|HERESIE was the second LP recorded by this (mainly) Belgian ensemble. Their first, eponymous on its release and later re-titled 1313, set me on my ear - this album convinced me with no turning back that this was a band whose work I would continue to seek out as long as they continued to create. I've been tempted to review this amazing album for some time now - the problem was that I haven't owned a copy for years, and I would have had to write it from my memories of it. Since this music has been imbedded in my mind from the first time I heard it, back in 1979, this would not have been an impossibility - but I wanted to wait until I reacquired it on CD. I just picked it up this afternoon - and my memory served me very well indeed.
The beauty, power, and creativity at work here is among the most breathtaking I have ever experienced in music - at times dark and threatening, even nightmarish, it never ventures into 'noise', but rather utilizes every sound at the band's disposal to get the images and feelings of the compositions across. It's 'difficult music' - in the finest, purest, most stimulating and rewarding sense of the phrase. It's definitely not for the faint of heart or the unadventurous - it illustrates without compromise or pretension what can be achieved when musical boundaries are crossed, then obliterated. There are elements here of classical, rock, jazz, and improvisation - but the totality of this music is 'simply' Univers Zero. The addition of bassoon, oboe, violin and viola to the more usual 'rock' instruments (guitar, bass, drums, piano, organ, harmonium), along with the depth of composition and arrangement present in this group makes them stand out from others in the 'progressive' genre.
There are 'only' three tracks on this release - but what masterpieces they are! The album opens with the 25-minute-plus Daniel Denis composition 'La Faulx'. The piece goes through many mood and tempo changes - much as you would expect from classical music, but as I mentioned above, the classical influence is only one piece of the puzzle. 'La Faulx' begins broodingly with the harmonium playing some dark, low-register chord groupings - the violin works its way into the sound, followed by Daniel Denis' masterful, subtle touches on percussion, along with the oboe of Michel Berckmans. Each instrument vies for supremacy slowly, with the group coming together as a unit in strong fashion, driven along by Denis' drums and the bass of Guy Segers. The bassist adds his voice to the mix as the intensity slowly increases. A short, quieter passage featuring the oboe works its way in, followed shortly by a more rhythmically-oriented section. The piece works its way through several time signature changes and dynamic variations - themes are stated, fade and reappear later in the work until the darkness with which the track was introduced reasserts itself for the ending.
'Jack the Ripper' (a co-composition of Denis and guitarist/keyboardist Roger Trigaux), the second track, is every bit as foreboding and full of menace as its title would suggest. As in the first piece, the instruments begin as if they're awakening from a deep slumber, shuddering themselves to wakefulness, shaking off the bonds of sleep to unite and walk through the darkness as a unit. The album's closing work, Roger Trigaux's 'Vous le saurez en temps voulu' ('You will know when the time is right'), is, similarly, masterfully constructed and executed. The band plays with incredible ability and feeling - in sync like five fingers on a single hand, or writhing like five individual serpents, as the music demands. They are creators, performers, interpreters and slaves to the sound - in control and in thrall simultaneously. It's a wonder to behold.
This music leaves me breathless - it lives and breathes as a sentient being in a way that most other bands only approach. I remember when I had this album in LP format that I wore out one copy and had to buy a second one - what a blessing that CDs are more durable! This is desert island material for me, no doubt about it.