It seems strange that I’m only now hearing about French prog/grunge/post-metal sextet Klone, considering that they’ve been around since 1999 and have released five full-length albums. Apparently, they’re pretty well-known in their home country, and the release of critically-acclaimed album Black Days in 2010 and appearances at French metal festival par excellence Hellfest have done a significant amount to raise their profile. Seizing the opportunity to keep interest levels in the band on the increase, Season Of Mist Records have released the two-part, 17-minute epic ‘The Eye of Needle’ along with an unreleased track from the Black Days sessions as an EP. So, how does this release work as an introduction to the band?
Pretty well, as it happens. You see, while the prospect of a 17-minute psychedelic progressive metal composition sounds daunting at first, Klone‘s sound handily provides immediate reference points that allow the listener to orient themselves before submitting to the pull of the songs’ currents. Chief among those aural anchors is singer Yann Linger’s vocal style, which is heavily reminiscent of that of Tool‘s Maynard James Keenan. Thankfully, Linger is more than a reedy-voiced impressionist – he is in possession of a commandingly forceful voice, and knows how to modulate his delivery to create dynamics. The other grounding element lies in the guitar work of Guillaume Bernard and Michael Moreau – rather than embracing prog excesses or psychedlic abstraction by going off on interminable widdle-fests or uber-delayed multi-layered noise collages, messrs. Bernard and Moreau instead prefer to deliver big, chunky, simplistic and yet undeniably punchy grunge-inflected riffs.
It’s upon this framework of crowd-pleasingly soaring vocals and air-punching riffs that Klone build their compositions, and during ‘The Eye of Needle’ parts one and two, the band’s avant garde and progressive tendencies are expressed both through the tracks’ non-traditional structures and through the contributions of keyboardist, sampler and saxophonist Matthieu Metzger. ‘…Part 1′ in particular is a near-constant sonic escalation, its first minutes beginning with a skeletal, chiming arpeggio and layering in tribal drumming and keening sax before giving way to a lumbering, massive riff and Linger’s Keenan-esque crooning. As the song progresses through its 10:18 running time, layers of guitars, sax and other instruments build the track to ever-increasing levels of tension – unfortunately, this tension is never quite broken as effectively as it ought to be. Instead, the tide just recedes without the wave fully breaking, which deflates somewhat from the track’s effectiveness.
‘…Part 2′, the shorter segment of the composition, is far more direct and yet still unconventional in its structure, handling its crest-and-fall dynamics more judiciously and more effectively than its preceding portion. The guitar riffs in the song’s later half swell from palm-muted triplets to ringing chords while Linger’s vocals ebb and wane in intensity in tandem, while drummer Florent Marcadet displayed a tidy knack for subtly off-kilter rhythmic accompaniment and tasteful fills and flourishes. The EP concludes with ‘Monster’, which was recorded during the Black Days sessions – and while it stands out as the shortest, heaviest, and most accessible of the three tracks on offer, its relative simplicity causes it to suffer in comparison to the two songs which came before, and one can’t help but wonder if it may have been better leading off the EP as a short-sweet and to-the-point introductory salvo leading in to the more ambitious two-parter.
Overall then, while The Eye of Needle may not be an entirely successful release, it certainly provides an insight into Klone‘s sound. If massive, post-grunge riffs and Tool-esque vocals set within a framework of progressive/post-metal songwriting and avant garde accoutrements sounds like something you’d be into, you could do far worse than pick up this EP as a gateway to the rest of the band’s discography. However, there is the danger that you may find the points of familiarity to be over-familiar, and that the songwriting’s execution doesn’t match its ambition.