"The Great Maddening" - CD

"Imperium Grotesque" - CD


Ladies and gentlemen, welcome one and all to Le Grand Guignol. Please purchase your tickets and take a seat. Through the door to you left you will find refreshments, and should you at any time require medical assistance the doctor is situated towards the back of the hall. Oh, what’s that you say? Why would I have a medical emergency at a theatre performance? That’s a valid enough question, but right now there is just not enough time for a Q&A. Lights down, curtains up. Enjoy the show!

Like you, I was curious to learn what exactly a Guignol is, and what it is that makes it so grand. Google was quick to respond to such curiosity and threw up a website which provided answers to all of my questions and more, and had me rather enthralled in the process. Le Grand Guignol was in fact a theatre situated in Paris in the late 1800/early 1900’s that became popular for its mixture of comedy and gruesome plays which regularly had the more faint-hearted onlookers conking out in their seats. The claustrophobic intimacy of the small venue was crucial in exploiting audiences to the fullest extent that really made the plays come alive when the victim was, for example, trapped in a room with the killer. Decapitations, torture, stabbings…they all occurred on multiple occasions here, night after night, and among the regular themes covered in these grim and macabre tales was, yep, you guessed it; madness (well, it had to be really, didn’t it!?)

It all fits neatly together, you see…not that it even took that visit to Google to tell me that there was something insanely theatrical about this lot, but it just acts as that final piece of the puzzle, the part that confirms everything and says “Hey, you were right!” This isn’t the kind of album that you simply listen to in such simple terms; it is music that encapsulates your imagination in the kind of way that will have you drawing up your own grotesque fantasy in your mind to which the music will simply become a dark and twisted score to accompany the images. For me, it depicts a world of surreal fantastical horror that is dark and sinister, yet filled with vibrant colour and mysticism. There is so much that I could say about this album, but then that would omit all element of surprise. In places there is such a regal and grandiose feel to this, with a certain renaissance-like elegance stretched across these eleven tracks and there is an air of sophistication in the classical compositions that I would compare to Haggard. It’s easy to liken this to an idyllic place of luxury and wealth where the lords and ladies gather for champagne and revelry, and yet beneath this cockaigne veneer lies a hidden underbelly, cleverly concealed in the basement with the hundreds of bodies that have been left to decompose.

There is a strong black metal backbone to this album, although it doesn’t manifest in such a straightforward and obvious way. Take the symphonic style of Dimmu Borgir and twist it into a different, more avant-garde shape; you can still recognise the fundamental elements even though they are presented in a totally different manner. I love the maddened march of ‘Cirqus L’ and the craziness that brings ‘Degenesis’ to its final conclusion after a bit of initial mind-play. The booming spoken word parts, notably on this track and ‘Mens Insana in Corpore Insana’ are comparable to those of Lord Byron, and the cosmic keyboard flourishes add a further Bal Sagothian flavour to the pot. ‘Madness and her Thousand Young’ is a particular highlight on this album, as it begins with the haunting weeping widow cries that neatly follow the flat-lining of its predecessor, although these cries are pushed aside as a duet of rasped male vocals and sublime soprano operatics emerge in a beauty and the beast fashion that works really well. The maddened cries return throughout the album, for example on ‘Finis Coronat Opus’, which fits bursts of mania in the midst of flowing melodies which lend a perfect backdrop to the female vocals, before all gets swept away in the blackened fury.

A thoroughly enjoyable listen, that is recommended if you are bored of straight forward, unimaginative Dimmu clones and are after something a bit unique and unusual. With this album being the first release for Maddening Media, I put two and two together and figured out that the label is in fact owned by Guignol frontman Philip Breuer. One thing is for sure; if they come to the UK I would be first to go see them, as I bet they would put on one hell of a show!
Luci Herbert