic sections will come and go as well. Some nice piano melodies after 4 1/2 minutes. It's cool the way themes are repeated in this one.

"Vocation" has this piano intro with cymbals as affects and more slowly join in as it builds. It's quiet again after a minute as deep sounds come and go then some evil sounding guitar arrives after 2 1/2 minutes. It lightens up again late. "Les Voleurs D'ombre" and the title track are my favourites. This one has this rhythm that sort of sways as the clarinet plays over top, very cool. Guitar before 2 minutes and it's in the angular style. It will come and go and man this sounds so good. Lots of intrcate sounds 4 minutes in and some dissonant horns as well will follow. A change 5 minutes in as it becomes dark and quiet then it kicks in before 6 1/2 minutes and again I love the guitar. It's intense 8 1/2 minutes in to the end. "Lespoir Perdu" is mainly relaxed horns and marching styled drums. "Phosphorescent Dreams" features horns that blast away then some guitar joins in before 1 1/2 minutes. We get horns and guitar only then the horns stop blasting before 3 minutes as the keyboards and guitar lead the way. Horns are back before 4 1/2 minutes. It turns dark before 7 minutes with piano only then bass clarinet and drums take over. It's still dark. Guitar before 9 1/2 minutes as it's turning brighter, piano too. It's dark and heavy before 10 1/2 minutes again.

I am so impressed not only with this recording but with Daniel Denis and all the music this band has created since the seventies. Not worthy!

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 Univers Zero (1313) by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.18 | 180 ratings

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Univers Zero (1313)
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

2 stars One of the five founding members present at 1978's very first 'Rock In Opposition' festival in London(don't ask) Belgian avant- gardists Univers Zero belong to that strange little sub-set of groups who have essentially been thrown-in with the prog-rock crowd as a result of their inherant weirdness, the utterly unclassifiable nature of their sound, but most of all because there was simply no place else to put them. Branding Univers Zero under the label of prog-rock is therefore not only incorrect, but dangerously misleading as some listeners have discovered, for this is not rock music as you probably know it. Dark, challenging, deliberately obtuse, influenced by 20th century classical music, chamber music and rock 'n' roll(really?) and featuring a line-up of seriously capable musicians armed with acoustic instruments such as bassoons and obeoes, Univers Zero are, very probably, every record company executives darkest nightmare. Of the five groups present at that very first RIO concert, Univers Zero are arguably the most inaccessible of the lot, making even British avant-jazz jokers Henry Cow seem bright and breezy in comparison. Therefore it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn that this was a group that largely operated outside the margins of the known Music Biz universe, in the process becoming influential members of the RIO movement's subsequent get- togethers. Self-released in 1977, the group's eponymous debut is now regarded as a cornerstone of the genre, and on paper it seems like an intriguing proposition, yet the reality is rather more disturbing. That's because one of the main tenets of the RIO sound, and a core piller of it's DNA, is to utilise intricately-woven and deliberately-unsatisfying melodies and chord sequences to create a sound unlike anyother, meaning that to the average rock fan the music of Univers Zerio must sound acutely awful. However, those versed in ways of prog-rock may find more crumbs of interest than most, if only for the way the music is constructed, and not because of the way it sounds. Whilst for some the RIO movement was an exciting platform for creating original, daring and thought-provoking new music, for pretty much everyone else it was just a bunch of overly-intellectual art-twits indulging in inaccessible silliness. Some of the music is of course valid, but for many the experience of listening to this record will prove rather unpleasant. Subsequent listens do reveal the complex disposition of the compositions, the subtle and shifting textures and the surprisingly strong rock 'n' roll influence, yet the relentlessly confrontational nature quickly becomes gruelling, making this a hard listen for anyone in search of actual entertainment. Yes, it's impressively played and original and all that jazz, but in the end none of that seems to matter. Give me Foreigner, Journey or Styx anyday. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2015

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 Heresie by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.26 | 212 ratings

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Heresie
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

5 stars After perfecting their Rock In Opposition spin on chamber music with their debut "1313," UNIVERS ZERO obviously asked themselves "how can we REALLY turn up the creepiness factor?" and "how can we scare the fecal matter out of the listening audience?" On their second full album HERESIE the band went through a slight lineup change. They lost bassist Christian Genet and replaced him with Guy Segers. Both Emmanuel Nicaise and Marcel Dufrane jumped ship leaving the original septet down to a quintet. Several of the musicians are multi-instrumentalists so the sound of this second album which is almost twice the length of the debut does not feel like it's lacking in sounds.

