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Hesper Payne : Hesper Payne / Sabazius

Hesper Payne and Sabazius join forces to create an intense and comprehensive split.

Here is a split that for once deserves to exist. More often than not, a split is an artificial concept conceived by labels to promote some bands they signed; it often happens that each band doesn't even know the partner they will share the album with, not to mention the frequent dissimilarities in style that make that special format an often dubious object.

Far from being a random association, this split album is the result of a consistent intention. About the degree of friendship between Hesper Payne and Sabazius I couldn't say a word, but, simply put, their split is a true and comprehensive collaboration between two Doom bands playing in the same league and conveying the same kind of emotions; two bands that together have created a monumental EP divided into two tracks of epic proportions, each of them sounding almost like one part of the same movement, thought out as a cohesive whole. And that's what makes for an exciting split.

Hesper Payne open the album with a massive 32+ minute song that starts quietly, following a slow-tempo pace that will hardly vary till the end. The ethereal-sounding keyboard is used as an ever-present backbone sustaining the rest of the instruments. The keyboard is really a central piece, although it stays very discreet and never loses its ghastly texture. The band focuses primarily on nocturnal moods; due to the production work, I guess, the sound is as if veiled by a fine layer of dust that gives the music an old and decrepit aura.

The long piece is rather simply structured: I'd say too systematically for its own good. It is played to a binary rhythm, divided in almost equal parts in length if not in intensity. You have one sung passage where the voice sets the rhythm and the instruments just stick to its modulations - some sick, sad, apathetic laments. In these moments, Hesper Payne's music just sets the basis for the lyrics to clearly dominate the whole (although they're not printed in the booklet). Then you have an all instrumental passage that draws an unpredictable movement, as if evolving all on its own, sensual and threatening; the leads sound much more complex and rich, driving an anxious undulating dance. The dynamic possibilties of the drums are from start to finish particularly well exploited, heavy or hectic, always vivid and bringing plenty of rhythmic changes: it's the part that I found the most impressive.

My main issue with that track is its monotony, the languor that settles down despite the various "angles of attack", and the "binary" songwriting I've talked about. It could be argued this is how the band wanted to sound, but I'm not so certain of that… Unlike Undersmile, for example, Hesper Payne do try to articulate the song and give it diverse impulsions. The voice itself lacks variation, it sounds a bit bland compared to the instrumentation. The singer stretches the syllables more than necessary, dislocating the words (which is nice, admittedly, but it's done in such a way that it ends sounding like a system).

Around 17'40" the pace goes a bit faster, the machinery runs wild, and you feel the monster ready to roar, but it doesn't really happen. It sounds a bit clumsy, like sitting on the fence, neither too violent, nor too restrained. Like I said: they play behind a veil and sometimes, you'd like it to split open. At 20', the first growls come in, and after a short D-beat tempo, the rhythm slows down to a Funeral Doom pace that will be more or less sustained till the end.

The last few seconds are left to the keyboard that, with some extra feedbacks, does the bridge to the Sabazius track that begins with a very UDOM-esque piano, echoing in the infinite hostile cosmos. That's a good start.

Sabazius sound more organic, more repetitive and colder where Hesper Payne's music is warmer. Here, the riffs are gloomy and muggy; there's a dirty grain to their music. The voice is set to the background, drowned under the reverberation. After that intro, the track really takes off at 5'; then a cold and dark world opens with blurred outlines and intangible reliefs.

The mainspring of Sabazius'music is fear, an intense feeling of void that generates fear. This is due to the abstract architecture they manage to set up by resisting harmony; the project takes shape in mind-destroying mechanics. Raspy mumbles, agonizing breath, a lifeless rhythm built from a unique tone where drums and guitar join stubborn forces. It's almost poetic in its minimalism, its cold rigorism. When abundance is not properly controlled, the scope of a program of dissolution and suicide is thus undermined. Sabazius understood that and project the image of their anxiety to the listener's face by smashing melody, structure, all the traditional tools of a songwriter to pieces.

It's a nightmarish story they tell, where the notes stay suspended in the icy-cold air for too long, a story full of shadows, riddles and danger. Sabazius prove once again they have an immense talent and that part of the album is really something otherworldly. All their previous works are available for free on the Internet, so, you know what to do…!

In the end, we have a split of two talented bands that have tried to achieve an unusual exercise: writing together a complete album divided in two individual parts - I'd be curious to know more about the modus operandi for that matter. Although I have to acknowledge Hesper Payne's merits, I think, for having listened to some of their other albums, that they aimed too high this time and that such a long format doesn't really suit them. Sabazius are experienced long distance runners and that helps of course: their contribution is excellent. One of the best songs they've ever written, I think.

This split is limited to 100 copies; the label Loathsome Records has been generous enough to send me one cd. I can only thank them wholeheartedly for that and support them as they deserve. I suggest you do the same before it's too late (although I suspect the split will be available for free at some point, as both bands have done up until now with all their productions… but don't take it for granted!).

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Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
Hesper Payne
1. The Deathless Dreamers Will
2. The Madness from the Sea

Duration : Approx. 64 minutes

Visit the Hesper Payne bandpage.

Reviewed on 2012-08-11 by Bertrand Marchal
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