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UNIVERS ZERO

RIO/Avant-Prog • Belgium


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Univers Zero biography
Founded in Brussels, Belgium in 1974 - Disbanded in 1987 - Reformed in 1999 - Still active as of 2017

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).

⭐ Collaborators Top Prog Album of 2010 ⭐

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, wit...
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UNIVERS ZERO discography


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

4.22 | 240 ratings
Univers Zero [Aka: 1313]
1977
4.26 | 301 ratings
Heresie
1979
3.99 | 177 ratings
Ceux Du Dehors
1981
4.30 | 346 ratings
Uzed
1984
4.03 | 142 ratings
Heatwave
1986
3.74 | 87 ratings
The Hard Quest
1999
3.68 | 77 ratings
Rhythmix
2002
4.05 | 113 ratings
Implosion
2004
4.03 | 204 ratings
Clivages
2010
3.93 | 171 ratings
Phosphorescent Dreams
2014

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

3.99 | 39 ratings
Live
2006
4.41 | 36 ratings
Relaps
2009

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

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

4.22 | 52 ratings
Crawling Wind
2001

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

3.77 | 13 ratings
Triomphe Des Mouches
1981

UNIVERS ZERO Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Relaps by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Live, 2009
4.41 | 36 ratings

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Relaps
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This archival collection of live pieces from Univers Zero doesn't replicate any one particular show - but it does capture the sound of an era, with its tracks bridging the gap between Uzed - in which the band were still playing in a chamber rock style reminiscent of the sound of Ceux du Dehors - and Heatwave, in which they adopted a chillier, more synth- washed style.

This musical transition is perhaps best observed in the fantastic 1985 rendition of Heatwave's second-side epic, the ever-magnificent Funeral Plain, but it is apparent throughout the collection, and that makes this a decidedly worthwhile pick for anyone who's already sold on Uzed or Heatwave by themselves. If you like both, you'll like this, if you like one but are unsure about the other this might help you see where the one you're less keen on is coming from.

 Uzed by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 1984
4.30 | 346 ratings

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Uzed
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars While the small nation of Belgium was notably left out of the first wave of the progressive rock boom of the early 70s, the land between France and the Netherlands redeemed itself in the latter half of the decade with excellent bands like Cos and Aksak Maboul making a mark on the scene. Of course, no story would be complete with the most successful of the Belgian prog bands of all, namely UNIVERS ZERO which was a part of a new dense and challenging type of avant-prog chamber rock that was a vital ingredient in the ultimate antithesis to the punk and disco scenes that was called Rock In Opposition. While the band's first two albums '1313' and the even darker and scarier 'Heresie' implemented a new stylistic approach that mixed heavy rock elements with mostly acoustic instrumentation with major influence from Bart'k and Stravinsky, the band sort of developed a musical style that hit a musical cul-de-sac by reaching its logical conclusion.

Starting with the band's third album 'Ceux Du Dehors,' UNIVERS ZERO starting lightening up the gloom and doom and marked a major stylistic shift that adopted more electronic sounds, various ethnic musical scales as well as a more eclectic palette of compositional fortitude. Essentially a musical collective with a rotating cast of members led by founder / drummer / chief songwriter Daniel Denis, UZ continued to change its sound drastically without leaving behind the off-kilter angularities that made its particular brand of avant-prog so utterly unique. After 1981's 'Ceux Du Dehors,' UZ embarked on a relentless touring schedule and delayed the released of the fourth album for three years. The four track EP 'Crawling Wind' appeared in between but it wasn't until 1984 that UZ unleashed a new album in the form of UZED. The title basically refers to the initials of the band's name UNIVERS ZERO. The letter U plus ZED, another name for the letter Z in many European nations.

Denis was the only member left of the lineup fo the first three albums and therefore UZED developed a very different sound due to the emphasis on different instrumentation. Andre Mergen's cello and sax playing are emphasized as well as the more aggressive sounds of Michael Delory's electric guitar playing techniques which were a stark contrast to UZ's previous guitar sounds of former co-founder Roger Trigaux. Also new to the band was keyboardist Jean-Luc Plouvier whose role was teased out into completely new experimentations which would be further explored on the band's following album 'Heatwave.' Despite all the changes, the compositions overall are firmly rooted in the classical musical settings that earlier albums implemented. Likewise the dissonance and atonality are scattered around in abundance but not in a suffocating manner. The album seems to balance the darker mood settings of earlier albums with more moments of uplifting splendor.

