Review Summary: An epic, progressive rock album taking influence from folk and metal. A powerful display of musicianship from the might of Nicolas Chapel. Too early to tell but a sure contender for top album of 2008.
“Let’s introduce the debut by this brand new band with a surprising quote. Mind you, it’s not any old quote, but rather an accolade courtesy of Steven Wilson, ingenious mastermind of prog rock superstars, Porcupine Tree. “One of the most assured and accomplished debut albums I’ve ever heard, the textures and dynamics within the music are breathtaking. A must for everyone that appreciates the art of epic and ambitious 21st century rock music” is Wilson’s comment on 'Building An Empire', the debut release by French act Demians.”
This of course was one of the many compliments directed towards the bold and highly eclectic French musician by the name of Nicolas Chapel . “Building An Empire is the debut album from his one man project, “Demians” and I, as well as Steven Wilson was utterly blown away by the stunning musicianship executed on this debut album. When I think of one man projects, black metal instantly draws to mind and even so, many lack any real substance or talent with a few exceptions of course. This isn’t related in any shape or form to black metal although at times this album can get pretty guitar heavy. Like Mikael Akerfeldt and Steven Wilson, Nicolas has a knack for forging several different styles of music into something incredibly refreshing and for the best part, unique. At the base of Building An Empire“ sits a comfortable blend of progressive rock with gorgeous soft to heavy morphing dynamics, channeling elements of folk, heavy metal, and post rock atmosphere in the process. Add in tasteful symphonic passages, impassioned clean vocals, and tight song writing abilities and you have a prime contender for top album of 2008.
The thing that reeled me to this band in the first place was the solid guitar work. Ranging from balls out heavy power chords to soothing acoustic pieces, Nicholas keeps things varied and interesting for the hour long duration of “Building An Empire. He’s also not afraid to bust out some quality solos from time to time. Another crucial component of the group is the focus on synthesizers. Instead of sounding out of place or overbearing, the synthesizers play an organic role to help set the atmosphere for the album. I know that many bands incorporate keyboards for the same desired effect but few come out on top. Nicholas bursts out of the gate with a flurry of piano and trippy sound samples recalling themes of nature and inner peace. Now on to the vocals. He shows that not only is he a great musician but also a great vocalist as well, with heartfelt singing shifting pitch from low and dreary to high and cheery for the albums duration. At some points, they remind me of Mariusz Duda which is nice, because I think he has a very pleasant sounding voice. Nicolas is no slouch in that category either, showing as much depth and conviction as the bigger dogs in the progressive rock genre. Nicolas does bring out some of his demons on the 16 minute epic, “Sand” with some aggressive screaming which is always nice to hear. The bass and drum work are the lower points of the album but they still like to make an explosive entrance on more than one occasion. Plenty of cool tribal beats and short, jittery bursts of double bass blast through the more aggressive moments on the album, but for the most part drumming is relatively calm. Bass is toned down pretty low so nothing too remarkable. When heard, the bass lays down a cool rhythm but that’s when it’s in the play.
For a debut album, this has quite the remarkable production job. Very clean and professional, capturing Nicolas’s extraordinary talents in full view. Coming in at 9 tracks at just over an hour of music, this has some weight on it but that doesn’t mean it’s not all enjoyable. The lack of filler has only solidified this album as an excellent release for the music community. The standout song to me would be the 16 minute “Sand”, encompassing all that Demians is about in a single package. So far, Nicolas Chapel has left quite an impression on me with just one album. I’m antsy to hear more. Fans of Opeth, Katatonia, and Riverside need to give this album a holler.