The musical UFO alert of the end of 2016 is coming from France. It is an album produced by Apathia Records: Samen of band öOoOoOoOoOo.
Let’s start by this quirky name. In French, it is pronounced « Chenille » (caterpillar in English and you may now recognize a stylized version of this small animal in this sequence of o). Quirky of name, but also of sound, the French band has indeed a strong personality. This reputation rests upon its members. We can salute the performance of multi-instrumentalist Baptiste Bertrand, helped by Aymeric Thomas (of band Pryapism) as session drummer, and some inspired guests. But, of course, if there is in this band a person with many persons inside of her, it is certainly Asphodel. Formerly the leading singer of bands Penumbra and Pin-Up Went Down, this woman has an outstanding and protean voice. She can literally do everything with her vocal chords and diaphragm.
Samen can be bought on Itunes and bandcamp.
Follow öOoOoOoOoOo on Facebook.
Perhaps first listening, you will hear an exclusive recording of the many personas of a poltergeist or someone being possessed by a legion of demons… regardless, you will surely be convinced to have a fine a case of musical schizophrenia. Think about a different kind of contemporary art gallery, an avant-garde exhibition. The intention of Samen is to make different artworks communicate together, as well with the listener. It is breaking the codes of art, prompting and provoking something more than comforting. Hence the versatile melting pot of musical influences and types of voices.
öOoOoOoOoOo doesn’t really have labels, but it is usually put in the metal music category. And indeed, the metal riffs are presents, as well as the growls. But already there, Asphodel is breaking the clichés of metal. Yes, a woman can do the death growl. This prowess has bamboozled many metal magazines, writing about Samen. She perfectly emulates many famous voices of metal music, such as Amy Lee of Evanescence (especially on Bark City (A Glimpse of Something) and LVI) and Emily Autumn (on rousing first track Rules of the Show), as well as Dani Filth (on Chairleg Thesis and Hemn Be Rho Die Samen)!
Yet, the musical universe of Samen doesn’t restrict itself to hard rock. Some singing parts are reminding of Dolores O’Riordan and Patti Smith (especially on Purple Tastes Like White) and there are some references to rap music, on Fumigène and on Fucking Freaking Futile Freddy, where Asphodel does an impressive impersonation of Zach de la Rocha. Soul music is also on the air with Baptiste doing his best Barry White on Well-Oiled Machine, and there are hints of Janelle Monae’s The ArchAndroid.
We could easily make a little list of the many voices dialoging throughout the record, but it would ruin all the element of surprise. Let’s just say that the show referred to in the first track is indeed a freak show and the use of oddities such as overtone singing is giving both a primal and disturbing note, not to mention some whimsical interludes, with 8bit and Yolandi Vi$$er-like parts.
The themes brought up in the lyrics are also quite extravagant. They go from feminism, veganism, and speciesism to an anti-Freud protests with concerns about intestinal health (on most playful track of the album, No Guts = No Masters)… Of course, the band has a bizarre sense of humor, their name can testify.
However, there is also darkness lying beside the jokes. The final song, Hemn Be Rho Die Samen, whence the album takes its name, has almost an invented language to express how psychological pain can induce physical pain. It is also why the guttural, throat singing is used, for the idea of regurgitation. If it is right that Samen means « together » in Dutch, it is just a coincidence that goes well with the artwork and concept of polyphony. The common thread is obviously organic, with the flesh exposed on the cover (censored on social networks), the vocal orgy and bodily sounds, with throat, tongue and objects (a puckish « bathroom solo » with hairbrushes on I Hope You Sleep Well). The artwork by Asphodel (aka Aurélie R.), is piling up naked bodies just as if the album is piling up tessituras.
Everything is so physical; synesthesia is even used to push the experience to its utmost. The idea behind the pictures is a white noise, and the color grey is haunting Samen, with some touches of purple. Song Purple Tastes Like White says it all. From guts, bruises and rotting flesh, we turn to light and ashes again. And it’s precisely the taste of ashes that the end of the album left in the mouth of the listener, awaiting for the next round.
Once you’ve understood it, it is one of the most astonishing and unsettling albums you would ever heard.