French progressive rock band extraordinaire Lazuli has gained a lot of popularity over the last years. One of the main reasons is the way they approach their music; first of all the band's lyrics are all in their native language, which is not unique, but gives the music a certain flair. Second, Lazuli does not fit in the line of regular progressive rock bands, because the way of composing and the open-mindedness towards the use of exotic music as influences. Third fact is, the use of the Leode, an instrument developed by Claude Leonetti, together with guitar manufacturer LAG, after Leonetti lost the use of his left arm because of a motorcycle accident.
Being founded in 1998 by the aforementioned Leonetti and his brother, vocalist and guitarist Dominique Leonetti and with lead guitarist Gédéric Byar, the line-up remained solid until 2009, when warr guitar player Sylvain Bayol and drummers/ percussionists Frédéric Juan and Yohan Simeon were replaced by keyboard/ French horn player and basically multi-instrumentalist Romain Thorel and drummer/ percussionist Vincent Barnavol. With this line-up Lazuli recorded the more than excellent [4603 Battements] (2011) and a brilliant DVD called Live @ Abdeille Rode.(2013, see review).
The new CD, Tant Que L'Herbe Est Grasse, continues where the previous album left us, although three years have passed by. Strong song writing and catching riffs make sure the attention is focused on the music again. Sometimes hunches of Peter Gabriel pass by, as well as Marillion and Fish. Oriental influences and middle-eastern rhythms have been imbedded in the band's music and without them, Lazuli wouldn't sound like Lazuli anymore. This, and the strong way percussive elements are used in the music, make sure Lazuli is lifted way above the average band in my opinion. Déraille and Homo Sapiens are typical Lazuli compositions, perfectly built, and filled with a mix of melody, emotion and power in one. The use of acoustic instruments, added to the guitar and the Leode works perfectly. Une Pente Qu'On Dévale stands out in a different way; Dominique's vocals take you to the depths of your soul, his emotions are intense and the solo just adds that special note to create a perfect song. Both Prisonnière D'une Cellule Mâle and Tristes Moitiés also use these deep, emotional vocals, and specially in the latter composition Dominique really digs deep. Strong and powerful are the following L'essence Des Odyssées and Multicolère. The attention here, besides on the vocals, goes to the instrumentation more, and the manner in which the songs are built, in a way you could call them typical Lazuli compositions. J'ai Trouvé Ta Faille seems to be a regular Lazuli composition, with strong vocals, percussive elements and fitting guitar and Leode and weird, but fantastic sounds, until the second half of the song. Here special guest Fish makes his appearance - thus fulfilling a long time wish of the band - with his typical voice, that adds that something special to the composition. The final song of the album brings back the power and strong soloing. Although the songs are kept relatively short - two songs only just over six minutes, the rest between three and five minutes - in this composition each individual get the chance to shine. And shine they do, making Les courants Ascendants the perfect end of a great album.
Lazuli is a band that has grown over the years and does not walk the regular paths to the top. With their latest release, Tant Que L'Herbe Est Grasse, they have created another highlight, with interesting and well played compositions. All equally good in my opinion, where previous albums had songs that stood out above the rest. For the regular progressive rock fan who still isn't aware of the capabilities of this French band, I would recommend to listen to it and be open minded, I'm sure you are going to love this album.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Esther Ladiges)
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