What is it about the extreme metal and hardcore scene that encourages bands to develop their cover art in so much detail? Is it the sheer level of invention flowing through the artists involved; the inspirational nature of the music, or perhaps the need to represent the myriad emotions that go into making such music. Whatever it is, the juxtaposition between stunningly heavy, and sometimes even ugly, music and remarkable imagery continues to impress and amaze as acts such as Switzerland’s mighty Promethee choose to clothe their devastating assaults in such wonderful artwork.
Of course, as has been noted here many times before, a great cover does not make a great record, but it does indicate a certain care and attention to detail that a band shot simply does not suggest. It makes a statement; provides the opportunity for some great t shirts and makes the concept of spending hard-earned money on a physical copy of a record so much more appealing, an increasingly important factor in today’s troubled market.
Fortunately Promethee are very, very good indeed, and their furious assault is matched every step of the way by their remarkably dextrous musicianship and the breadth of their influences. A short album, ‘nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes’ charges through its ten tracks in thirty-six minutes, aside from resolutely refusing to outstay their welcome, Promethee somehow manage to cram a huge array of disparate elements into the album despite its brevity, meaning that the album is a multi-dimensional attack that speaks both to the heart and to the head as it sparks both adrenalin and inspiration in equal measure. ‘The great deception’ opens in a sea of feedback before a pummelling double-kick assault floods the barriers and the album kicks off with a mixture of crushing, angular riffs and jazzy, fluid solos courtesy of guitarists Ludovic Lacroix and Elric Doswald, both of whom play throughout the album as if their lives depend upon it. The focal point, however, is the enraged bellow of Joshua Orsi who delivers his thoughtful lyrics with a searing anger that is palpable even via the recording. Music fans with eclectic tastes will have fun spotting the many influences the band bring to bear over the course of the album with hardcore being only the loosest of starting points. The nimble ‘banner of lies’ edges into metalcore territory (that is the crushing might of Unearth, rather than the dismal meanderings of KSE), with the guitars flailing away at the listener as Josh cleaves flesh from bone with his unhinged delivery. It is brutally heavy stuff, with no hint of the compromise and conformity that has caused metalcore to become so derided as a genre in recent years. ‘Buried’ segues straight out of the previous track , but takes a step back, allowing the band to flex their creative muscles over a track that emphasises atmosphere over aggression and allows bassist Mathieu Tappolet to demonstrate his quite excellent skills before the band leap into the Meshuggah-esque math-metal of ‘of loss and disgust’, which storms into view without warning and proceeds to lay waste to your brain with its twisted structure and blistering solos.
By running the tracks together, promethee have cunningly crafted an album that only makes sense when listened to as intended (i.e. all at once), defeating the evil machinations of iPod shuffle owners and firmly reminding listeners that the album is an art form, the creation and sequencing of which is every bit as important as the writing of the songs, and therefore due equal respect. The listener is allowed a brief respite before the crushing, sub-sonic rumble of ‘life / less’ is unleashed, but the real treat is ‘Genesis’ which takes its lyrics, somewhat implausibly, from Samuel Beckett’s existential masterpiece ‘waiting for Godot’ and sets them to a brief, terrifyingly heavy battering that still pales in comparison to the full-tilt rampage of ‘the new face of mankind’, which celebrates the band’s hardcore heritage whilst also allowing listeners to fully appreciate the stunning sticksmanship of Nils Haldi whose rock-solid drumming provides an essential backbone to the band’s ambitious soundscapes. ‘Thus spoke’ is a Dillinger Escape Plan referencing assault that applies cyclical riffs and jazzy time signatures to the band’s vicious brand of mayhem, ‘sickness into death’ is a rather more death –metal styled assault that is both dizzyingly heavy and strangely elegant all at once and then concluding track ‘oblivion’ closes the album on a subtle, wind-swept note that, while heavy, still is an adventurous and brave shift in sound for the band to attempt, let alone pull off with such aplomb.
Like the very best bands Promethee’s strength lies in two distinct areas – the breadth of their influences allows them to explore areas of the metal/hardcore genre that few other bands enter into; and the sheer technical ability the band have accumulated allows them to sound utterly confident and in control as they experiment with form and factor. Beautifully packaged, produced with power and precision, and delivered with passion and conviction there really is no weak chink in Promethee’s armour. Intelligent, literate and imaginative this is exactly how the crossover between metal and hardcore should sound (I am loathe to tag the band metalcore, it seems somewhat facile given the depth of their compositional skill) and Promethee have delivered a powerful challenge to anyone brave enough to attempt to follow this endeavour.
Fancy a taste of what you’re missing? Check out this video: