Au-Dela Du Delir
01. Godevin le Vilain (2:57)
02. Les longues nuits d'Isaac (4:10)
03. Si j'étais le Messie (3:00)
04. Balade pour une Orgie (3:22)
05. Exode (5:00)
06. La bataille du Sucre (Inclus: La colère des Dieux) (6:30)
07. Fils de Lumiere (3:52)
08. Au delà du Délire (9:02)
- Eric Bibonne / vocals
- Jean Michel Brezovar / guitar, vocals
- Christian Decamps / keyboards, vocals
- Francis Decamps / keyboards, vocals
- Daniel Haas / bass, guitar
- Gerald Jelsch / drums
- Michel Lefloch / vocals
- Henry Loustau / violin
First things first: like them or not, and no matter how are you look, there is nothing else out there quite like Ange. They are one of those bands who are popular, prolific, an inspiration to others, and yet their sound has never been successfully emulated - in a word, Ange are unique. And that is the only thing they have in common with other (few) prog bands. Uniqueness.
Now, Ange's third album is a real treat. From the artwork recalling "Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry" to some of the lyrics straight out of medieval imagination, Au-delà du Délire apears to be a trip into the collective subconscious of the Middle Ages french commoner - from his mundane worries to his thoughts and relationship with power, religion and human interaction, from his questioning of the world around him to his visions of the uncertain future. I am usually not one to be swept away by lyrics - I often say that if one wants to find a good read, he should look for it in books, not music albums. Yet even I can't remain indifferent to the lyrics delivered in this album.
Make no mistake: despite their name, there is nothing angelical about this music. It is highly profane, anti-religious, one might even say diabolical - for lead singer Christian Decamps is truly a man possessed. Knowing your French will be a great bonus when listening to Au-delà du Délire, but even if you don't, the words Decamps sings will still have an impact - his voice is an instrument, and a very powerful one (along with Hammill and Di Giacomo, it is the best voice in Progressive Rock combining power and grace - perhaps even slightly better than those two); but it is an instrument that delivers remarkable texts. Musically this album ranges from sombre to whimsical, from delicate to violent. Ange's distinct keyboard sound (which I previously thought resembled a mellotron but wasn't quite so; I recently read it is a Viscount organ through a modded Hammond reverb - whatever that is) provides an eerie atmosphere to the music, while the great electric guitar playing gives it a rough edge. These three instruments (if we count Decamps voice as one) are the backbone of every Ange album I've heard. And what a mighty backbone it is! The sound often feels rough and unclean, courtesy of the heavy and impressive sound of the organ, and the sometimes distorted guitar riffs and solos.
Godevin le Vilain opens the album with a delicate violin intro soon accompanied by the eerie keyboard, vocals and some power chords. It also opens the surrealist lyrical journey the album will convey. Descamps vocals are only mildly showcased in this first track, which features the first great guitar/keyboard interaction in the album. The opening violin intro provides the ending to the song, which is soon followed by Les Longues Nuits d'Isaac. An emulation of wind and a good guitar riff open this one, just before the song tones down and Christian Descamps begins his vocal tour-de- force, backed by the atmospheric keyboard. He is then accompanied by the acoustic guitar in a more delicate passage, still with the ever omnipresent organ. A slow vocal build-up then begins after which the band deliver the goods with a powerful performance, with loads of heavy chords and very emotional singing. Si J'étais le Messie is mostly a vocal track, with Christian Descamps speaking, only slightly accompanied by occasional bursts of instruments. The backing music itself begins to take form after the first minute. Towards the middle, an instrumental passage dominated by the organ takes shape, only to fade and return to Decamps increasingly fierce declamation, both in tone and lyrics content. Ballade Pour Une Orgie is a more gentle ballad, quite medieval sounding, musically consisting of the acoustic guitar and harpsichord-sounding electric piano interplay. The vocals are delicate and soothing on this track, which features more than just Christian singing. A couple of keyboard-created orchestral backing develops in the background, as Christian leads the song to its end, which almost segues into the next track. Exode is a piece of symphonic prog bliss, with a grand opening by the keyboards. Au-delà du Délire has their most hermetic lyrics in this song, which are also delivered quite delicately by Descamps, but not without a good dose of theatricality. Dominated by keyboards and acoustic guitar, it gives way to a grand finale with the famous organ/electric guitar interplay, here marvellously played in a great cavalcading rhythm, featuring what is probably the best guitar solo in the album. The following track, La Bataille du Sucre, is a bit the sombre piece in both theme and music. Beginning like a carnival carrousel, it is followed by multi-character vocalization, as the story of a shortage of sugar turned into war unfolds. The aftermath of the war is conveyed by the ghostly second half of the track, La Colére des Dieux, so marked by that typical Ange sonority, that you will simply have to hear in order to understand what I am unsuccessfully trying to describe. Fils de Lumière is the closest you will find in this album to a traditionally-build-up/chorus-structured rock song. It still features the trademark interplay between organ and guitar in a great middle-section instrumental crescendo. This is repeated after the second build-up, this time with more intensity and bursting into an instrumental finale where the electric guitar and organ are present with some more great soloing. The track segues into the acoustic guitar intro of the final track,Au-delà du Délire, which begins like a medieval- sounding dance, if it weren't for the electric keyboards. It does convey a very strong medieval fair feeling, though, which is quite a feat using mostly 20th century electric instruments. This first half is filled with all kinds of different vocals showcasing different characters, before it fades away into a small section filled by sounds of the wild. They are abruptly interrupted by the heavy sound of the organ, which opens the way for the final guitar solo, in this beautiful instrumental finale. The sounds of the woods then bring the album to a complete, bucolic close.
What a fantastic and emotional journey! There are two ways of facing this album (and this band in general): you either love them or hate them. But you will never, NEVER feel indiference towards the music of Ange. I do not know every album by this french combo; I don't even know every Ange album from the 70's, having only heard their albums up to Guet-Apens, minus Le Cemitière des Arlequins (I do intend to keep exploring). But from the few I know, I can definitely state that I find Au-delà du Délire their most ambitious and musically accomplished album. It is also some of the finest music I've heard from any genre, nearing on perfection. There is no away I can rate this album with less than 5 stars. MANDATORY for anyone who considers himself a classical prog fan.