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Demians: Building An Empire

With high praise from none other than Steven Wilson, the anticipation for the release of the debut album from Demians has been pretty high within the prog community. The project of multi-instrumentalist/singer Nicolas Chapel (he's since fleshed out Demians into a full band), who hails from France, takes on many styles and shapes throughout Building An Empire. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), there is a strong Porcupine Tree/Blackfield element happening here, which you can hear right off the bat on the excellent 9-minute opener "The Perfect Symmetry". This one's very similar to recent PT output as far as containing powerful guitar riffs and a similar sense of dynamics. The moodier "Shine" goes into Blackfield territory, with lush keyboards and Chapel's tender vocals, a tone that continues on the bubbling "Sapphire", a song that mixes moments of powerful guitar thunder with quieter introspective passages, and some seriously catchy vocal melodies during the chorus. "Naive" comes across as part idie rock and part bombastic prog, while "Unspoken" reaches into ambient textures complete with soaring Pink Floyd/Porcupine Tree styled vocal melodies. The lush "Temple" sees Chapel multi-tracking layers of vocals, electronic samples, & haunting keyboards, which segues right into "Empire" as if it was one long 10-minute song. The CD's centerpiece is the closing 16-minute epic "Sand", a real treat that has many twists and turns. While there are some heavier sections on this one where Chapel cranks up his guitar and churns out some thunderous riffs, along with some heavy drum work (even some surprising vocal growls can briefly be heard!), for the most part this is a tune steeped in melancholy and multiple textures, supported by chilling keyboard tapestries, effects laden vocals, lilting guitar chords, and tribal percussion.

Building An Empire shows a boatload of promise for this French outfit. With Chapel putting together a full band, the plan is to take Demians on the road and play as many live shows as possible so they can show the world that Steven Wilson's positive comments are justified.


Track Listing

  1. The Perfect Symmetry 9:19
  2. Shine 3:17
  3. Sapphire 7:28
  4. Naive 4:54
  5. Unspoken 5:59
  6. Temple 3:05
  7. Empire 6:32
  8. Sand 16:09

Added: May 31st 2008
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Band's My Space Page
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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Demians: Building An Empire
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-05-31 12:04:28
My Score:

Demians (inspired by a book by Herman Hesse) is the solo project of French musician Nicolas Chapel. He plays all instruments on the album, but he has also assembled a live lineup for touring purposes.

The debut consists of eight tunes which clock in at almost an hour of running time. Starting with the ambitious "The Perfect Symmetry", one will immediately notice the huge sound Chapel has constructed. Mainly composed of crytalline acoustic guitars and rich shades of synthesizers, the song boasts a curious mix of spoken parts underscoring Chapel's mellow, laidback singing and the occasional rhythm guitar crunch. The song mostly moves in a midtempo pace, but it is littered with dense sound experimentation, where bleeps and static protrude amidst weird radio excerpts and a steady, monotonous drum workout. Towards the end, the tune takes on a cinematic bent thanks to the rising guitar crescendo and varied synth harmonies.

The acoustic guitars of "Shine" and "Naive" somewhat recall Blackfield, each starting out really mellow and building to an intense finale. The former gets really going halfway through with cascading keyboard melodies and its staccato rhythm guitars while the latter stands out for its dynamic song structure. The uplifting vocals also bring to mind Peter Gabriel (think "Solsbury Hill"). Also there is the beautifully produced "Sapphire", with its subtle bass tones and symphonic textures. The way the heavy synth tones keep overlapping each other at the end is sublime.

Chapel has achieved the juxtaposition of dark and light perfectly on Building An Empire, as the second half of the album is more psychedelic and darker toned. Cuts like "Unspoken" contain Porcupine Tree-like atmospherics and guitar elements stretching into white noise. Tracks six and seven, "Temple" and "Empire", are linked both thematically and musically. The electronic sound sequencing that finishes "Temple" reappers in the intro of "Empire", linking the tunes successfully. The lyrics, too, seem to address a similar theme, as Chapel has channeled into them feelings of fear of loss. In a way, "Empire" expands on the soundcape formed by "Temple", with neat doubled vocals and jazzy overtones a la Steven Wilson's other band No-Man.

The sixteen-minute "Sand" embodies the whole Demians sound, and is perhaps the album's high point. The tribal drumming and percussion works very well over the moody sounds created. Even Chapel's vocals take on a more serious, aggressive delivery (the scream towards the end almost borders on growling). Also, the bass guitar playing on this one is quite atypical compared to the other tunes, as the bass takes centre stage, particularly during the addictive keyboard melody -- this one commands all prog lovers' attention.

This album is arguably among the most mellow discs in the Inside Out catalog, perhaps right up there with Chroma Key, Kino, and RPWL, though it's totally different musically. One would be wiser to group them with acts like Blackfield, No-Man, Nosound, and even later-day Alcest, another one-man band from France.



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