V13 – ‘Overlook Hotel’ Album Review

Great music can, and does, transcend the boundaries of nationality, language and even religion. There are countless examples from a sea of Polish fans staring, transfixed at David Gilmour performing ‘Comfortably numb’ (and singing along to every single word) to Iron Maiden’s appeal the world over or even Rammstein’s massive popularity. Nonetheless there still remains the snobbish principle that, in general, only music with English lyrics is worth listening to. This, as anyone who’s caught up with any of the music available on the international scene knows, is abject nonsense and it is a shame that certain areas of the mainstream press remain so resolutely closed minded. Anyway, sermon for the day over; what we have here is a French band who take all the best elements of Neurosis, Isis  and Oxbow, rise to the challenge of making them accessible without compromise and then add French vocals which only add to the overall atmosphere of the music as singing in their native tongue allows the band to be more naturally expressive without the loss of feeling  that translation inevitably brings.

‘Overlook hotel’ is V13’s second album and, the press release helpfully informs us, it follows on from over 150 shows Europe-wide. This experience is evident on the release as V13 display a breadth of song-writing nous and a confidence that lengthy touring and playing together is liable to bring. Fusing hardcore metal, experimental jazz reminiscent of Sonic Youth covering obscure Deus B sides and punk, V13 are furiously entertaining from the off and whether you are a certified Francophile or not, you’d have to be the most outrageous type of xenophobe not to get a kick out of their furiously tight, avant-garde aggression. ‘Renegat’ kicks things off in fairly straight forward style – a metal-edged punk track that has a gloriously gritty production and distorted vocal that recalls Iggy’s famously unhinged ‘Raw power’ updated for a generation unshockable by anything not in a mask and boiler suit. Next up is ‘tu as choisis d’entrer’ that comes across as a turbo-charged Mclusky with overtones of Botch, Isis and Neurosis thrown in. Sung in the band’s native French it’s an inspiring, crushingly heavy song that houses a thunderous chorus performed by a rhythm section who simply roll over the competition like a tank. ‘Black sheep’ is a one minute exercise in awesome punk brutality that has the ferocious kick of ‘tourettes’ from Nirvana’s In utero before jumping into the random, jazz work out that is ‘Alexandra’ which sounds like a heavy-metal-lounge version of Dillinger escape plan.

‘Gouache’ is next, and it continues the band’s impressive use of dynamics to stunning effect. It’s a vitriol-filled number with fantastic vocals backing up the astonishing music which somehow couples the stop/start dynamic of Helmet with the furious metal assault of the Deftones. The ludicrously titled ‘Mais ils ne renforcement pas le camp enemi qui comptait déjà des millions d’imbeciles, et ou l’on est objectivement condamne a etre un imbecile’ is a subtle, slightly menacing exercise in atmosphere, with a captivating melody and a dark streak running through it. It provides a welcome moment of relief from the metallic assault found elsewhere but which still fails to prepare you for the oddity that is ‘Pygmalian’ which I won’t ruin by describing it for you. ‘Chute libre’ sees the return of the fury, with overwrought vocal and seething guitars. ‘Overlook hotel’ is a stunning. Seven-minute long track that sojehow takes all of the elements listed above and combines them into one mind-boggling epic leaving just ‘moloko vellocet’ to close this remarkable disc.

There will be those (probably the same people who don’t like foreign films because they have to read the subtitles) who will be put off this album because it is not sung in English. What the hell, it’s their loss. This is a stunning album that is full of invention, verve and vitality and it warrants lengthy, repeated listens because there is so much going on it takes an age to decipher it all – the mark of a very, very good album indeed. For those open-minded enough to embrace V13, you’ll find an album that you’ll treasure, filled with daring, original songs and a sense of adventure that is entirely absent from the latest, mega-selling exercise in marketing that makes up the new Korn album. This is the sort of music that inspires as much as it surprises and is well worth purchasing. Truly excellent.

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