As we approach Halloween in the US, I can not think of a more jarring and freaky sounding album than HERESIE. It was composed to incite the strongest fear factor that music can evoke. When listening to this I am still amazed at the miraculous playing technique where this band of skilled musicians can soar from passage to passage changing tempos, beats, rhythms and moods like a meandering flock of birds in the sky each knowing the precise nanosecond when the others change course. But the most amazing thing is how soundtracky this whole affair feels. It is a musical road through hell where feelings of maggots in your veins, ebola infected zombies chopping down your door with axes or screaming babies unable to escape the burning nursery ward of a hospital quickly creep into your jittery consciousness. The music oozes and punctuates like the shower scene in "Psycho" and it thrills and pacifies only to ratchet up a sonic frenzy of doom and dread and a gleeful celebration of the reign of the thorns of a dead rose.

For my money, I find this second release a tad better than the debut and that is one tall order for it was one mighty original and demented recipe for musical madness. HERESIE ups the ante severalfold and maintains its pace throughout its entirety. Even music that is designed to scare such as doom and black metal rarely achieve what these Belgians have on this pure acoustic sonic assault. I highly recommend getting the newer remastered version because the bonus track "Chaos Hermetique" is as essential as the original three tracks that punished the world in 1979. It sounds like it should have been part of the original track listing and adds an extra 12 minutes of depression to your life! What is wrong with me for liking this so much? I always have to look for monsters under my bed after listening to this one but the good news is they usually turn out to be the cute cuddly kind from Monsters Inc :-P

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 Phosphorescent Dreams by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.10 | 114 ratings

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Phosphorescent Dreams
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by DrömmarenAdrian

3 stars This is actually my first meeting with the Belgian band Univers Zero which is a part of the Rock in opposition movement. It released its first album 1977 and "Phosphorescent Dreams" is the band's tenth one. It has been possible to hear the record since january but I have heard it recently some times and my thoughts about it are rather devided.

The band uses a lot of wind instruments such as clarinet and saxophones(Kurt Budé), trumpet(guest Hugues Tahon) and trombone(guest Adrien Lambinet) beside drums(Daniel Denis), bass(Dimitri Evers), guitars(Nicolas Dechęne) and keyboards(Antoine Guenet).

It is clear this band has high thoughts of their music and want it to reach high levels of musicality and I think they manage to do that too. In the way they create their music it feels they don't feel so many borders and walls. In my opinion though are the songs on the album perhaps too similar and I am not sure I like the massive darkness that is present. I want to laugh and feel joy. The music attacks the listener with this bombastic rock and hits him with the fanfares.

I'd say the music here is powerful and there are a lot of great and create ideas that the band tries to establish. My favourite track is perhaps a little lighter: "L'Espoir Perdu" and I also like the opener: "Shaking hats". My concluding opinion would regard this album too sad, but yet inspiring and I will give it three stars.

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 Phosphorescent Dreams by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.10 | 114 ratings

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Phosphorescent Dreams
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars Wow, this could be disputably the band's longest album title to date after their Ceux Du Dehors. Does this spell a change of attitude? Well DD certainly changed a few things in his lifelong project and maybe the most shocking one is the change of label. I'm still at odds at guessing why Daniel thought that he would get a better support than Feigelbaum's Cuneiform label, but the resulting album is not only a very expensive album, but it is not well distributed and not available widely on the web? and not at all in brick & mortar record store. Past that first consideration, the band's line- up has been revamped, with ex-PaNoPTiCoN and present day Wrong Object keyboardist Antoine Guenet and on guitar Nicolas Duchęne. Elsewhere, Dimitri Evers (bass, and Budé (winds) are alongside Daniel, but we're also seeing a few guests, such as sonny Nicola on drums for a track, and a horn section comprising of Hugues Tahon (trumpet) and Adrien Lambinet (trombone) on three tracks. Recorded and mixed at Didier De Roos's installations in Braine and Soignies throughout the second part of 2013, PD was released in January of the following year, with a post- atomic (or stormy) artwork, courtesy of Thierry Moreau.