Perhaps the most immediate distinction from what came before is the heavier use of rock instrumentation and bombast along with a much easier to follow melodic approach that implements not only infinitely less darkened musical scales such as the Middle Eastern influences on the opening 'Pr'sage,' but also a more focused effort on more cyclical loops that add something to latch onto rather than the long drawn out meandering passages that enshrouded the mysterious musical canvas on 'Heresie.' The shortest track of the album 'L'Etrange Mixture du Docteur Schwartz' may clock in at slightly less than four minutes but rocks the house with an incessant pummelation of the drums and an equally feisty attack of the piano stabs, clarinet assaults and rampaging time signatures run amok at reckless high tempo velocities. Likewise Christian Genet's bass slapping is off the charts as he channels his best Christ Squire and really lets loose.

'C'lesta (for Chantal)' distinguishes itself with guest musician Marc Verbist contributing haunting violin sounds and Delory providing the heaviest doses of electric guitar on the album including an unexpected solo near the end however the track starts out bereft of rock elements for the first few minutes as a choppy piano performance ekes out a lugubrious violin and occasional percussive drive. It's not until the last couple of minutes that the track turns to the dark side with an industrial sounding mechanical drive which allows the guitar off the leash and proceeds to go friggin bonkers. 'Parade' is the cheeriest track on board with a 'somewhat' less darkened approach but still performs the expected knotty angularities in a relentless stampede of time signature workouts and instrumental interplay. The track with its rock elements can remind more of King Crimson at its most energetic moments with the usual chamber rock instruments on board. The hairpin twists and turns also conspire to create one of the more dramatic tracks on UZED.

The final 'Emmanations' is not only the longest track on UZED which by clocking in at almost 16 minutes blows away the running time of the rest of the tracks, but also is clearly the highlight. Given the proper time length to slowly percolate slowly and ratchet up the tension, this closer unleashes the newly discovered use of electronic synthesizers in the UZ sound to nurture an ominous stormy cloud cover of sound while the usual chamber rock elements struggle in the dark to find the right riff to latch onto. Once a groove and a riff are found, the instrumental interplay pretty much follows a repetitive cyclical melodic construct that relies on an infinite series of variations to paint a dramatic soundscape. Not to say that twists and turns do not occur but the track is amazingly stable given its sprawling domain over the album's run. The most startling change of the entire album comes just past the 12 minute mark of 'Emmanations' where the it abruptly turns into an industrial echoey soundscape with muddied vocals whispering from the darkness while a drunken violin emerges from the backdrop. A frightening rhythmic pulse evokes more of the sounds of early Einst'rzende Neubauten than anything out of the UZ playbook and ends the album with while presaging the band's next move.

UZED may have lacked the uniformity of its predecessors (especially the first two albums) but made up for it in its sheer audacity to simultaneously explore new sonic textures in myriad directions. While generally considered a transitional album, UZED nevertheless successfully fleshes out many of the subtle aspects that the band was striving for and while not quite reaching the electronic based apex that 'Heatwave' would achieve, the brackish waters of the former acoustic chamber rock elements along with the heavier rock guitar and synthesizer sequences makes for an exciting avant-prog journey throughout the album's five diverse tracks. At this point Denis proved himself to be a master of reinventing the sound as he conducted a whole new cast of characters to bring the early Rock In Opposition sounds into the new decade. While UNIVERS ZERO would never recreate the stunning perfection of '1313' and 'Heresie,' albums like UZED only proved that the intricate creative fusion of classical, chamber music and progressive rock had hardly been exhausted at this point and that in many ways the avant-prog scene was only getting started. A tough listen for sure but ultimately worth the effort.

 Ceux Du Dehors by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.99 | 177 ratings

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Ceux Du Dehors
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars The third album by the Belgian chamber avant-rock band UNIVERS ZERO followed in the footsteps of the avant-garde ominous dread that the self-titled debut (aka "1313") and the spine-tingling "Hérésie" presented with all the stunning musical maestrohood on steroids, however CEUX DU DEHORS (translates as "Those of the Outdoors" or "The Outsiders") found inspiration from the darkened world of H.P. Lovecraft's most demented works after someone left some of his short stories in the recording studio. Much of this album revolves around those occult and darkened themes set to the musical complexity and labyrinthine avant-prog angularities that had made the band stand out from virtually the rest of the entire musical scene in the late 70s.

As with the previous two albums UNIVERS ZERO was centered around the stable quartet of Daniel Denis (drums and percussion), Guy Segers (bass, clarinet, vocals), Michel Berckmans (bassoon, oboe, English horn, vocals) and Patrick Hanappier (viola, violin, vocals) and joining the ranks were the new talent of Andy Kirk joining in on piano, harmonium, organs and vocals. In addition there are three guest musicians that spice up the album with a violin, cello and hurdy-gurdy all which prove to add some of the most haunting and blood curdling sounds that can be experienced in the world of recorded music. While the band would begin to shift their sound on the following "Uzed," CEUX DU DEHORS can be thought of as the last of a dark mythological trilogy of the band's origins only continues the journey with even more precision and skill.

While "Hérésie" explored the absolute limits of impending doom and ominous nihilism and perhaps ranks as one of the scariest sounding albums of all time, CEUX DE DEHORS starts out on a much lighter note at least towards the beginning with the almost festive "Dense" starting things out with more emphasis on fiery circuitous rhythmic drives that allow the classical chamber orchestral sounds to ping and pong and resonate in astounding tight-knit precision. The light hearted melodic flow is almost exuberant in its medieval-tinged folklore burbling to the surface. The track which is one of two that exceed the 12 minute mark (the other being "Combat") may start off as a jittery caffeinated romp but five minutes in the band revives the eerie gloomy chamber rock drones and classical minimalism that can raise the dead and then proceeds to mix the two moods together displaying an uncanny ability to juggle these opposing musical tones.

While tracks that follow "La Corne Du Bois Des Pendus" and "Bonjour Chez Vous" tend to focus on the fiery instrumental acrobats that focus on the extremities of chamber rock and classical wizardry while the album ebbs and flows through angular labyrinthine compositions that zigzag unexpectedly and utilize unorthodox tempo changes and jagged riffs that find the most jarring ways to ratchet up the tension, CEUX DU DEHORS slowly but surely drifts off into the same nightmarish musical perversity that "Hérésie" excelled at in freakish perfection. In particular the last three tracks starting with "La Musique d'Erich Zann" there is more focus on classical minimalism such as that by Philip Glass and the Krautrock motorik rhythmic drives as heard by German bands like Neu! only set to a classical orchestral performances that take a little jazz improvisation and industrial bleakness and funnel it all down into some of the most ominous hair-raising sonic terror that will never allow you to look at the bassoon and oboe in the same way. The way this track starts is like a haunted pasture with freaky imitations of sheep freaking out.

The bleakness continues with "La Tete Du Corbeau" and the closing "Triomphe des Mouches" which ends the album in utter contrast as to how it began. Perhaps these latter tracks were leftovers from the earlier sessions before the band decided to lighten things up a bit? Regardless, CEUX DU DEHORS is another amazing album by UNIVERS ZERO that displays an even more uncanny flock of bird randomness in the tight instrumental interplay and an even more unbelievable mastery of using sonic juxtapositions to create the maximum fear factory. While the album pales only in comparison to the phenomenal perfection of the first two albums and the inconsistencies of stylistic approaches that differentiate the beginning tracks from the end, it's really not that big of a deal when the music presented on every track is of this amazing caliber. On CEUX DU DEHORS, these Belgians proved that they indeed could craft the perfect soundtrack for the Dark Fantasy perversions of Lovecraft and in the process make it sound so ridiculously natural.

 Univers Zero [Aka: 1313] by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.22 | 240 ratings

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Univers Zero [Aka: 1313]
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars If you ever really wonder what Rock in Opposition sounds like, or if someone asks you what it is, then you put on an album by Univers Zero. That's about as good of an introduction as you can get. Of course, it branches out in all kinds of sounds and styles from there, but it's still a good start.

This album is all about traditional, orchestral style instruments, only not in an orchestra as much as in a chamber ensemble. But even then, you don't want to make the mistake of thinking you are going to be listening to baroque style music, think more along the lines of impressionistic music. Seeing as how the band cites Bartok and Stravinski as influences, then that should give you an idea of what you are going to get here, but with more contemporary percussion than with orchestral style. Throw in different string instruments like violin and cello, harmonium and some brass, then an occasional guitar and bass, and you got the idea.

This is definitely not rock or pop in any regular sense. If you are familiar with RIO or Avant-prog, then this sound is something that you are used to hearing. But, as this band is one of the pioneers of the sound, they are the ones that helped establish the genre. Expect complex melodies and time signatures with a lot of dissonance. Also, on this album at least, things are more raw then they would be in some future albums.

Many compare Univers Zero with Art Zoyd, and the comparision makes sense, at least in AZ's early stages. UZ is a lot more tight sounding as the music is more structured where AZ is more improvised. This album, called 1313 for the catalogue number, is not as dynamic and a bit rougher than their future releases would be. But it is still top notch quality music, much of it inspired by works of Lovecraft and other dark artistry. The music definitely fits that niche. But, some may also think because of this that the music is soundtrack style music. That is a mistake. It's much more complex and is not tied down to imagery, but much better composed with a structure.

Of course, this isn't music for everyone, but mostly those that have a love for avant-garde style classical music or for those that love adventurous music of any genre. Highly recommended to RIO/Avant Prog lovers as an essential album.

 Clivages by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 2010
4.03 | 204 ratings

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Clivages
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars If anyone wanted to suggest that Univers Zero had lost any of their early darkness or intensity in their later years, Clivages stands as a firm rebuke to any such notion. Take, for instance, the 12 minute saga of Warrior, an all- instrumental RIO workout which excels at evoking an atmosphere of unfettered darkness and violence, with King Crimson-filtered jazz influences expertly incorporated into their chamber rock attack.

That said, whilst Clivages includes some of their most intense moments since their earliest albums, it also showcases the broader range they've attained in their mature era. Les Kobolds, for instance, is positively perky in its approach, a sunny prequel to the war crimes to come. On the whole, the album represents the modern incarnation of Univers Zero at the top of its game.

 Relaps by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Live, 2009
4.41 | 36 ratings

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Relaps
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars Sallying forth through the bleak years of the mid-80s, UNIVERS ZERO forged ahead without compromise dishing out perhaps the most daring music that borders on sheer temerity. The band had a few lineup changes during the years of 1984-86 from which these eight tracks were picked and we are treated to some of the most turbulent and tumultuous recordings of the band that couldn't have been more against the grain in one of the least friendly decades for overtly complex and brooding progressive music that not only went where no band had gone before but did it with an imperious mien that reverberates throughout the decades holding up well after the fact. At the time however, the band was holding their own on their rocky road through the 80s as heard on RELAPS their second live release that only hit the hands of consumers in 2009, a good twenty years plus after these recordings were put to tape and then put under lock and key.

Live albums rarely do it for me like the studio counterparts but i have to say that this second live release RELAPS from the progressive avant-garde chamber music gods UNIVERS ZERO blows the roof off the house! This album was recorded at various venues in Germany and Belgium between the years 1984-86 and captures some of the most stunning magic of this great band displaying their finesse and powerful sonic firestorms in full fury proving that they are no mere studio band spending countless hours just putting sounds to tape without a clue of how to reproduce them. These guys are seriously gifted musicians who have all the chops to match the studio prowess AND exceed it. The fact that they can continually pump this out in a live setting and improvise free-style when the moment dictates also boggles the mind in just how proficient and dedicated the members of this band are. This is one of those rare live albums that actually surpasses any expectations of what i could hope for and deliver the goods and actually not even mind the 70 minutes plus of playing time. It's that phenomenal.

This album covers material from the albums "Uzed" ("L'étrange Mixture Du Docteur Schwartz" [2 versions that bookmark the album], "Présage", "Parade and Emanations") and "Heatwave" (title track and the extraordinary 18:10 "The Funeral Plain.") There is also a near four minute track "Ligne Claire" that is only found on this album. The music is, of course, their usual lineup of drums, clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano sax, bass, keyboards, cello, electric guitar, violin, viola and keyboards although the musical ingredients vary according to the period. The music on RELAPS is simply perfectly delivered and you'd be hard pressed to even know this is a live album except for the audience reaction at the end of tracks. The production is crystal clear and amazingly clean for several live 80s venues where who-knows-what can possibly go wrong and the band is absolutely flawless in the musical delivery.

Although i can't profess to know the band's canon note for note, i can say that this music in all its complexity sounds like it is performed in the most logical manner, meaning it is imperceptible if mistakes are being made. UNIVERS ZERO and the Rock In Opposition and avant-prog bands of the era didn't banish patterns within music, they simply or complexly rather, created new ones hitherto unexplored. These patterns of music sound exquisitely logical once heard but to create such unfamiliar forms is the true definition of music magic in my opinion. EVERYTHING works on this one. The compositions, the pacing, the timbres, the use of echoes, the mixing of the instruments and most of all the dark heavyheartedness that just oozes with dispirited melancholy and elegiac lament. This is simply in the top tier of UNIVERS ZERO recordings and one that should not be missed for true fans of this sombre musical chimera.

 Phosphorescent Dreams by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.93 | 171 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!

 Univers Zero [Aka: 1313] by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.22 | 240 ratings

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Univers Zero [Aka: 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
 Heresie by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.26 | 301 ratings

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Heresie
Univers Zero RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

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

 Phosphorescent Dreams by UNIVERS ZERO album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.93 | 171 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 Dechêne) 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.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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