Certainly an odd name in Lalu; definitely not the type of name to see for a metal band, especially one that doesn’t play extremely flowery power metal. Lalu get their name from the band’s keyboardist, and main songwriter, Vivien Lalu, who has helped compose for last year’s release “EmOcean” from label mate Hubi Meisel. In creating this debut album Vivien was able to put together a group comprised of Martin Lemar on vocals, Joop Wolters on guitar (his recent solo album has been reviewed this month as well), Russel Bergquist (ex-Annihilator) on bass, and Ryan Van Poederooye (who currently plays for Devin Townsend) on drums.
In ONIRIC METAL Vivien Lalu has created a competent progressive metal album. The songs on this album are heavy, bombastic, and certainly lean towards the more technical side of things. A strong comparison for this album might even be the last Symphony X album in that the album is certainly heavy but remains progressive and technical while keeping its sense of melody and adventure. As far as quality goes, this album isn’t the most amazing or interesting listen but it certainly has its share of enjoyable moments.
Lalu opens their debut album with a rather unoriginal riff in “Yesterdayman”. It’s that choppy, offbeat feel given by most prog metal bands these days. Once that riff gives way to the verse things really start to get cooking with the soft, epic verse. Of course the verse starts off with mainly guitar and drums but by the time the second verse comes in things are a bit fuller and definitely feel a bit more epic. Martin Lemar’s vocals almost giving a Geoff Tate feel at times, especially when he moves out of his midrange. “Wolven Eyes” starts off deceptively simple and is quickly built upon with drums, bass, and keyboards. I tend to find the soft section at 42 seconds in (and repeates throughout) to be rather detrimental to the rather brooding atmosphere of the track. The way it lurches doesn’t really lend itself to this soft, dreamlike section. It’s a commendable attempt to work with dynamics but I don’t think it works as well as it’s intended to.
With “Windy” the song starts off like a rather soft poppy ballad. The song plays with some overdubs, some background noises while staying pretty standard. I wouldn’t say this is too far away from some of the ballads of PROMISED LAND era Queensryche. “Night in Poenari” sees the heaviest track on the album. The song starts off rather slow with rain and the sound of footsteps but ominous keyboards begin to move in, creeping up into the song before opening up with choir… then the drum intro and ultra heavy riff. The opening riff almost verges on thrash before fast, choppy, chugging breaks through. From 1:30 to 1:40 is probably my favourite section in the song with the riff and drums picking up speed together, the drums and cymbals feel like they’re exploding with each extra step and the guitars chug right along with them.
Unfortunately the last half of the album doesn’t fair as well as the first half. While “Moonstruck: The Soulish Element” is still strong, though a bit generic, the other three songs in “Timestop”, “Starwatcher” and “Potboy: The Final Fantasy” are rather tiresome. Especially in “Potboy: The Final Fantasy” one gets the feeling that Lalu are throwing everything but the kitchen sink at you in an attempt to create an interesting song and at 18 minutes it tends to wear the listener down, just a bit too much.
ONIRIC METAL is a good debut though somewhat flawed. This is generally what I’ve come to expect from most prog metal releases as a whole as many bands playing this style don’t seem to be very adept at writing full length albums but a good handful of great songs with a heaping handful of overindulgence. This is definitely just the beginning for this project as Vivien Lalu has already announced the sophomore effort, TEMPORAL, for release next year.
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