16/06/2006 § Leave a comment
Contrary to popular opinion, the French must be doing something right. It’s not often that I get to hear bands that come out of France, in fact, I could probably count on one hand that amount of French female-fronted metal acts that I’ve come into contact with. The French seem to do metal in a different way to a lot of other countries – there’s something more refined about it, something smoother and more crafted. I had never heard of Dylath-Leen until the promo came plopping through my door and the reason for this is that they appear to have been a very underpublicised band. Insecure – their only album to date – has been knocking around from one licensing to the next since 2002 and only now are they making a follow-up. However, Insecure is so good for what it is that I’m surprised the band are even trying to create a successor since it’s going to be a tough act to follow.
The band is named after a city in one of HP Lovecraft’s novels, and I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve always found something a bit strange about Lovecraft. For a start he’s called Lovecraft which makes his name sound like a pseudonym chosen by an ageing, over 60 erotic-novelist, and his books all seem to be about weird animals with lots of legs. I also don’t think that Dylath-Leen is a particularly memorable band name. Like Akphaezya, Tystnaden and Amphitryon it’s one of those names which the band has almost deliberately chosen so that no-one will remember who they are, though it will earn you a decent amount of points in Scrabble.
Fortunately, Dylath-Leen don’t seem to have fallen into the trap of countrymates Mordiggan by singing in French because, unlike Mordiggan, they’ve realised that singing growls in French sounds downright silly. You can’t say anything in French and sound menacing or tough, it doesn’t work. It only sounds as if you need a hug because you’re a little pissed off. All of the vocal lines on Insecure are in English, and they don’t come across as being in a heavy French accent either. As well as this, all the vocals on the album are taken care of by singer Kathy Coupez, and she has a remarkable voice. Unlike Cadaveria or Angela Gossow, the register of the growls is actually quite deep and there are parts, even though they are few and far between, when she sings in clean vocals, and she has a very good singing voice which is quite gentle and clear in tone. One couldn’t call this BnB since the clean vocals are very sparse but it’s obvious from the start of the album that we are in the hands of quite a talented death-metal vocalist.
What sets this apart from other death metal, apart from the obvious inclusion of the female singer, is that Dylath-Leen don’t pump their music full of blast beats and double kick-pedal drumming. A lot of the time the melodies on the album are quite slow and even groovelike but without ever slipping into the doom category. The music is also so dark in place that it could fit into the black metal class quite snugly. Tracks like Out, The Awakening and Offertory are the highest points of the album with guitars riffs that drive the songs on with groovy momentum and a sprinkling of clean vocals. However, it is Blood Is Thicker Than Water which is the albums’ high point with its rhythmic power chord riffing and a beautiful clean section in the middle. Indeed, in the clean moments, Kathy’s voice almost transports you to a dreamlike state since the contrast between the richness of her voice and the grave measure of the guitars is so stark that it seems as if the band have managed to meld two beautiful extremes into the same musical passage with honorary success. In addition, Dylath-Leen have managed to do something which a lot of death metal bands of the more progressive category don’t manage to do, and this is to keep the song lengths short. In a world where the odd death metal song can go well over ten minutes it’s almost a relief to see that no song on Insecure goes above five minutes, the only real difference being Criminal Art Extravagances, an 8 minute instrumental halfway through the album.
The band have now revealed that they have finished recording their follow-up album and I am very intrigued to see what this will bring. The clean vocals on Insecure are so good, so colourful and emotive that it’s a shame they feature so little and it would be good to see more of them on the next release. For a debut though, Insecure is a fantastic effort which is made more impressive by the punchy and thick sound production. Female-fronted death metal is almost a non-existent genre and Dylath-Leen are by far one of the most dark and skilful bands I have heard fill it. There is something grittily attractive about this album that keeps me coming back time and time again to bask in its devilish, sinister nature. Insecure’s lighter moments might be few, but its overall mixture of sweetness and gloom make for a transfixing and affecting combination.