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Clock Me Jesus - Abitbollus

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Artist: Abitbollus / Genre: Hard Rock & Metal

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      19.09.2007 21:06
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      Abitbollus' second album (2006).

      Mad young French band Abitbollus combine industrial black metal played at speed with odd and unintelligible dramatic and comedic sketches (unintelligible if you don’t speak French, that is) to earn the generous moniker of ‘avant-garde black metal,’ for wont of a more fitting term for this sometimes enjoyable, but mostly confounding mess. ‘Clock Me Jesus’ is their second album.

      The line-up for this band is fittingly unusual, featuring a wildly unnecessary three bassists, two of which play guitars most of the time but presumably double up in the studio. The enigmatically named Guy limits himself to vocals, an area for which the album is certainly notable even when failing to account for taste, and Régine handles all of the prominent keyboards. Unlike similarly cheap underground bands, the substitution of a drum machine for a real drummer is quite painfully and irritatingly obvious throughout, which detracts from the purity and intensity of the songs and brings them dangerously close to industrial territory. For this weird release, the band also drafted in a couple of bad actors (or perhaps played the roles themselves) whose dialogue opens and closes the majority of songs, while serving to spoil what little there is to enjoy in the middle.

      Not being fluent in French even to the smallest degree I was left completely in the dark as to whether these were separate encounters, or part of a larger conceptual story interweaving throughout the juvenile angry music, but as foreign language has never obstructed my enjoyment of European metal before, I decided to let it pass. Doubtless a French speaker would get a lot more from the album, though the amateurish performances and rather silly sense of humour would likely yield a disappointing result; perhaps ignorance is bliss and less is indeed more in this instance. So on to the songs...

      1. Capillo Tractum
      2. Cook of Revelations
      3. 4PQ 2WC
      4. Black Metal Uten Strev
      5. Lord of the Strings
      6. M666 – Télévision Bizarre
      7. Seventh Son of Massey Fergusson (live)
      8. Henry Death
      9. La Soupe aux Choux
      10. Tof
      11. Melissa
      12. Das Gross Rigolad

      When the band desists from messing around with sound effects, delays and badly recorded spoken word pieces, the music is rather traditional black metal in the speedy and aggressive style, varying little from song to song with only the occasional interesting riff or change, all of which sound generically derivative in any case. The drums are always right at the front of the aural experience which is a shame as their mechanical, clicking nature is quite distracting, giving the whole thing less of a raw, cousin’s-garage quality than most low-budget releases in the genre, and the guitars and basses are subsequently forced to grind away fuzzily in the background. Guy’s vocals are the most interesting and varied feature, moving through almost his full range from gurgled brutal-death-metal-style growls to black metal shrieks and unison punk yells in the anthemic opening song (and going through several languages as he does so) before completing the set with a clean vocal approach in softer passages of later songs. While some songs such as ‘M666,’’Henry Death’ and ‘Melissa’ offer a fairly straightforward black metal assault, the rest of the album at least strives to offer something different and unique, even if that does mostly extend to overlong passages of French blokes laughing or random xylophone filler to further prove their ‘avant-garde’ credentials.

      The better songs tend to be the slightly longer ones, as the band clearly put some more effort into justifying the extended lengths. ‘Cook of Revelations’ features some nice, if primitive piano work that evolves into Cradle of Filth-style horror organs as the song continues before ending with a nice mock-classical coda, and the vocal performance accompanies it on this journey from spoken word to a really deep and growly central section, culminating in a nice Viking metal-inspired chant, though all the same I could do without the stupid duck quacking sound effect. The mock-epic ‘Lord of the Strings’ (this is the level of humour we’re dealing with here) actually succeeds in sounding rather grand and important, featuring some more piano and a dominant bagpipe that is commendable for playing something that doesn’t sound Scottish. Even when the inevitable metal arrives at around the half-way point, it’s restricted to a slower and more methodical gallop than a blasting assault, which serves to preserve the atmosphere, whatever exactly that is supposed to be. ‘La Soupe aux Choux’ acts as a rather pleasant, flute-based (or at least, keyboard pretending to be a flute-based) lead-in to ‘Tof,’ which deserves credit for being perhaps the ‘straightest’ track on the album, and not a bad one in its successful use of alternating fast and slow sections.

      Probably the best song here is the allegedly ‘live’ performance of ‘Seventh Son of Massey Fergusson,’ an obvious nod to Iron Maiden’s album and song of a slightly similar name, the narrative part of which is reproduced by the vocalist in a rare English performance towards the end of this song. The Iron Maiden influence extends to the overall sound of the song, though it’s anchored more in their earlier classic ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ with its tolling bells, slow build-up and melodic lead guitars, and I certainly prefer the slower and more careful approach to the all-out anger of the other songs. Despite its claims to the contrary, I seriously doubt this is a genuine live performance by this little-known band, particularly as the crowd response is fairly immense and over-enthusiastic, even to the extent of some screaming groupie types at fairly random intervals that sound slightly too close to the microphone to be genuine. Still, the false live sound adds to the atmosphere, even if the song gets a little dull for lack of serious ideas as it draws to a conclusion.

      The most disappointing sections of the album musically speaking, as I’m not really able to comment on the lyrical or conceptual approach, are those in which the lyrical and conceptual approach become far too dominant at a cost to the music. ‘4PQ 2WC’ introduces the male and female vocals between some average black metal, accompanied by a toilet flush and a bad echo effect as if the whole thing was recorded in someone’s kitchen, before leading out with an acoustic section performed in mock white trash style, similar to Faith No More’s ‘RV’ only less good, and in French with an affected American accent. The very last song features no metal whatsoever, led by violins (or keyboard violin), and is entirely devoted to concluding the story, featuring the sound effect of smacking lips but really not offering anything to the non-French listener, and arguably very little even if you do understand it. By far the weirdest cut of the album is ‘Black Metal Uten Strev,’ in which the male and female take turns to seemingly repeat a phrase (with slight alterations each time), while a brief slab of generic black metal is hastily laid down in-between. This occurs eight consecutive times. I have no idea what’s going on.

      ‘Clock Me Jesus’ is an album that can’t help but entirely alienate foreign listeners, and its reliance on crafting a storyline through its twelve songs proves to be a drawback in this area. It’s not only that the whole thing’s in French; I have a great many such concept albums that allow the lyrics and storyline to impose far too much on the music (you can even see it happen to some extent on Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ and The Who’s rock operas), and it’s clear that this rather amateur job was trying to achieve too much without the talent and ability to see it through. The use of the numbers six and seven in the titles of those respective tracks indicate a clear focus on the ordering of songs, while I can only guess about the larger clock metaphor: there are twelve songs, corresponding to a clock face, and it seems that the band intended the album to last for exactly one hour in order to help prove their ‘point’ – they must have been dismayed to learn that it ends up coming in at fifty-nine seconds over an hour. In a way I quite enjoy being kept in the dark, and I certainly don’t expect bands such as this to translate their lyrics into English for the benefit of the few individuals who track them down from overseas – some of my favourite albums are even written in ancient and dead languages (I sound like someone trying to defend themselves from racism by name-dropping their black friends), but if that was the case, why are some of the titles in English?

      Abitbollus are a very confusing and rather silly band who won’t satisfy fans of black metal, avant-garde music or concept albums, and I can only presume that they chose such an alphabetically beneficial band name to rope in suckers like me who have unwisely decided to go through their extensive music collection in alphabetical order. I am clearly insane, but not as insane as Guy and the guys.

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