Album Title: Le Grand Voyage
Date of Release: 20 September 2019
Do you know the feeling you get when an album just clicks? You know, that feeling that is accompanied by goosebumps, where your hairs stand on end, where you try to take the album out of the stereo or off the record player, only to fail miserably and press play again? Well that’s how I’m currently feeling about ‘Le Grand Voyage’ by Klone.
What is even better about all this is that I wasn’t expecting to feel like this about this album. I knew the name Klone and I had heard much of their previous material, even reviewing their last outing on this very website rather favourably. But I simply wasn’t expecting this kind of impact with ‘Le Grand Voyage’, their sixth studio release.
Nevertheless, something told me that I should check it out. Maybe it was my inner voice, maybe it was the gorgeous and striking cover art, or maybe (and more likely), it was the swathes of people who were talking about it in glowing terms over social media. Whatever it was, on a particularly frivolous day, I added ‘Le Grand Voyage’ to my online basket with another our or five records and headed to the checkout. Strangely, it was this record, the first of this new batch to find its way into my stereo and it has barely left since.
As the title hints, the lyrical content of ‘Le Grand Voyage’ takes a look at those big, all-encompassing subjects of life and death, as well as searching for some kind of meaning as to why we are here; what’s the meaning of it all, essentially. As you might therefore expect, the pace and tone of ‘Le Grand Voyage’ is not something that’ll have you leaping around the room with gay abandon; it is a slower-paced, darker and weighty affair, an album more suited to dark evenings, roaring fires and maybe a glass of wine or two as you sit back to allow the music to envelop you.
The material on this record is also very organic-sounding, not over-produced or overly clinical. Instead, whilst there is a clarity and a latent power to the music, everything feels like it was put together by a band, not by a group of musicians spread far and wide across the globe. It lives and breathes, and I really like that.
From the tinkling keys, expressive bass, understated drumming and explosions of measured aggression within the spectacular opener, ‘Yonder’, you know that ‘Le Grand Voyage’ is going to be special. The quiet, introspective verses are dominated by two things: the bass of Jean Etienne Maillard, which is a thing of real beauty and Yann Ligner’s vocals. I just love the guy’s voice – it is full of emotion, power, clever melodic intent and that gravelly tone he has reminds me of the grunge scene. Put it all together and it is a mesmerising performance. Then there are the choruses, that literally bulldoze their way through your speakers; low, chugging, rumbling, churning guitars courtesy of Guillaume Bernard and Aldrick Guadagnino, laying down a molten lava of heaviness that hasn’t been heard to this degree from Klone for a while.
From there, the band continue to deliver the goods. There isn’t a reduction in quality, either in terms of the execution or the songwriting from beginning to end. Each song marries a sense of bleak despair with a hint of hope and expectation, all the while producing a memorable soundtrack upon which the hefty sentiment and lyrical content is carried.
‘Breach’ offers one of the most immediate choruses on the record and is over before you know it, the sign of a great song if you ask me. Mind you, ‘Sealed’ isn’t much different in that the pained and pleading vocals of Ligner float across a bleak yet beautiful soundscape, featuring more exceptional, yet understated performances from the rhythm section. As the track develops, so does the intensity, but the delicate guitar notes that emerge from the gloom are the perfect counterpoint in what is otherwise a composition with a beguiling dreamlike quality throughout, despite the explosions of sound at points within proceedings, which culminate in a gorgeous distorted guitar note that’s allowed to ring out to nothing.
Even the inclusion of a saxophone solo from Matthieu Metzger, that borders on jazz thanks to it’s stubborn refusal to conform, does not ruin ‘Indelible’. Long term readers will know that I hate brass in my music, but here, it fits and I can more than simply tolerate it.
The crescendo at the death of ‘Keystone’, which features rich orchestration, is a fitting end to a track that deliberately remains quiet and brooding for the most part. The juxtaposition of the two creates a very fulfilling aural experience, each competing element making the other stronger and more pronounced.
This impressive understanding and use of inter-song dynamics is a theme that runs through ‘Le Grand Voyage’, with many of the tracks benefitting from a clever use of light and shade. Take the rumbling and commanding ‘Hidden Passenger’ as another perfect example, where some of the heaviest material and most flamboyant drumming from Morgan Berthet appears alongside sections of subtle minimalism, provoking deep thought.
It’s difficult not to draw some comparisons between Klone and current labelmates Katatonia on the chunky, morose and suffocating ‘The Great Oblivion’. In fact, despite the very different structure, the same could be said of the sublime ‘Sad And Slow’, although there is also a demonstrable doom feel to it thanks to its glacial pace and wonderfully emotive vocal delivery.
To round things out is ‘Silver Gate’ and I’m glad, because I’m beginning to run short of positive adjectives and superlatives. This again, is an incredibly engaging song, that starts off ponderously and quietly, all the while being blessed with a subtle melody that is pushing hard to be my very favourite on this album. The honesty and purity within the song is enthralling and, just when you want it to open up and release some pent up aggression, it does. But it doesn’t just let go, the increased intensity is held in check, allowing the melody to remain front and centre, alongside Ligner’s vocals.
It never ceases to excite me when a band comes out of the shadows to blow me away; it is the magic of music and the thrill of a new discovery combining to dizzying effect. And, with ‘Le Grand Voyage’, Klone have created the album of their career to date and have made a very persuasive case for featuring in many an end-of-year ‘best of’ list.
The Score of Much Metal: 95%
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from 2019:
Vanden Plas – The Ghost Xperiment: Awakening
King – Coldest of Cold
Alcest – Spiritual Instinct
Port Noir – The New Routine
Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites
Ray Alder – What The Water Wants
Borknagar – True North
Leprous – Pitfalls
Myrath – Shehili
Prehistoric Animals – Consider It A Work Of Art
Voyager – Colours In The Sun
Odd Logic – Last Watch Of The Nightingale
Avandra – Descender
Darkwater – Human
ZW Band / Zonder Wehrkamp – If It’s Real
Teramaze – Are We Soldiers
Rendezvous Point – Universal Chaos
Our Destiny – Awakening
Evergrey – The Atlantic
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: