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Arachnoid - Arachnoid CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.86 | 146 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars French sextet Arachnoid is one of those undisputed nice surprises that prog collectors meet along the way and cherish as a hidden treasure. The band's eponymous only album is a fine example of the gusto for darkness and the sense of drama that are featured trademarks of the French symphonic prog tradition. The theatre factor is very influenced by 71-73 Ange and "Grimaces"-era Mona Lisa, plus a noticeable addition of 73-75 Crimsonian tension and recurrent hints at the heavier side of Pulsar (first two albums). The latter two aforesaid factors are mostly generated from guitarist Nicolas Popowski's deliveries, which usually display traces of anger, fear, density and mystery in a most powerful fashion: his riffs, solos and ornaments are all over the place, many times surpassing the deliveries undertaken by the two keyboardsmen. This is not to say that the keyboards' role is subdued, since the grand piano basic melodies, synth solos, organ/mellotron layers and electric piano jazzy flows are also quite relevant for the compositions' developments. The resulting environment elaborated by all instrumentalists is uneasy and hypnotic, full of darkness, sometimes in the shape of a disturbing fog, other times in the shape of a melancholic shade. There are some occasional heavy passages in which the band seems to lean close to the creepy sort of RIO practiced by Univers Zero, but the main framework is symphonic in pure French style. The lead vocalist is not as protagonist as the frontmen from Ange, Atoll or Mona Lisa, but his singing and recitations really help to fulfill the attempted atmospheres (even if he's not the most proficient member in the band, all things considered). One big advantage that the "Arachnoid" album has regarding the listening experience reserved for the collector is the opening mini-epic 'Le Chamadère', whose 13+ minute span comprises an interesting series of motifs that seem to emulate the usual sequence of a horror movie: apparent tranquility, first big moment of terror, recurrent intensity that lead to the second big moment of terror, a mystery full of varied nuances, one final blow of terror, and ultimately, the closing tranquility that isn't as tranquil as it should be since the terrifying menace seems to have grown into a latent state. The instrumental 'Piano Caveau' (besides a brief recitation) is calmer, with a lovely piano sonata that serves as a brief prologue: the main body spices things up in a sort of refurbishment of old Pulsar within a Carpe Diem- style jazz-friendly framework. The rhythm assumes a more evidently important role for the elaboration and maintenance of the overall mood, which is not entirely devoid of tension and mystery. The softer song in the album is the Engligh-sung 'In the Screen Side of Your Eyes', which includes flute lines provided by a guest musician (Philippe Honore) - it is quite bucolic indeed, excepting a brief interlude in which the pace goes a bit faster. Actually, I would have loved to see this track a bit more developed, since it features an interesting variation in the album's general mood. But that's OK. The next two tracks, 'Toutes Ces Images' and 'La Guêpe', complete the band's main guidelines quite adequately. 'Toutes Ces Images' starts on a very melancholic mood, almost distant, like a troubadour's solitary song in the middle of a dreamy realm; then, for the instrumental development that fills the last 5 minutes, things go gradually wilder, from a pompous manifestation of grayish unrest to a neurotic, sinister display of Crimson-meets-Pulsar. 'La Guêpe' has a more extroverted mood all the way, alternating semi-jazzy grooves with pulsational rocking cadences; the sung part is a real demented circus (a-la Ange's "Cimetière des Arlequins"). This is a very climatic piece, but not the final one - the pairing of 'L'adieu au Pierrot' and 'Final' sets a reiteration of the two preceding tracks' moods. The bonus tracks don't have the benefits of a good audio production, but they manage to reveal how genuinely energetic the band was on stage. Even the musical concepts of 'L'adieu au Pierrot' and 'Final' are more elaborated. This is a great symphonic rock item that should grace any good prog collection - the two Arachnoids, band and album, deserve the high praise gathered in all progressive e-zines.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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