LE GRAND GUIGNOL, formerly known
as DREGOTH, then VINDSVAL, hails from Luxembourg and were formed
back in 1996. Catalogued under Symphonic Extreme Metal, most
members have gained experience, or still do so, in bands like
FALKENBACH, ISENHEIM, ORDO DRACONIS, ABSTRACT RAPTURE, RIVENDELL,
and others. In other words: they know their Metal. With VINDSVAL
the guys wanted to do something special: preserving the harshness
of extreme metal, yet adding wickedly catchy tunes, symptomizing
in deep-felt emotions and thus creating gloomy atmospheres,
which the band refers to as "grotesque metal". A first
result is their (re-released) debut "Imperium Grotesque"
(1999). But when opting for a specific course, a name change
had to happen and thus LE GRAND GUIGNOL was born in 2006.
Early this year the band signed
with Maddening Media and the first album has been out since
the 24th of August under the title "The Great Maddening"
with cover art by the Belgian artist Kris Verwimp (MANEGARM,
THYRFING, CROM, SUIDAKRA, ...). Just like its namesake (a French
genre-theatre around the blade-crossing of the 19th and 20th
century), LE GRAND GUIGNOL are ready to rise the curtain in
order to let the public partake in their enrapturing tales of
madness. The mastering of the album was done at Galaxy Studios
in Belgium, who also worked for bands like MANOWAR, RAMMSTEIN,
RHAPSODY (OF FIRE), and many others.
It's not easy to comment on/discuss
each song as the band has put a lot of diversity in the majority
of the 11 tracks. "Cirqus L." is a bombastic, orchestral
track serving as introduction to the play, since that's how
this album should be seen: a play, but without the visuals.
It's up to the listener to imagine what's going on. If you've
heard one or both parts of MANTICORA's "The Black Circus",
you sort of know how "Cirqus L." sounds.
"Degenesis (Amor & Seuche)"
clocks in just before 9 minutes and offers a nice mix of harsh
vocals, great orchestrations, very diverse melodies coming from
the keyboards (be it a piano, an accordion, violin, ...), heavy
riffs, different kinds of drumming (metal, folkish, ...), topped
with a sauce of pure madness, as found on other tracks too.
The diversity also comes out via the different parts of the
song: you get an introduction with horses arriving, the heaviness
kicks in and right when you think this is the course for a certain
time, all this falls away for something more peaceful, brought
by the piano and bird samples. After this 'down' moment, it's
back to before. And so the flow of the song goes up and down,
with each part interlocking flawlessly with the next, presenting
you the various stages in the play.
Orchestrations play a big role
and the violin and piano even more in "Dimension: Canvas",
where the atmosphere is a quite mysterious. The vocal parts
make this play even more alive, be it harsh, clean or screamy.
The many side-steps are just amazingly implemented: a heavy
part, a softer one (flute, violin), something atmospheric and
then plunging into a dramatic piece. The guitar helps to make
the song fuller. The result is very well-executed and very Progressive.
The heavier parts, where the piano defines the melody, remind
of the "Nexus Polaris" album from COVENANT.
"Mens Insana In Corpore Insano"
starts with a ghostly, sighing sung part, backed by a music
box and orchestral elements., as if the person has really gone
mad. Looking at the title, it's only logical. Slowly the tension
is being built, before total madness breaks loose through the
guitar and violin. This song has moments that remind of the
theatrical songs of LACRIMOSA. Tillo Wolf should have made a
guest appearance here. ;-) Heavy parts are perfectly interwined
with symphonic, operatic pieces. This is pure theatrical Metal
and the music box from the beginning is still here.
Lots of crazy laughter and a Japanese-sounding
musicbox form the start of "Madness And Her Young".
Female operatic vocals set in the backing vocals, as Philip
screams his lungs out. The basic symphony meets Metal reminds
a bit of RHAPSODY's "Dawn Of Victory" album (2000),
but we're not dealing with a Power Metal album here. Next to
the screaming, Philip also goes for an operatic-like approach,
going slightly dement. An organ is added to stress the gloominess
of the atmosphere. The drumming is always a key element in Progressive
Metal, as the pattern changes many times. Here too, Michel has
his hands and feet full changing tempo, grooves, one or double
kickdrumming and more. Another top job.
"The Healing Process"
starts accoustically and its first part is even very peaceful/relaxing.
Soon enough the tempo goes up and Symphonic Death/Black Metal
takes over. After the Progressive tracks, it's time for something
more normal, so to speak, although the Luxembourgians made sure
the song would be monotonous. Around the third minute there's
a trumpet break to pave the way for the solo, which bursts loose
in a maniacal manner.
""Finis Coronat Opus"
gets built up very slowly: a soft, operatic piece and a hapsychord,
heaviness kicking in and then it's power all the way. Shrieks
during the verses, female operatic vocals in between and even
a few spoken female parts. An accoustic break serves to let
the story-telling come through, before the rest of the song
Fast drumming with double kicks,
shrieky vocals and chugga-riffs are the ingredients for "I,
Who Brought Forth Myself". Another 'normal song, with here
the violin and flute being the spices that make this song more
attractive and interesting. Without these two elements, it would
be pretty standard stuff, although there's nothing wrong with
A Celtic/Folkish with orchestral
support intro for "Alsuntia". All instrumental and
in the vein of the latest SUMMONING works. This song actually
forms the intro to "Lucilinburhuc", which has the
same basis, but then with the guitars and blastbeating drums
making it Metal. Later in the song, a Folkish singing moment
follows. Here too, the trumpets play a vital role. Add the shrieky
vocals and you can obviously again refer to SUMMONING, to name
one example, since SUMMONING is still quite different, but there
are tangent places.
"In, Beyond Or Through"
ends the mad play. It's not even two minutes long, so you could,
in a way, consider it an outro. Fully instrumental, like "Alsuntia",
but the orchestral aspect dominates all the way through, although
it does get assistance from the guitars and drums in the last
tens of seconds. A very outro, even if more could be done with
The band members themselves call
their music Grotesque Metal, but you could just call it Theatrical
Metal. Ok, easier put: take HAGGARD, LACRIMOSA, THERION, DIMMU
BORGIR (or any other similar band), a sniff of Power Metal,
a bit of Folk (e.g. FALKENBACH). Blend it all together and you
should come pretty close to what LE GRAND GUIGNOL has accomplished
with "The Great Maddening". Symphony meets Extreme
Metal, prefectly composed and executed. You have to take your
time with this album, since you won't hear it all the first
time. Once you're drawn into this 'play', this musical piece
of theater, the transition to the real world won't be so easy.
Very recommended material, to say the least.