AD VITAM AETERNAM Abstract Senses (New Aeon Media) (2004)
It seems like Heavy Metal music with operatic female vocals is quite popular these days. What was started many years ago by bands like Paradise Lost, Therion and The Gathering as a form of experimentation, seems to have grown into an individual scene, and the modern expressionists of that movement such as Nightwish are enjoying the seeds of this effort and are receiving one award after the other. Now, I never really liked Nightwish, for many different reasons. I have always tried to justify this negative reaction of mine towards their music, but I believe that the obvious answer came to me with the debut album of a French sextet called Ad Vitam Aeternam.
The band was formed in 1999 in a Paris suburb by guitarist Jean Suire, and a female keyboard player called Cathy Bontant. At that period in time most of the previously-mentioned bands were mostly trying to focus on the melodic elements of their music. The idea was for Ad Vitam Aeternam to bring back the Heavy Metal element to the atmospheric music that they both chose to serve. The addition of four more musicians in the band's line up, with the most important, in my opinion, being that of the female vocalist Celine de Kerliviou, was the thing that gave the band the boost of energy that was required in order to record their debut album “Abstract Senses”. The album was recorded as a self-production, but it was not long before New Aeon Media discovered them and offered them a contract.
There are many things that I like about this French band, first being the fact that they chose not to put aside the Metal element in their music. Celine's amazing voice is often accompanied by classic Metal riffs, melodic guitar themes and Death Metal vocals performed by guitarist Fabien Longeot. I am pretty sure that, after the first audition, many of you will start comparing them with the early Gathering and also with the German cult band Haggard. There is a lot of character in this release, and the fact that the French vocalist chose not to use very high-pitched vocals with the purpose to impress, has definitely worked to the band's benefit. It is very obvious that the band is quite focused on what they want to present with this album. The rhythm section is very tight and the two guitarists proved that they are more than capable of delivering the goods.
It seems though that the band's worst enemy is the band itself. What I mean is that I was so impressed by some really amazing compositions like “Bitterness”, “Dementia”, “Abstract Senses” and “Les Meandres de l'Ame”, that the rest of the compositions sounded average in comparison. Still, “Abstract Senses” is a very enjoyable album to listen to, and definitely a very impressive album to build one's career upon.
I'd like to believe that we'll be hearing more from them in the near future, because they obviously deserve being recognised. This is the alternative 'quality' option on the 'well-served' commercial 'dish' that is known by the name of Nightwish.
Review by John Stefanis