Thursday, January 9, 2014


Disclaimer: This will be strange, but I feel I should explain a bit about this band first. People who know me well know I do not like Progressive... well just about anything. So why am I reviewing Misanthrope, a well known Progressive Death Metal band? I do actually quite enjoy this band... I have no idea why I love them, but I really do. They have one of the best performing bassists out there (in my opinion) and I love the general flamboyance and pomp in their music. It is, honestly, a perfect representation of 16th and 17th century France, which is a realm of topics they seem to explore. I understand why someone would dislike this project, but count it as a guilty pleasure of mine... I love them.

Misanthrope - Visionnaire
Holy Records, 1997
Genre: Progressive Death Metal

1. 2666...
2. Bâtisseur de Cathédrales
3. Hypochondrium Forces
4. Le Silence des Grottes
5. Futile Future
6. Impermanence et Illumination
7. La Dandy
8. Hands of the Puppeteers
9. La Rencontre Rêvée
10. Irrévérencieux
11. Visionnaire

If the track listing on the above version looks a bit strange to those who have the original 1997 version, then you're right. For some reason I missed out on this album, so I didn't get it until it was repressed in 2005. The repress features a bonus track "Impermanence et Illumination" and even more strange they've completely re-arranged the track listing. Maybe the Misanthrope of 2005 felt this made the songs flow together better.

Now we're finally getting somewhere with Misanthrope! As usual, another album, another line-up change, with the two usual members staying the backbone of the band. However, on "Visionnaire" they add Jean-Baptiste Boitel to the line-up on guitar and all of a sudden they have an album that is far more Metal than their prior releases. Songs like "Le Silence des Grottes" are even rife with blast beats! This is probably where Misanthrope truly started playing Progressive Death Metal legitimately, because the level of technical play is still present, but the level of brutality has certainly been increased quite a bit compared to their prior releases. I do wonder how much this had to do with the addition of this new guitarist. Jean-Jacques even had a more diverse role with his performance on 12-string acoustic along with Jean-Baptiste contributing in this fashion as well. Of course we get all the amazing flair of Jean-Jacques bass throughout this release and once again we see he's one of the more amazing bass players performing in Metal. The bass work in "La Dandy" is simply unreal. With all of this put together, I feel like we have a much more focused Misanthrope. Their songwriting feels a lot more mature and overall has a better constructed direction. "1666... Theatre Bizarre" still felt very clumsy, but even if "Visionnaire" still feels a little random at times it feels a lot more intentional. A lot of the more random elements come from frantic keyboard work that shows up in places. Other times the keyboards sound quite beautiful and work well with the songs. The production value of the album is actually much better this time around as well. Perhaps that's because they went into Studio Fredman in Sweden to record. So the production is similar to the Melodic Death Metal bands performing at the time, but Misanthrope's style is so different that it doesn't really feel all that similar.

I am very happy to report that they seem to have given up on the ballad. The closest we ever get is  the first couple of minutes of "La Rencontre Rêvée," but there are no whiny vocals in sight! He uses all harsh vocals, which is just perfect and actually sounds pretty good. He actually rarely ever gets into a whine on any of these tracks. Instead Philippe falls back on a sort of yelling styled approach you would more typically find in Thrash. This is actually far superior and he really should just stick with doing this kind of vocal approach rather than his weird whine.

Either way we look at it, this is a huge leap in the right direction for Misanthrope. They're more focused and I feel like they finally got their writing under control for once in their lives! I truly hope this is a beginning trend for this project and maybe they will finally get their line-up issues under control. Their future is looking much brighter finally.

Misanthrope - 1666... Theatre Bizarre
Holy Records, 1995
Genre: Progressive Death Metal

1. Gargantuan Decline
2. Courtisane Syphilitique
3. 1666... Theatre Bizarre
4. L'Autre Hiver
5. Pirouetting through the Gloom
6. Aphrodite Marine
7. Medieval Embroidery
8. Mylène
9. Trumpets of Hypochondria
10. Schattengesang
11. La Dernière Pierre

After the nonsense encountered with "Miracles: Totem Taboo" I was pretty worried about what Misanthrope would concoct next. I'm actually surprised to say... despite invoking the word "bizarre" in the album title, this album actually has far more structure and makes a lot more sense than "Miracles". "1666... Theatre Bizarre" is really where Misanthrope started to develop a more structured style, so in that regard this is a far superior album than a lot of their prior efforts... maybe except when they were playing a rather cool Death/Thrash blend in the early days.

"Gargantuan Decline" is probably one of the heavier songs on this album. Misanthrope are still falling into a realm where their music is on the lighter spectrum, so there isn't as much Death Metal infused into their sound just yet. They still seem to be having serious line-up issues and the only two solid members seem to be Philippe and Jean-Jacques at this time. There are two different drummers showing up on this album and a few different people contributing keyboard parts. Despite all this the songs are far more structured than on "Miracles" and we finally get to hear some actual guitar riffs show up! Also Jean-Jacques bass playing has returned to standing out quite a bit. You can hear his awesome licks cut through the mix so much better on this album. "Trumpets of Hypochondria" also has a really killer bass solo in it.

The other thing that you notice quite clearly is that, all of a sudden, the English lyrics make sense. Well, as much sense as one can make of this. As usual Philippe has a lot to say and he seems to be trying to have a sort of philosophical approach to his lyrics. I applaud his interests, but I don't think it quite translates to the lyrics very well just yet. One thing I really do appreciate is he kept the whiny vocals to quite a minimum overall. However, he hasn't given up on the ballad yet and recorded "Aphrodite Marine" to torture us all again. This is easily the worst song on the album and I'm really glad he eventually gave up on writing these things.

Overall I think this album is just okay. It's a bit too light for my tastes and leans more towards the Progressive spectrum. One thing I must applaud is Misanthrope at least growing as writers. This is a huge leap from their previous works. Now all they need to do is infuse more Death Metal into their sound and we'll be all set! I mean, at the very least I do appreciate the level of musicianship behind their albums, they just need to start tweaking a few more things. I still feel like they're skirting the styles of Doom and Prog more, but eventually decide to put that behind them and play Death Metal. In a few more albums we'll be there... just be patient.

Misanthrope - Miracles: Totem Taboo
Holy Records, 1994
Genre: Avantgarde Music?

Miracle 1: l'Héautontimoroumènos
1. Standing at the Galaxy
2. L'Erotique Courtoise
3. Miracle
4. Aesthetic Fluttering
Miracle 2: Evangile
5. Maudit sois-tu Soleil!
6. La Démiurge (Gloomy Mix)
Miracle 3: The Mandrake
7. Deus Puerilis...
8. ...In Silence
9. Totem of Doubt
10. Velvet Solemn Quest

And now for something completely confusing. I feel like writing this review with my words totally out of order in order to really convey how this album sounds... I'll try not to as I listen to this. Misanthrope's second album and arguably one of their most nonsensical. This is still during the time frame when Misanthrope were still trying to figure out what in the world they actually wanted to play... either that or Philippe can't stay focused long enough to write anything with any kind of cohesive structure.

I think in an attempt at continuity this album starts off with a single note blown on a saxaphone, which is how "Variation on Inductive Theories" ended. It is also clear that the projected album releases from the split with Torturer are never to be, since this isn't in the list. I feel like Philippe had to drastically change some ideas around due to clear issues with this album, which I'll explain later. Featured on the cover is a sexual ritual from the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia. I'm not really sure what this has to do with misanthropy and Misanthrope's lyrics don't tend into the erotic just yet. There are some touches here and there... so this just adds to an incredible confusion, which seems to the albums MO.

The music is actually fairly hard to put up with. The songs lack any general structure, I think riffs are very rarely repeated. Vocally this is probably Misanthrope's whiniest album ever recorded. Just try making it through "Maudit sois-tu Soleil"... the whining is overwhelming. They've also included some keyboard instruments here and there... I think to make the compositions sound even more weird and avantgarde. I actually wouldn't classify this as much of a Metal album and certainly not a Death Metal album. It lacks that basic level of brutality required of all Death Metal. There is an overwhelming amount of acoustic guitars on this album and sudden blips of Metal, but it is certainly not the focus of this release. I feel like part of the goal was to be relaxing and contemplative... instead I found it confusing and jarring at times. The song "La Démiurge" originally appeared on "Variation on Inductive Theories" and here we get the "Gloomy Remix". It features pitch shifted vocals, variations in volume and other nonsense.

To challenge us to ask why in even more ways this album has been split into three chapters they call Miracles. Miracle's one and two were at least recorded around the same time frame and in the same studio between the end of 1993 and the beginning of 1994. So those recordings at least sound similar to each other in many regards. Miracle 3, however, is an entirely different thing. It was recorded in 1992 in Germany with no bassist. It's almost as if Philippe went on vacation to Germany with some friends that weren't his band mates and just happened to record some music while they were there. It has the original drummer from the "Hater of Mankind" material behind the kit and a different guitarist Stephan Cros. Strangely Miracle 3 is the only Death Metal you will find on this album and feels far more like a demo recording than anything else. It also feels closer to that early style of Death Metal Misanthrope used to play, but don't anymore. The songs are coherently structured and make far more sense compared to the first two Miracles. Just when you think they're on a roll for writing sensible music... it closes with, I think, saxaphone playing in reverse. It just sounds silly and weird and I don't even know anymore.

