This French quartet from lovely Orléans has just released an EP in preparation for a full-blown album (their third) slated for 2025, showing an ever-growing maturity in their style, a Prog Metal band with flair! Now, I am in no way a specialist in this brazen style, as 5 decades of rock has certainly mellowed me a bit but I love exceptions, which occasionally does pop up when I am asked nicely to evaluate and that I actually like the music played. Having recently reviewed rather glowingly fellow Orléans band Pledge of Healing, who happen also to be friends with Esprit d’Escalier, which rather loosely translated is “staircase wit” but it actually means “a predicament of thinking of the perfect reply but too late”, hence I felt a certain camaraderie that excited my need to investigate a bit further and appraise. Comprised of guitarist Baptiste Bois, Matthieu Couffrant on the drum kit, guitarist and lead vocalist Rabusseau Renaud and finally Vincent Lechner manning the bass duties. There are 4 tracks supplied her and they certainly pack quite the wallop. I learnt a long time ago that heavy metal rock is best appreciated and digested at a much higher volume, so as to permeate the sizzle into the body and not just the mind. And no earphones, just a real good speaker system and the hell with the neighbours!

Two delicious hors-d’oeuvres to whet the appetite, first “The Shroud” sets the tone with immediate impact as the initial bicycling guitar gymnastics swerve into a deep rampage that spits its venom briefly, transitioning into a rapid bass furrow seeking to highlight a level of passionate head banging intensity. Renaud rages and cajoles, one guitar crissing and the other crossing with absolute dexterity and determination, finally elevating first to smooth plateau of elegant sound and then nose diving back into an abyss of anguished fury, ‘past the point of no return, there can be no turning back’!

Choosing a moderate form of concentration more akin to progressive rock, “The Burden” is led by a compulsive bass that slithers along like a python searching for prey, ‘satisfied’, while the second part of the track flings itself into a chaotic sliver of tectonic electricity, with guitar pirouettes worthy of manic funambulists and complex rhythmic concussions.

Now the two-part main course “The Struggle” is ready to be served, beginning with “Part 1 the Source of Our Elation”, as prog metal lullaby fuelled by clanging guitar flickers and Renaud ‘craving for better days’ and a bass undertow that sets the groundwork for an extended lament on procreation, medication, meditation, isolation, domination, annihilation and recreation. Perfect exploitation of adult anger and puerile innocence. The epic 8-and-a-half-minute finale is cleverly titled “Part 2 Fiending (meaning to desire greatly) for New Wolds”, a sonic and lyrical call to arms on the lamentable state of modern society and its laughable claim of guaranteed happiness for all, with equality, liberty, and fraternity. Yeah, right!  Where did I leave my yellow jacket? Did someone steal it? The lyrics are perhaps doom-laden, but they reflect a certain reality as Renaud states: ‘We are caught in a struggle, enslaved buy our emotions’, garnished with some poignant growling vocals that are completely à propos. This band is not content to kneel and whimper, preferring to stand tall and declare’ We all are on a mission, to fill the hole in our souls, look for solace in the stars, our only purpose in the dark’. The driving, energetic and passionate music reflects the need to ‘move away, from the darkness to the light’. The theatrics as well as the lyrical prowess are straight out of the classic French prog culture, which bodes very well for the future of this talented crew. Well played, bien joué!

4 straining tolerances