Who will like it: Fans of Devin Townsend, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd. People who wished Toad The Wet Sprocket had a dark, brooding streak.
Who won’t like it: People who find Five Finger Death Punch to be too subtle. Fans of high-end frequencies in distorted guitar.
by Neil James
Of all the sins musicians can commit, I find “indulgence” among the most difficult to forgive.
And while there are many great things I can say about progressive metal, the genre tends to be a red-light district for yielding to selfish artistic desire.
Play the above YouTube video to hear an example of said indulgence. It isn’t enough that Timo Tolkki wants to write music that people regard as genius – he wants the listener to recognize him as a genius. One that can be held alongside Beethoven, Tolkien and Freddie Mercury.
At some point, somebody should have told him no. His bandmates. His engineers. His label. His conscience.
But one has to assume they did. And he blazed on ahead anyway.
And this happens all the time in progressive metal.
When writing or reviewing music, I have found that just a little bit of restraint goes a long way in maintaining quality. Bad Religion will let the ‘oozin aahs fly, but will never descend into being a barbershop quartet. Iron Maiden will spit forth the righteousness, but barring a few notable exceptions, they tend to stay clear of overt schlock. Dave Mustaine gives us glimpses of what he’s capable of artistically on songs like Sweating Bullets, but he never descends into the subterranean depths inhabited by Jeff Waters and Annihilator.
Poitiers France-based Klone is one of those rare progressive metal bands that not only practices restraint, it wields it as a blade, carving its unique surreal dreamscape. In a world where too many bands attempt to cut through the clutter by pushing the boundaries of ostentatiousness and being “extreme”, Klone is a refreshing change of pace. Its mission – to create sophisticated yet understated beauty – is highly noble, and one the band has proven more than capable of achieving.
Although they’ve shared the stage with bands as macabre as their French brethren Gojira, Klone rarely conforms to metal’s traditional conventions. The rate of clean guitar per minute on the band’s newest release, Here Comes The Sun, is well beyond acceptable limits for most Metal Injection commenters. The distortion used by guitarists Bernard Guillaume and Aldrick Guadagnino has more in common with a persistent head cold than the saccharine, processed tones dominating metal today. And if you’re looking for guttural screaming, keep on searching – vocalist Yann Ligner is far closer to Toad The Wet Sprocket than Joe Duplantier.
Klone’s metal credentials are ultimately defined by their ability to paint a dark, dichotomous sonic landscape. Here Come The Sun’s opening track, Immersion, is at once both somber and inspiring. Punishing clockwork strokes, a motif repeated throughout the album, punctuate an airy guitar that evokes rusty windchimes singing softly over a world that life has forgotten. The combination of Ligner’s gripping vocal phrases and the sedate chording of Guillaume and Guadagnino conjures shades of Devin Townsend while avoiding the sense of impenetrability the skulleted can sometimes known for.
Few tracks exemplify Klone’s ability to author the soundtrack to melancholy dreams as well as Nebulous. Like any expert progressive band, Klone discards the very notion of time signatures without calling attention to having done so. Only Ligner’s haunting vocals and the driftless chord progressions provide the listener any point of anchoring. The morose melody orients a ghostly ship as a it crosses the meridian that separates life from death, exquisitely contrasting the persistent distorted drone that rumbles underneath the chorus like hot magma trapped beneath a tranquil, serene forest.
Klone’s longevity and work ethic is a significant contributor to the group’s expertise. Here Comes The Sun is the band’s seventh release. The above album, Black Days, came out in 2011 and was the band’s fourth. You don’t just roll out of bed and write music with this level of intricacy and make it seem effortless. Klone’s music is a labor of love and a function of sweat – and it deserves more recognition than it’s received.
A natural byproduct of this experience is a refined palate and capacity for strong decision-making. In Klone, this manifests as the good sense to avoid a choral recitation of elements – the understanding that the restraint to leave words unspoken and notes unplayed is sometimes the strongest artistic statement that can be made.