Well, the corridor noises were that UZ's sound was (finally?) going to change a fair bit with the line- up changes and an electric guitar in the fold. The leastr we can say is that the sonic changes are not immediately audible, and maybe the prime culprit is the unchanged songwriting. Indeed seven tracks, ranging from almost-5 to almost-13-minutes, composed by Daniel (4 of them) and Kurt Dubé (the remaining three) are not much of a change in the light of UZ's overall discography. Are we looking at Clivages' obvious successor or at an Implosion-like venture? Little doubt that from the first notes of the 10-mins Shaking Hats, you're looking more at the first option than a divergence from the Universal (and absolute) Zero. Despite DD's French and Japanese liner notes as to turn the band to a more "electric sound" to remedy to what he was seeing the band's stagnation (my words, not his).

Technically, the electric guitar and keyboards (Pierre Chevalier was playing on digital synths anyway), but it's not like it brings a major contribution or change the band's soundscapes a great deal. My guess is that DD's near-pathological perfectionism saw that the band's impetus was waning and thought a revamp was needed. For the audible results on the album, I find the changes so un-remarkable that the risk he took angering the "sacked" long-standing Chevalier and Berckmans not worth it. I'm sure the former got over it (he's a busy man), but not nearly as sure for the later. As with the preceding Clivages and the anterior Implosion, UZ's general mood is relatively lighter than it was in the 80's and 90's, and though I wouldn't qualify PD of light-hearted danceable music, there are moments where a certain warmth reaches your vicinity. Of course, this doesn't apply for the sinister title track.

The big debate around RIO-heads is whether the very-high price of the album (and its shipping from Japan) is worth the investment. Obviously, if you're an unconditional UZ fan, it will be worth the important hassle and costs, but if you're a little more objective, you'll think twice or thrice before doing so, especially if you know that, outside the slight line-up change, Phosphorescent Dream is yet another "normal" UZ album. As such, I don't find it essential per se (the last to date was Implosion, IMHO), but it's a very worthy album nevertheless.

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 Heresie by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.26 | 212 ratings

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Heresie
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by floflo79

5 stars Univers Zéro have the nickname of "darkest band ever". And it's hard to contradict. This music is totally dark, and scary. Heresie, is surely one of their best effores, and perhaps the darkest. The album contains three tracks of 25, 13 and 12 minutes. One of the creative things of Univers Zéro is the instruments : bassoon, oboe, viola, violin, etc... But also guitar, drums and bass of course. The first track is La Faulx, and it's one of the best tracks of Univers Zéro. Pure darkness, with satanic formulas, dark voices, crescendo, dissonant chords, etc... It's really opressing and scary. Jack The Ripper is also one of the highlights of Univers Zéro carreer. A very disturbing track, on a creepy story. The last track is Vous le Saurez En Temps Voulu, is a very classical song, and always creepy. Heresie is an album that I recommand for all the fans of RIO/Avant Prog, or all the ones who search dark and scary music. Five stars.

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 Heresie by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.26 | 212 ratings

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Heresie
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TerryDactyl

5 stars To My Favorite Univers Zero Album

Dear Heresie,

I commend the high level musicianship contained within your dank and wicked grooves. I really like the way you creep me out if I doze off whilst listening to you. I also really like the sexy cover.

From, A friend

But seriously, this is one album I love utterly. Not a bad second on it and everything about it makes me shiver. This was the first real RIO album I heard, and it made me fall in love with the whole genre even though, to me, there is nothing else in the genre I've heard (yet) as good as this.

