Let’s get the superlatives out of the way right now: Uneven Structure‘s debut album Februus is the greatest album to come out of the djent movement. There are contenders, for sure. Masstaden. One. Periphery. Each album was groundbreaking in its own right and contributed great things to the genre, but when examine progressive songwriting abilities, emotional content, scope of dynamic, and overall ambition, Februus rose above the rest. Needless to say, this provides a bit of a challenge for the French prog unit; some bands that find themselves wedged into a niche fail to find much light trying to claw out from behind the shadows cast by a monolithic debut. Factor in lineup changes and nearly six years between records, the hype and anticipation built for their sophomore full-length might seem insurmountable. Can lightening strike twice, or can Februus‘ power be attributed to a fluke of being in the right place at the right time?
Fortunately, the follow up La Partition is no slouch, offering another massive, ambitious record which builds upon the conceptual universe that began with Februus, which storied the journey between birth (or perhaps a spiritual awakening) and self-actualization and transcendence. Now, the story moves from that introspective examination of personal growth to the outer world and helping others seek completion, with the character working to retrieve a set of music sheets for a family of mermaids so that they may sing again.
At just under an hour long in length, La Partition flows in a similar manner as Februus as a continuous listening experience, but strays in overall tone and technique. La Partition is broken into three distinct movements or acts in a development of the long-play structure of Februus in a way that better allowing the band to explore various conceptual settings and aesthetics while developing musical ideas in self-containment.
For example, the album’s first trio of songs are most reminiscent of the style of music heard on Februus, with bright ambient guitars and syncopated riffing characterized by uptempo songs and a sense of urgency, yet taking the time to foreshadow the darker passages that follow. “Alkaline Throat” opens with piano that pops in and out of the song under grooving angular melodies and roaring guitar leads. “Brazen Tongue” carries a noisy haze and toys with start/stop riffing and subtle string flourishes. “Crystal Teeth” is more meditative, building the song around a kaleidoscopic drum and bass groove before closing the section out with an expressive guitar solo, something entirely new to the band for La Partition.
The record’s midsection slows the tempo as the band augments their prog metal style with grunge influences, particularly in the Alice in Chains style vocal harmonies that open “Incube.” There, a “Frost“-like pulse builds under frontman Matthieu Romarin’s most compelling vocal performance yet. Tensions build, but the band are restrained in their efforts of actually releasing that tension. “Succube” takes an uneasy mystical quality throughout, relying on writhing basslines and psychedelic guitar effects before setting the stage for “Funambule,” a dark take on the band’s Meshuggah-informed style that we first heard way back as a single in 2015.
The final third of the album contains some of the band’s most vicious work to date. “The Bait” takes its time exploring melodic ambient progressions and a brief flurry of tremolo-picked melodies before bridging the moody nature of the previous act to the crushing finale to come with a terrifying breakdown and swathes of screeching guitars. “Our Embrace” approaches sludge with its deep, trudging riffing, but opens up as a piece that seems to be reflecting on the album’s progress thus far, providing a summation of the album’s mission statement. The finale “Your Scent” is explosive and heavy, with frenetic and unhinged riffing, blastbeats, and prominent use of low growls and ending abruptly.
La Partition is a dynamic record, for sure, and while its peaks never approach that of Februus, its valleys reach much deeper. This record expands the Uneven Structure playbook to include a variety of sounds, textures, and tones, showing that there was some significant development and growth made in the six years since their debut. It’s as ambitious as Februus, but does it approach its greatness? Only time will tell for a record as dense as La Partition, but so far, so good.
La Partition is out April 21st through Long Branch Records. You can purchase it here. You’ve been waiting for this for six years though so you probably already knew that.