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(63:11, Cuneiform Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. La Faulx 25:03 2. Jack the Ripper 13:20 3. Vous le Saurez en Temps Voulu 12:51 4. Chaos Hermetique 11:52 LINEUP: Daniel Denis – drums, percussion Roger Trigaux – guitar; piano, organ, harmonium Michel Berckmans – oboe, bassoon Patrick Hanappier – violin, viola Guy Segers – bass; vocals With: Vincent Motoulle – keyboards (4)
Prolusion. A living guide to the RIO genre and one of its main calling cards as well, Belgium’s UNIVERS ZERO doesn’t need any special introduction to its work – on this website in particular, since quite much has been said on the matter in the review of the band’s self-titled debut output. Its second effort, “Heresie”, was in turn explored and re-examined by various reviewers that, at least at the moment, when writing this sentence, I’m by no means sure that I’ll be able to shed any new light on it. Anyhow, the album is here; this is its most recent reissue, and it contains a bonus track Chaos Hermetique, which is available for the first time ever.
Analysis. The appearance of Univers Zero (along with some other then-bizarre chamber bands) on the progressive rock scene wasn’t accidental – there is nothing accidental under the sun. Personally I perceive the phenomena as a kind of natural protest against the decadence of the genre – and not because of the leftwing worldview of most of the movement’s proponents. A very symbolical title of this album brings to mind the Cathar Heresy, a religious current that sprung up in the Southern France somewhere in the depths of the centuries of Anno Domine. By their belief in God of Love (Who is remotely reminiscent of Krishna, albeit they thought He has an opponent – the lord of this, material, world) as well as reincarnation, Cathars brought a challenge to the Romano-Catholic church and the Old Testament with its addled dogmas in particular. In a way, I experienced a catharsis after I’ve listened to “Herecie”, which was my first acquaintance with the RIO genre. The album was a real revelation for me, and has in many ways changed my – then fairly narrow – conception of progressive music. Nowadays, both “Herecie” and the band’s self-titled debut LP are widely or rather internationally considered to be the models of classic RIO/Chamber Rock. I, however, prefer to view them as forever new creations, and I believe most of you, dear readers, understand why I do so, sharing my vision of the matter. Remember how Daniel Denis and his fellow associates work with musical fabrics – they never weave simple patterns out of those. For them, the structures are not so much building material for creating forms or expressing ideas as they are a special, independent, partly even a hostile world, which lives by its own laws, moving by the – God knows when – furrowed routes of a mighty power. They constantly struggle with the matter, by breaking, bursting and squashing what is accepted to call “steady combinations, formations, etc” – there is nothing steady in this world. Let’s move further. Compared to its predecessor, “Heresie” has a somewhat rockier and, at the same time, a bit less distinct chamber sound (a tendency that ‘will’ grow stronger with each of the band’s following three releases), additionally standing out for its apocalyptic feeling. The 25-minute La Faulx, which opens the recording, is seen as one of the most nightmarish embodiments of anti-utopia in music. When describing the epic’s live version in my review of the most recent reissue of Univers Zero’s debut, I have mentioned that it is almost not dissimilar to its studio counterpart. As I did that in detail (click here to read), I believe there is no need to re-explore the piece. By your permission, I’ll also omit examining the epic’s follow-up, Jack the Ripper, as it is much in the same style, etc, also drawing apocalyptic pictures, sounding like a warning to humanity, no matter that its title might suggest something different. After all, it is an all-instrumental track, as well as any of the following ones. Vous le Saurez en Temps Voulu is more, if not much more, varied in mood – perhaps because it combines the album’s primary style with neoclassical music as it is. Besides, the composition contains a few moves that remind me in theme of Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks as well as another piece (can’t remember which one exactly) from “Pictures at the Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky. One of the band’s earliest creations, the bonus track Chaos Hermetique, was recorded in 1975. An excellent addition to the album, it is an excellent piece in itself, no matter that it isn’t too rich in chamber colorations. While the style is still RIO, here it’s presented in one of its rockiest manifestations.
Conclusion. With the appearance of Univers Zero, RIO has gained distinct outlines and became a full-fledged musical genre, free of any political labels, etc. Of course, “Heresie” is featured in my personal chart of the best progressive rock albums, as well as most of the band’s other releases.
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