Lyrically this album is crazy. I have no idea how this material translates from French, but it's just a bunch of stuff thrown together. I guess it's not too dissimilar from what I felt from "Variation on Inductive Theories". I still have no idea what Philippe is talking about and the lyrics for Miracle 3 really stand out as weirder than the first two. There are lines like "People are septic to my Misanthrotheories. Let me roar. Feel the utter evil. Oh... that's truly Black Metal." Okay... then it goes on to talk about how he's in solitude. The last line in "Velvet Solemn Quest" literally says "God's tears - Thy". I think the lyrics for "Standing at the Galaxy" make more sense to me... maybe I'm going insane... who knows.

I'm really glad I heard the later Misanthrope albums first. I think if I thought this is what Misanthrope always sounded like I never would have gotten any of their albums. This is arguably a terrible album and I think a lot of other critics out there agree... at the very least if you like their later material it's unlikely you'll enjoy this. I will say the music on Miracle 3 is actually pretty good. I did like that Death Metal... but it's not the majority of this album and can't save Miracle's one and two. Truly for only die hard Misanthrope fans... and strangely I would never sell this because I would hate to break up my discography.

Misanthrope - Variation on Inductive Theories
Holy Records,
Genre: Avantgarde Death Metal

1. Solstice of Poetries
2. Aquarium
3. Childhood Memories
4. La Demiurge
5. My Black Soul
6. Aeternitas
7. The Grey Orchard
8. Atlas
9. Monolith in Ruins
10. And Also the Lotus
11. Mourning Humanity

As stated in the prior split the forthcoming album was "Variation on Inductive Theories" and if you were expecting something similar to "Hater of Mankind" you might have been a little disappointed. Misanthrope are clearly still in development of their style. If you loved that transitional Death/Thrash approach, they've pretty much entirely dropped that. Instead they're favoring a sort of strange blend of experimental ideas.

Since "Inductive Theories" was their fist demo, I think some listeners may have thought this was a resurrection of some earlier material, but none of the songs are the same. I don't know if they pulled riffs off the original demo or not though. The music actually has a large infusion of Doom Metal in it's presentation. I feel like Misanthrope blend their Death Metal in with Paradise Lost or My Dying Bride quite a bit. If things weren't so Progressive at times this probably would be a Doom album. One of the great parts of this release is that this is Jean-Jacque Moreac's debut on bass. As expected the bass work is pretty ridiculous, although the mix doesn't support this very well at times. Sometimes the bass cuts in so loud it's pretty jarring, which is what happens during parts of "Aquarium". The vocals are a little strange on this and Philippe is clearly trying out something new for this. He was never a stellar vocalist to begin with, but his vocal approach is a bit weird. He's sort of switching of with a Death-ier styled voice and a spoken word approach. The part people mind find ridiculous is the spoken word passages can come off as sounding fairly whiny at times. Personally, I think he eventually managed to get this balance to work, but it just sounds ridiculous on this album, regardless of the really strange ending. The last song closes with a nice acoustic piece that tapers off and then suddenly a Saxophone appears?? For only a couple measures then stops...

Now, I should probably take some time to say something about the lyrics. Philippe clearly has a lot on his mind. That was pretty clear given how much writing was in a split. And as I was listening to this I wondered how he felt about these original releases now that he's a lot older. As soon as you open the booklet there's a "Warning" and Philippe goes on to try and explain what the material is about. Unfortunately, this probably comes off a lot more sensibly in the original French. I have no idea who translated the lyrics, maybe Philippe himself, but I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about on the English side of things. Granted, he's quite young at this time and is probably still just learning English and hasn't quite hit that level of fluency yet he would hit later on. So, the English lyrics are pretty out there. The whole song "Atlas" is just crazy. I have no idea what's going on. I wonder if the original French makes more sense. But it's a conversation between... I assume him... and an unnamed girl. However, Philippe performs both roles! This makes for a very strange play...

In the end this is clearly a transitional album for Misanthrope. They still have some serious kinks to work out in their approach to the world of Extreme metal. I think they listened to quite a bit of Doom Metal when considering this album and it really shows through. I'm glad they trended towards a more Progressive bent as their releases continued, because I feel it suited their musical approach a lot better. Overall, this album isn't particularly great. "And Also the Lotus" has good parts with respect to riffing, but overall this is not the norm. This is probably only worth getting if you're a die hard Misanthrope fan or are interested in a strange approach to Doom.

