Open minds/personal pronouns alert. Confession time: I’ve been trying to review this album for months. If you’ve been following the blog this year, you know that I have a pretty good turn around rate for reviews. However, this one has just haunted me in the best kind of way. What is Contrast by Clément Belio? It is a practice in imitation as inspiration. It is the essence of eclecticism. It is bewildering, delighting, decentralized and insane. By the composer’s own words, it is a patchwork of everything he loves in music, thrown into the melting pot of his brain. And so, I’ve waited for months for this to coalesce into a review. This is my feeble attempt at finally jotting it down.
It would be tempting to take a very certain route when approaching this album and that is to play the “I Spy” Game: Jazz/Metal Version. The whole point of this album is to quote musicians Clément enjoys and work them into a greater whole. Thus, Devin Townsend hits you full in the face on the aptly named ‘Imitation’. And I mean full in the face: epic chorus, guitars, everything just screams Devin Townsend. ‘Revive’ quotes TesseracT in numerous spots, an exact rendition of a riff from A Sense of Gravity‘s ‘Trichotillomania’ lives in it as well. Later on, we have Animals as Leaders in ‘Culminance’ and David Maxim Micic drops in for a moment.
But I would strongly caution against just taking that path. Yes, the quotes are done in an amazing fashion and they make the album a joy to listen to for any fan of progressive metal. But this album also has a ton of originality on it which lives in the spaces between the obvious tributes. ‘Swell & Waves’ or ‘DROP THE feather…’ are some of the best jazz/rock tracks I’ve heard in a long time. The haunting spaces of ‘Au passage de Cygne’ or ‘Kali’ are expertly produced and performed. This would be a very easy fact to forget if you focus just on the quotations: Clément Belio is extremely talented. At everything.
What drives that point home is the astounding production on this album. Seeing as this album has it all, including Meshuggah/Humanity’s Last Breath spliced with industrial (???) on track ‘Impostors’, it’s amazing that it sounds cohesive in any way. And it really does. The linchpin that holds this together is the production technique Clément went with. Instead of being stubborn and insisting on one production approach for the entire album, Clément gives each track its own treatment and room to breathe. The position of instruments, the mixing levels and the overall approach just swims and changes to fit each track’s tone and heart. From this myriad liquidness comes cohesion.
Doesn’t make sense? Don’t blame me. This album makes little sense which is why reviewing it was such a task for me. But I’m glad I did. This is undoubtedly one of the finest albums released this year and I’m glad I got a chance to tell you about it. At the end of the day, the quotes of bands we know and love reel you in but you stay for one simple fact: Clément Belio is young, talented and passionate. He’s not afraid to announce to all who might want to hear: “This is the music I love right now. Imitation is a supreme source of inspiration. Here we go!”.
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Clément Belio’s Contrast gets…