Review Summary: Equally atmospheric, evocative and heavy, "Black Days" comes as strongly recommended for progressive metal fans.
It's extremely difficult to create something entirely original in the progressive metal genre since the range of sound has been explored thoroughly by such genre juggernauts as Tool, Isis and Mastodon to name a few. French outfit Klone, as the name indicates, doesn't present anything truly original or groundbreaking. However, they happen to be one of these rare acts that approach their, sometimes overly obvious, influences in a creative fashion. In consequence, their albums cannot be called clearly reproductive, but cleverly conceived and, most of all, coherent. This was the case with their previous breakthrough release, "All Seeing Eye" (2008) in which the band combined their progressive approach with brutal math metal traces to a very satisfying effect. The followers of technical chug fests may feel disappointed this time around though.
"Black Days" is a totally new beast of an album. Klone are still a progressive act through and through, yet they almost completely resigned from their Massuggah-like sound in favor of a more focused atmosphere-driven approach. Whereas "Black Days" may not match its predecessor when it comes to technicality and a daring use of uncommon instrumentation, it obviously surpasses it with its darkly-hinged consistency. The compositions seem to be more rounded as well as memorable, while retaining the complexity along with tempo changes so essential to the entire genre.
The band members focus on crafting a massive, psychedelic sound that is appropriately varied throughout. They have an inclination towards placing their influences in different points within one track and thus seamlessly blending them together so that nobody would notice. The amazing opener "Rite Of Passage" starts with the sound of harp and tribal drumming that accompanied by keyboards builds up to a hypnotic prog rock feast very reminiscent of Tool's "Lateralus". The similar organic guitarwork is incorporated in "The Spell Is Cast". Some compositions have way more hard and heavy, raw edge to them. "Spiral Down", for instance, benefits from extensive sludge metal influences, while both "Hollow Way" and "Behold The Silence" resemble Mastodon in their interplays between bass chugging and guitar. On the other hand, there is a space for meditative, ambient soundscapes created with the use of keyboards, synths or a clarinet in such songs as "Immaculate Desire" and "Rain Bird". The mystic instrumental "Closed Season" is so refined that it would easily find its place on the latest Indukti album.
Aside from the permeating mysterious atmosphere, the only element that is stable throughout the album is Yann Linger's performance. His vocals are largely clean, yet powerful with a pleasant gruff tinge thrown in. They are characteristic enough to differentiate Klone from other similar acts for the first-time listener. However, Linger hardly ever experiments with his voice or tries anything more diverse. As a result, his delivery sometimes gets monotonous like at the end of "Give Up The Rest". His arguably best performance involves screaming in the cover of Bjork's "Army Of Me" (previously done by Swiss nu-metal band Maja). Klone's rendition of this unforgettable song is all about a massive metal attack fueled by precise mechanic riffs. Even if this track doesn't really fit the new musical style of the band, it's definitely worthy of attention due to its unabashed directness and energy.
Overall, "Black Days" showcases the band that capture a wide variety of approaches towards progressive metal. Although the album is largely derivative and somewhat repetitive, Klone adroitly uses numerous influences crafting the record that possesses its very own identity. Equally moody, evocative and heavy, "Black Days" passes as strongly recommended for progressive music fans.