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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars "Huis" is a Neo-prog band formed in 2009 in Quebec, Canada created by Pascal LaPierre on keyboards and Michel Joncas on bass. The band has released 3 full studio albums since 2014, including the album "Abandoned" which was released in May of 2019. The current line up consists of Sylvain Descoteaux on vocals and keyboards; Michel St-Pere on guitars; Michel Joncas on bass; William Regnier on drums and percussion; and Johnny Maz on keyboards. Jean Pageau also appears throughout the album as a guest on flute. The album deals with loss, abandonment and sorrow.

The album begins with the 8+ minute title track "Abandoned". It opens the album with a lush and textured sound with vocals beginning early with thoughtful lyrics. The vocals are supported by soft keys and guitar. At 3 minutes, there is an increase in the intensity and the track gathers power in the next verses. The overall sound, music and vocals, are quite appealing At 6 minutes, there is a move to complex drumming and some nice soloing from the synths. "The Giant Awakens" is introduced by acapella vocals after which a more upbeat track begins. The vocal on the verses is not quite as appealing as the previous track, but the short harmonized chorus that started the track repeats throughout. When the song slows a bit as it goes on, vocal delivery improves. The faster tempo returns and you get an organ and guitar solo.

"Caducee" (around 13 minutes) starts with a soft piano intro and then the entire band comes in playing the same theme, and then they introduce another theme which develops over several minutes before mellower vocals come in. There is a slight tinge of jazz fusion in the softer parts which trade places with the slightly more intense main instrumental theme. Some nice guitar work comes in later with a mid-tempo guitar solo. The last several minutes, the song becomes more ballad like with the vocals backed by a piano-led background. "Stolen" follows with another long track at 12 minutes. A march style rhythm is established with pensive guitars and a pulsing low synth. Sudden intensity comes out when the full band starts up with a progressive section led by the synth. Vocals come in after a few minutes. The sound is definitely much more progressive on this track. After a guitar and synth solo, things slow down to a pensive style with the flute playing while a new vocal melody starts. This beautiful section goes on for several minutes and develops quite nicely. A mid tempo section with piano and synth pushes things forward also allowing for some short solos that get filled with piano in between each solo. It ends with vocals and flute in an atmospheric ending.

"Solitude" follows with a shorter 3 minute instrumental track which is led by a slow guitar solo backed by synth layers and percussive effects that gains in emotional value as it continues. "Chasing Morning Glory" goes back to a longer form. Starting soft, it pushes for intensity, but calms again before a moderately slow rhythm starts with pensive vocals. Later, processed vocals against a simple keyboard backing soften things even more. After a guitar solo, keys push for a faster tempo, and processed vocal layers give the track some depth. Later, the slower tempo returns and the vocal melody becomes more emotionally charged. It wraps up the last few minutes in a driving moderate tempo pushed by guitar riffs and an atmospheric guitar solo and a final vocal section. "Haunting Days" begins somewhat heavier with guitar and synth/keyboard riffs playing in progressive, start/stop patterns before settling into a nice driving heaviness. All of the instruments get to have their say in this dynamic instrumental.

"We Are Not Alone" starts with a piano/flute led ballad style and vocals start early on. The 2nd verse brings in the rhythm section. After this verse, the guitar builds intensity with a solo. Later, as things mellow out again, soft guitar and flute bring in the last verse. This track does follow a more standard song pattern, but the melody is quite lovely and so are the themes, and it builds for a powerful guitar solo at the end. "Oude Kerk III" is the last track on the album running for about 9 minutes. The atmospheric intro builds tension using pulsing synth and wordless choral vocals, and then suddenly the band kicks in with a tense guitar riff with a non-standard meter. The feel of the track is much darker than previous tracks, even when the vocals start. The melody goes back to a more progressive feel. Things alternate from major to minor keys as the track lightens up just to grow dark again.

This album as plenty of great moments that far outweigh the weaker moments, in fact, it is strong enough that the weaker moments might not even be noticeable. There is plenty of progressiveness on the album, and even the more standard sections do not abase themselves to standard rock completely. The sound is definitely Neo-prog, yet it is also mostly accessible throughout, and it's appeal will be very apparent pretty much from the first listening. There is a good amount of depth to the sound and the tracks are quite well developed. It's a great album and I think most progressive fans will love it. There is also plenty of time for some emotional and great soloing among the keys and guitars. Great effort! 4 stars.

Report this review (#2190054)
Posted Friday, May 3, 2019 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars Canadian band Huis are back with their third album, and have resolved their issues with not having a keyboard player by bringing on board Johnny Maz who had guested on a number on 'Neither In Heaven'. The rest of the line-up is the same as it has been all three albums, namely Sylvain Descôteaux (vocals, keyboards, piano, vocal arrangements), Michel St-Père (guitar, keyboards, mixing), Michel Joncas (bass, bass pedals, keyboards, backing vocals) and William Régnier (drums, percussion, keyboards and acoustic guitar). This is a direct continuation from the last album in many ways, taking the styles from that one and showing just how much control they have within the genre. Lush and comforting, they provide cut through with string guitars, great bass and powerful drums.

A couple of guests have also been used to good effect, and the additional piano and female vocals on "We Are Not Alone" make a huge difference. Sylvain has a wonderfully melodic and emotional vocal style reminiscent of John Wetton combined with Steve Hogarth, and the music combines with it to tell a story which is always entrancing and exciting. The band operates on many levels, so while it can be gentle and relaxing in the rhythm section and keyboards, Michel can be really rocking out, or he could pull himself right into the background so he can barely be heard. It is one of those albums when it easy to let the music wash over the listener like a crashing breaker, but one which is warm and inviting as opposed to crushing and chilling. Follow any particular musician and you will be surprised at just how much work is being undertaken, and the variety of styles on offer. However, this is an album where each musician really knows their part and locks in with the others to provide music which is always interesting, always accessible, and just a damn fine listen.

This is the third album from Huis, and yet again they have produced something which is enjoyable from the very first note to the very last.

Report this review (#2281588)
Posted Friday, November 15, 2019 | Review Permalink

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