Misanthrope & Torturer Split
Infest Records, 1991
Genre: Death Metal

Misanthrope: Hater of Mankind:
1. Mind Building
2. Paradoxical Burial
3. Unsubdued Redemption
4. Blaspheme the Earth
5. Hater of Mankind
Torturer: Kingdom of the Dark:
6. Kingdom of the Dark
7. Prince of Darkness
8. Evil Confession
9. Torture (Eternal Suffering)

Side Torturer: here
Side Misanthrope:

At this point I totally give up on trying to find Misanthrope's demo material in any form, either actual copies or on mp3. So, since I own a copy of their very first split my reviews will start here. This is all new material for Misanthrope, but I don't know how different it is compared to their first couple of demos. This split is also long out of print and is apparently quite the collectors item today.

Misanthrope play a very old school style of Death Metal at this point in time and their sound has changed drastically over the years. You can tell they want to be up there with the technical Metal bands, but with serious influence from Death, Nocturnus, Morbid Angel, and many others from the early days. This is still around when Death Metal was still emerging out of the Thrash Metal scene, so you get some heavy doses of that in Misanthrope's style. Before changing his name to S.A.S. de l'Argiliere the vocalist/guitarist went by Philippe Courtois and this was still when he did guitar and vocals before giving up the guitar to other musicians. He is also the only remaining member from this original line-up. Anyway, the vocals he performs are very different compared to what he would eventually be more well known for. He uses a far more standard growl, but in the song "Hater of Mankind" he does use some yelling styled vocals. Even back at this time they tried showcasing the bass guitar, because a bass solo even appears in "Paradoxical Burial" if you listen closely enough.

The real interesting/sort of funny part of this is the booklet. Aside from the hilarious typos on the back that say "Hater of Manking"... at least the cover was spelled correctly.  Anyway, most bands really don't bother to do this, but inside the top of the booklet Misanthrope give us a definition of what the word means. Maybe to show where they got the title of the band and album "Hater of Mankind"? The level of explanation for the lyrics and music are just strange. Every lyric has an explanation for it in relatively poor English, which can be forgiven, but it really masks what Philippe is trying to talk about. Anyway, as an explanation to, I think, the whole thing Philippe says: "We haven't yet talk about the desire of a life in this world, let's try it in harmony. Taking in account that it is impossible. Let's each one takes its own road." I have no idea what he was driving at... surely some attempt at high minded philosophy. Which I am also guilty of doing when I was probably Philippe's age back then. One of the more fascinating parts of this booklet is the list of forthcoming albums: "Variation on Inductive Theories (1992), Recall of Misanthropic Remains (1993), Misanthrotherapy (1994)" and only one of these would exist: "Variation on Inductive Theories". The other two would never come out, but I do wonder if Philippe had written all these songs already. "Misanthrotherapy" would later be released as a giant box set compilation type release, but that would be post the new millennium.

In the end, this was a strange listen. I tend to prefer the realm of Death Metal in the early 90's when it finally had become it's own genre and lost a lot of the Thrash elements, but as far as this release goes I do enjoy having this piece of history in my collection.

Misanthrope - Crisis of Soul
Self-Released, 1990
Genre: Death Metal

1. Misanthropic Dawn
2. Piling of Carcasses
3. Crisis of Soul
4. Endless Cycle
5. Paradoxical Burial

I've always had a lot of Misanthrope's discography, but when I started doing reviews again I never thought I would be able to track down this original demo tape. The material seems very difficult to find overall and this was a piece of Misanthrope's history that I thought was entirely lost. However, I've been lucky enough to see this show up for sale and immediately purchased a copy of this demo. I didn't really care if it sounded bad or not, I was just curious to hear what Misanthrope's original demo days were like.

Being an early Death Metal demo I wasn't expecting this to be recorded well and it isn't. You can hear things well enough to make out what Misanthrope are going for and they certainly have that early Death Metal sound, albeit they try to have a more Progressive edge. Philippe's vocal performance is for more of a traditional Death Metal sound and actually reminds me a little of John Tardy from Obituary at times, but Philippe has so much reverb on his vocals the lyrics are completely impossible to make out. They are also too high in the mix and can drown out the instruments at times. At times the sound is almost too chaotic and I think this is a trap Misanthrope falls into for a long time while they figure out how to manage their writing goals. Luckily even though this demo isn't perfect, it gave them a chance to get their name out there more and lead to their first split with Torturer.

On an interesting note most of these demos list only four tracks, but mine has a 5th track called "Paradoxical Burial", which is the only track to appear on future recordings. It's production is a lot better than the original four tracks, so it was clearly recorded later. The writing is still fairly chaotic, but it has that good old Death Metal feel like a lot of bands from these days. I get the impression that Philippe was pretty influenced by bands like Death and Nocturnus around this time. In the end it is certainly an interesting collectors item and I am very proud to have it in my collection!

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