17 June, 2015
Ronan Le Barbare album review
1. Intro, 2. A Furor Normanorum, 3. Ascension Of The Black Insane Heart, 4. Tamdin, 5. In Utero, 6. The Barbarian, 7. Thulsa Doom, 8. Aromael, 9. Amen (Sepultura Cover)
Ronan Le Barbare is a solo project by French guitarist Ronan LeBouc. He has been making music for the last 17 years and the self-tilted album is his debut. Judging by the title, the musician has been touched and inspired by iconic 80's movies about a mighty warrior - Conan The Barbarian - which illustrated such aspects of human nature as brutality, spirituality, honor, vengeance, and sadness.
The album brings a collection of professionally arranged and performed instrumental songs which were mixed and mastered by Ronan's friend Vonig Le Mee. The highly poetic, spiritually moving "Intro" opens the tracklist with light guitar leitmotifs as well as an intriguing synth part. It is then followed by a series of chunky guitar riffs synced very well with drums, which all announce the arrival of "A Furor Normanorum". Technically, this 8+ minutes long track consists of two parts. The first is dynamic and metal-orientated and provides catchy arrangements (loud rhythm guitars vs soloing, background voice samples and slightly intrusive drums). The second is built upon repetitive, heavy guitar parts and sounds less rhythmic, yet captures the essence of human pain and suffering. It's finished with a murky, buzzing, electronic effect.
The introduction to "Ascension Of The Black Insane Heart" is a large quote taken from American Psycho movie where the protagonist, Patrick Bateman was confessing about his inner drama. The song keeps the tension, expressed through altered, extended, and sometime heavier guitar riffs, whereas a woman's lamentation and her insane laughter are the cherry on the pie of the overall atmosphere of this track. The arrangements are quite repetitive and tightly fill in this lengthy suite.
"Tamdin" begins innocently with an almost Victorian or even New Age set of passages. These then become enriched and develop into an epic guitar-driven arrangement. A Tibetan-like invocation comes in surprisingly, lowering the tone of the track and preparing the listener for a heavier ride. The drums, bass, and guitar that follow collaborate nicely, bringing a progressive metal vibe that sounds very vital thanks to a multitude of changes. The heavier part could definitely make a dynamic soundtrack for an action video game. Gloomy voices return to decrease the tempo and lead to an ending where two guitar arrangements (one gradual, the other stretched) collaborate together nicely, building up the mysterious atmosphere.
If you like melodious gothic moods, then the opening of "In Utero" should please you with its 'windy' mood and subtle, positive guitar arrangements. There's a feel of loneliness and isolation here, which slightly warms up until the spirited progressive rock riffs show up. Next, a very well written and performed, and also instantly memorable part of the composition starts. The listeners might vividly imagine a lone guitar virtuoso performing on a high cliff, with a grey sky as background, but also thunder and lightning approaching behind his silhouette. This lengthy composition gives some space for more 'exotic' instruments and ambient sounds such as ocean waves, which it ends with.
Now, in the name of aforementioned Conan, here comes "The Barbarian", with the most memorable Q&A quote from the movie ('Conan! What is best in life?') in the beginning, and the heaviest metal arrangements presented on this album. The rhythm guitars are layered and sound dirty, with shredding bringing us into higher tones. The drum parts are packed tightly and put on the top along with the bass lines. Tuned down, mighty guitar riffs come up next, reminiscent of Ministry's dense industrial metal vibe and enriched with similarly sampled quotes. Ideal for headbanging. Then the chase slows down again and the focus changes to cold melodic guitar riffs, supported by a slightly chaotic background. Both gradually fade away into the end of the song.
"Thulsa Doom" is another sonic trip into the heavy metal lands, with a dramatic performance by James Earl Jones, also sampled from the first Conan movie. Vibrating guitar riffs keep the sound up and spacey, while interestingly altered rhythm guitars attack from the other side like a swarm of angry hornets. The drums are very well matched, and don't steal attention from the initial guitar-driven dynamics. It's the best track of the whole album in my opinion, thanks to lively arrangements and equally interesting sonic backgrounds. It seems as if they make both of your brain’s hemispheres engaged into processing the incoming sound waves. Ronan openly and successfully shows a full spectrum of both playing and songwriting skills here.
You'll need some rest after the exposure to such a heavy cannonade. The eighth track on the album brings acoustic, subtle arrangements written for both guitar and synths. Moreover, it is the song which Ronan wrote for his daughter. Guitar riffs flow in steadily like ocean waves, later shaped into rock arrangements. A modulated sound of bells ends the track giving it a spiritual, ambient vibe.
The album’s closing track is the only one with actual vocals. Ronan chose to cover Sepultura's "Amen" with his very well matched, partly-growled voice that comes very close to the original. When the original song's overall tune is harsher, and more 'underground' thanks to a strongly accented bass, Ronan's version sounds much cleaner & spacey. Yet, his guitar riffs sound heavier and more modern than Sepultura’s. The song features an opera-like singer's voice, though Sepultura's original sounds more exotic, with the classical vibe playing that part here.
Ronan LeBouc seems to enjoy changing arrangements and may not settle down for making a track with just one mood, one arrangement, and all those repetitions that usually appear in popular song structures. The entire debut presents a cross-section of Ronan's best compositions so far, rather than being a concept album, but the music has lots to say to careful listeners. His songwriting and instrumental talents definitely are in their prime for another release, which could cover an original story narrated with several integrated chapters.
(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, Fabryka Magazine, June 15th, 2015. Proofreading: Mike 'Vesper' Dziewoński)
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Buy on: Bandcamp
Reviewed by Fabryka Music Magazine