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Unit Wail - Retort CD (album) cover


Unit Wail



4.00 | 18 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars While we're right in the middle of the Christmas season, what could be better at this most holy of times than soundtracking it with the most unholy and wicked instrumental album of 2013?! Unit Wail's debut album, `Pangaea Proxima', was a strong punchy little Zeuhl influenced start, but their follow up `Retort' is simply one of the most feral, unhinged and ferocious albums this year. It shows the band stepping up in a big way and delivering even more on the potential and promise that their first album offered a glimpse of.

`Retort' is filled with a terrifying dark intensity, the band kicking up an almighty racket that is constantly aggressive and attacking. There's not much room for improvisation, instead the band favour concise and tightly composed instrumental rock/Zeuhl pieces that also incorporate industrial, gothic, jazz, electronic experimentation and a subtle RIO tone. Most of the Zeuhl flavour comes from Adrian Luna's fluid bass that is mixed so thick and upfront. and his performance dominates the entire disc, easily some of the best bass playing on any album this year. Drummer Philippe Hazaire plays like a man possessed, whipping up a ferocious dirty fury that tears through the compositions. Keyboard players Emmanuel Pothier and Vincent Sicot Vantalon ply the most haunting and intimidating Mellotron over so much of the album, the instrument never sounding more frightening and intense than it is here. There's no let up, and when the band calms down for even a second, even the few quieter moments are filled with a lurking, eerie tension. This is definitely a modern type of prog, noisy and intense, very likely of interest to fans of heavier music - this is certainly not your Dad's prog band!

Tracks like the thrashing `Kakodeamon' fills you with a clawing dread right from the start, quickly ripped apart with brooding rolling percussion, tip-toeing piano, glistening imperial Mellotron and endless punchy snarling bass. Rippling electronic crackles, malevolent piano and a ghostly Mellotron choir beats the listener into submission on `Peregrinatio', and both `Tertium Comparationis', full of invading alien hostility with loopy swallowing bass and bubbling synth effects, and `Concupiscentia Effrenata's jazzy drumming and dark drama recall the sci-fi Zeuhl of Italy's Universal Totem Orchestra.

`Pumapunku' starts as a doomy Mellotron choir funereal procession, before running through a range of tempos and strident beats back and forth over strangled guitar wailing. `Numinosity' quickly descends into a distorted deranged funkiness, and founding member Frank Fromy's guitars throughout the darkly grooving and scratchy Mellotron fuelled `Agathodeamon' take on a serrated Adrien Belew of King Crimson intensity. The menacing and stalking `Flixatio' is like a race for survival, taking in sections of heavy brooding haunted house atmosphere and frantic chaotic drum storms over harsh guitars. Closer `Aqua Permanens', the most complex, varied and challenging composition on the album, quickly claws under your skin, full of jazzy bass, floating synths, spontaneous piano, grinding buzzsaw guitars and driving drums racing through a varied range of tempos.

The inside of the simple CD booklet offers unsettling and cryptic descriptions of what each track is about, and these vivid words compliment the unease brought on by the music perfectly. At first you'll simply be stunned by Unit Wail's level of power, but repeated plays reveals the subtle complexity to the compositions as well as the variety, skill and talent of the musicians, the whole band playing with so much confidence. `Retort' is easily one of the best Zeuhl albums of 2013 along with Rhun's `Fanfare Du Chaos' and Setna's `Guerison'. Only time will tell if this stunner gets to sit alongside such classic albums of the genre as Dun `Eros' and Serge Bringolf's `Vision'.

Four and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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