Demians
Mute


4.0
excellent

Review

by Thomas Michael Morris USER (36 Reviews)
July 7th, 2010 | 59 replies | 12,783 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Nicholas Chapel improves upon a few song-writing blunders and creates a fantastic piece of passionate music

4 of 4 thought this review was well written

In 2008, Building An Empire was released by French multi-instrumentalist Nicolas Chapel, brainchild of his solo project Demians. Chapel’s sprawling 65-minute effort was as ambitious as it was effective, and garnered immediate recognition from progressive music icon Steven Wilson. After touring in support of landmark bands such as Porcupine Tree and Marillion (with the help of a few session members), Chapel fled to a lake house on the shores of Normandy to record his sophomore LP. The finished product, Mute, is an intelligent and logical progression from Building An Empire, which tightens up the song writing whist retaining the ingenuity and passion which emulates from Chapel’s words.

Mute, much like its predecessor, is broken down into nine songs which expand upon a number of genres. However, where as Building An Empire had the tendency to ramble and plod along in its 65-minute run-time, Mute is completely focused on the individuality of each of its nine songs, and clocks in at a digestible run time barely eclipsing 50 minutes. The individual track lengths are much more manageable - two songs approached the nine-minute mark and another stretched beyond 16 minutes on “Empire,” yet only one song on Mute has a run-time over seven minutes long. This works to the album’s advantage - the flow and cohesion between each of the nine tracks is not once broken up with unnecessarily drawn-out bouts of ambient drivel. Instead, the listener is treated to nine focused pieces of marvelous progressive music, with each song being unique and individual to itself.

Mute evolves along with Chapel’s growing confidence and maturity as a songwriter, and includes much more dynamic and refined influences from outside genres. Alongside the typical progressive-rock sound, there is a noticeable influence of folk, electronica, post-rock, metal, and even shoegaze present with more definition than ever before. The climax of the haunting penultimate track, Hesitation Waltz, slowly manifests itself into a frightening wall of guitar distortion and pounding tribal drums which brings sludge-metal titans Neurosis to mind, a stark contrast to the warm, lush electronics of Porcelain or the Dredg-esque alternative rocker of Tidal.

This heightened recognition of confluence also seems to have spread out to Chapel’s musicianship and vocal-work, both of which have improved and matured considerably since “Empire.” Chapel’s vocals have taken a more natural tenor range, but at the opposite end of the spectrum his higher-register vocals are conveyed with much more strength and confidence than before. On songs such as the energetic Feel Alive, Chapel’s honest lyrics and passionate delivery soar with an unrivaled intensity since the closing minutes of “Sand,” where as tracks such as the absolutely gorgeous Black Over Gold, or the fiercely draining and melancholic denouement of Falling From the Sun feature some of the most moving and hopeless vocal performances i’ve heard all year.

The distorted guitars have become much more metallic since “Empire.” Album opener Swing of the Airwaves fades in with a down-tuned sludge/stoner riff which would not sound out of place on a Mastodon, Neurosis, or even Deftones album, and chugs along as such for seven and a half minutes. Overhead begins with an acoustic folk lick (think “Naive” off his previous album but more technical and mature) but explodes towards the end in a complex metallic riff-fest and guitar solo. Much like “Empire,” the synths provide much of the album’s mysterious air by taking their place in the background, whether it be contrasting the sludgy riffs of Swing of the Airwaves with grandiose splendor, providing effective psuedo-symphonic violin riffs on rocker Feel Alive, or complimenting the reverb-soaked drums of the melodramatic Porcelain. The conventional piano is also utilized more proficiently on tracks such as the ironically dark Rainbow Ruse, where minor chords are pounded out as the driving force of the song, or the sombre Black Over Gold, which begins as a piano and vocal duet before tremelo-picked guitars join for the climax.

Does Mute surpass it’s predecessor? In many ways, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Nicholas Chapel’s song writing has become much more focused and coherent, and his vocal performance is subsequently much more powerful and convincing. The instrumentation has also matured and improved, best shown in the expanded use of the guitar and synths. The lack of the ambiance present on Building an Empire subtracts from the atmospheric quality of the album, but at the same time does not hinder the aesthetics of the music’s most exciting points. I applaud Nicholas Chapel for improving upon his already impressive debut with the curious and insightful work of art that is Mute, an album that is anything but.

Recommended Listening:

Feel Alive - The most aggressive and energetic song off of Mute. A guitar-driven rocker backed by an infectious synthetic string section and punchy metallic-guitar riffs. The chorus brings previous tracks such as “Naive” or “Earth” to mind but with added balls. After the second chorus, the instrumentation takes the back seat to a well-executed bass-riff, before slowly building back up and climaxing with Chapel screaming the song’s title and ending with the guitar and strings motif from earlier in the song. A fantastic energetic-rocker.

