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Heresie (2010 Remix)

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Album Review

Univers Zero's debut recording, 1313, may be somber, but it's a walk in the park compared to their second release, which features more or less the same lineup as the first (oboe, bassoon, viola, violin, bass, guitar, keyboards, drums), except for an additional and prominent contribution of cathedral organ from guitarist/keyboardist Roger Trigaux. Studio overdubbing sometimes gives the five-man group the sound of a much larger chamber ensemble. Extremely dissonant and emotionally bleak, Heresie is sometimes quite close to the industrial and gothic genres — which didn't really even exist for another five years or more. A Magma influence is readily discernible on the long opening track "La Faulx," which includes the guttural chanting favored by Magma's Christian Vander. (In the early '70s, Univers Zero drummer Daniel Denis was employed as a second drummer in Vander's group.) "Jack the Ripper," the second long piece, maintains the oppressive atmosphere, and after a long, brooding introduction, introduces the nervous, jabbing ostinato patterns which were to become a Univers Zero trademark. This music on this CD might have little to do with rock, and might also be a massive downer, but the quality of the writing and playing is extremely high. Michel Berckmans' solo work on oboe and bassoon work is magnificent, and Patrick Hanappier's string playing (violin and viola) also demonstrates the precision of a trained classical musician, along with demonic avant-garde scraping and howling on "Jack the Ripper." Best of all, Univers Zero never cheapens the effect of the music with any of the stock cartoon licks which are associated with the gothic genre today. Group members sound deadly serious about what they're doing, which might call their sanity into question, but which makes for an incredibly powerful listening experience. In fact, Heresie is a stunning one-of-a-kind item that has never been duplicated by anyone — including Univers Zero. [The Cuneiform label's 2010 remastered edition includes the nearly 12-minute previously unreleased bonus track "Chaos Hermétique."]

Customer Reviews

Overlooked brilliance

I can't believe this stunning album took nearly three decades to come to my attention. UZ are a unique part of the prog rock pantheon and this album represents a very early high point. My guess is that many will be put off by the unconventional instrumentation but it matters for nothing. In some ways, a full description is futile as there are insufficient reference points for such an album. IF I was to stick my neck out, then its a bit like early Zappa/Mothers and a bit like Henry Cow (yes, complex compositions - for some reason, echoes of early Tangerine Dream as well) but what UZ do successfully is create moods and textures. Their leader and drummer, Daniel Denis, felt that at this point in their development they may have been too sombre but it works a treat on this album. My only gripe is that the first few minutes of 'La Faulx' overdoes the mood setting but once the first bassoon riff (you heard right) kicks in then the journey begins. The official review above is more or less spot on but there are lighter moments than the review suggests. The bonus track, recorded four years earlier, has more 'rock' dynamics and a precursor to the direction the band took in the mid-1980s.

Biography

Formed: 1974

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Formed in 1974, Belgium-based chamber rock band Univers Zero initially featured co-composers drummer Daniel Denis and guitarist Roger Trigaux joined by bassoonist Michel Berckmans, violinist Marcel Dufrane, bassist Christian Genet, violinist/violist Patrick Hanappier, and harmonium/spinet player Emmanuel Nicaise. The avant-prog group, one of the first Rock in Opposition bands along with Britain's Henry Cow, Sweden's Samla Mammas Manna, Italy's Stormy Six, and France's Etron Fou Leloublan, released...
Full bio
Heresie (2010 Remix), Univers Zéro
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