What makes it perfect? Well, for one thing if you sorta let yourself wander around with it, there's something about being in the smoke filled Bedouin tent, ignoring the bleating animals as the music takes you out and over the sand all aglow 'neath the perilous full moonlight. There's a dancing woman with her flowing skirts hitched down beckoning you to come...INTO THE PIT OF CTHULHU WHERE YOU WILL BE EATEN BY A THOUSAND FACELESS SHARP FANGED ELDRITCH HORRORS!

But the whole thing isn't that way, of course, and you could very intelligently argue that really it does sometimes sound like cheesy 70's horror flick music, and that it has this certain quality that maybe doesn't transcend, etc...but for my money, it's actually one of the most wonderful and fleshed out albums by a very strange and wicked band that I still can't quite believe exists.

A five? Absolutely, even though I would recommend you preview it before you plop down the cash (youtube or something) because this really is a taste thing, but oh what a taste it is!

ARRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrr......(dang Eldritch Horrors!)

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 Phosphorescent Dreams by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.10 | 114 ratings

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Phosphorescent Dreams
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars A new Univers Zero album is always worth paying attention to, and in this case the revived band have won me over in a way which The Hard Quest didn't manage to accomplish. Here, the clarinet and other woodwind instruments of Kurt Budé add a softer side to the band's music which doesn't really fit most listeners' impressions of Univers Zero as a terrifying musical chamber of horrors, but it actually suits the more contemplative direction the band steer the music in here. Not out to scare for the sake of spookiness here, the group even (to my ears) draw on the gentler side of the Canterbury sound in spots to create a better balance between heavy, foreboding material and more charming stuff.

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 Phosphorescent Dreams by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.10 | 114 ratings

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Phosphorescent Dreams
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by admireArt
Collaborator PSIKE Team

5 stars Univers Zero and beyond....

Univers Zero's, 2014, " Phosphorescent Dreams", makes it quiet clear from start to finish how well this ensemble has aged for good. This release will even challenge the band's close followers by striking some brushes of a somewhat not very Univers Zero's commonly known musical language. But as all true owners of an own musical idiom these "new" approaches never, not even by chance, lose their "trademark" dark intentions.

So, to cut things short, expect a very strange and hypnotic tour through a bombastic, deep, bitter-sweet, obscure beauty. Tainted with "free-Jazz", some "happy melodic lines" here and there, splashes of very "heavy" electrics and subtle solos of the same, "medieval-like music intros and passages", a couple of piano based songs, marvelous instrumental arrangements and intelligent compositions full of extraordinary and daring ideas. All matched up with highly inspired performances by each member of this re-modeled version of the, somewhat movable ensemble involved under this band/name, to bring everything into perfection.

I myself, have been listening to it intensely for the past weeks and it only gets better and more difficult to turn down each time I play it. I know myself, and what really turns me on. This Univers Zero 2014 release is one of those things and of course a very good recommendation for ANY prog-audiophile.

Easy, *****5 PA stars. No less! Enjoy!

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 Phosphorescent Dreams by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.10 | 114 ratings

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Phosphorescent Dreams
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Nogbad_The_Bad
Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

5 stars I always look forward to a new Univers Zero album though I have to admit to a sense of trepidation given that this album would feature a new line-up. I first heard of the new line up in the run up to the Rock In Opposition festival when it was announced that Michel Berckmans (Bassoon & Oboe), Pierre Chevalier (Keyboards) & Martin Lauwers (Violin) had been replaced by Nicolas Dechęne (Electric Guitar) & Antoine Guenet (Keyboards).

Daniel had clearly decided to move to a more stripped down rock sound with fewer orchestral instruments. If it is an experiment it can be said to have worked. The sound is different but it is clearly Univers Zero, still bears a lot of their hallmarks and distinctive sound. Kurt Bude steps up on this record providing half the song writing on the album. It's a welcome addition to the album as Kurt's tracks are as strong as Daniels.

While I certainly miss Michel's Bassoon & Oboe which have been signature sounds for Univers Zero for many years. But the electric guitar is a welcome edgy addition. This album continues the renaissance started with Clivages. I view both these recent albums as almost as good as the classic 1313 to Heatwave run. Highly Recommended to all UZ fans.

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