Black Over Gold - This is the most moving and beautiful song I have heard all year. The song begins as a sombre piano/vocal duet with Chapel presenting the lyrics in low, grief-stricken manner which is entirely effective and empathetic. The six-minute song continues to grow in true Sigur Ros fashion as the instruments buildup with pendulous drums and aqueous tremelo picking. At 4:20, Chapel’s vocals and instrumentation climax and cascade over the listener’s ears in an overwhelming, but ultimately comforting wave of powerful mystique. The song then fades out into nothingness, losing all hope.

Hesitation Waltz - Begins with a soft droning and short bursts of tribal drumming and cymbal claps. The guitar and vocals enter about a minute in with a soft-crooning, beckoning the listener into the song. This Tool/Neurosis melding of sound grows as synths and glockenspiel are added to the background. The storm continues to pick up intensity - the drums pound louder, the guitar becomes more sinister, and Chapel’s vocals become more pronounced and frantic. After four minutes of building up, Chapel’s vocals are completely lost and drowned out to a sound wall of monolithic proportions, before fading out as if nothing had happened at all. A stunning performance on all fronts.

4.2/5



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user ratings (52)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Yazz_Flute
July 7th 2010



18735 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm gonna go ahead and raise my personal rating to a 4.5, I gave this three thorough listens while reviewing the album and am really beginning to appreciate it. I'm not sure if I like it more than Building an Empire yet (there was a certain atmospheric charm on that album that Mute doesn't possess) but this is definitely more focused and tight.

I haven't written two reviews within a few weeks of each other in over 3 years, I need to write more. Comment/feeback/check this shit out.



Digging: Anekdoten - Vemod

Willie
Moderator
July 7th 2010



15774 Comments


Nice review. The other album had some really cool parts but was unremarkable overall (and it had some stupid lyrics, if I remember correctly).

Digging: Teramaze - Esoteric Symbolism

Yazz_Flute
July 7th 2010



18735 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The lyrics improved on this one, but some lines (like in the opener) are horribly cliche. I enjoyed a good portion of the
lyrics though, they're definitely really personal to Nicolas.

And I had Building an Empire at a 5 a while back, but I was one of the few here who really loved it. The general sputnik
consensus seemed to be in the 3-4 range.

AnotherBrick
July 7th 2010



9766 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

album is pretty damn good

bailar11
July 7th 2010



2433 Comments


excellent....

[img]http://userserve-ak.last.fm/serve/_/21500131/Enrique+Iglesias+enrique3.jpg[/img]

you get a pos

BallsToTheWall
July 7th 2010



44164 Comments


Enrique should have sung the second verse in Black Over Gold.

Yazz_Flute
July 7th 2010



18735 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Only if it was in spanish.

cb123
July 8th 2010



1962 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

really keen to hear this, sounds like a big win

coneren
July 8th 2010



11110 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Fuck yes a review for this|!

Dryden
July 8th 2010



12813 Comments


are you mad

Mordecai.
July 8th 2010



8255 Comments


nah just ignorant

Whispered4tw
July 8th 2010



564 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

No Rainbow Ruse recommendation? Those verses are among the best parts of the record for me. And it is a great album.

I remember being a bit dissapointed on the first listen because it didn't really hit me anywhere at all, but this is quite a grower. I too am tempted on giving this a 4.5 rating but it's a bit too soon for me to do so yet.

Yazz_Flute
July 8th 2010



18735 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah this one's been a grower for me too, I was a little disappointed at first but once it settles in all the little nuances of the music really start to stand out.

And honestly all of the songs are really good, those are just my favorites at the moment.

Yazz_Flute
July 9th 2010



18735 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

oh shit this was my 25th review...in 3 1/2 years too. Quarter landmark I guess.

Yazz_Flute
July 11th 2010



18735 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

haha who's that asshole with the pretentious name

coneren
July 11th 2010



11110 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Album is great

jingledeath
July 14th 2010



7104 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Didn't know this had been reviewed. Good album and review man.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
August 12th 2010



7162 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

As I predicted, this is way better than their debut, way more inventive, diverse and almost devoid of filler.

Digging: Floor - Oblation

Yazz_Flute
August 12th 2010



18735 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I probably said this somewhere above but while the latter of your statement is definitely true, this lacks some of the...charm? of his debut.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
August 12th 2010



7162 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Well. I think Building An Empire was far from perfect containing many redundant moments, while this is quite an excellent, way more stellar album. Great review though.



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