French thrash/death metallers Pictured is a band which over their five years of existence has remained to all extents and purposes anonymous to the wider metal Masses. There have been a few bands already this year which from a similar state of play have made a big step towards a fuller spotlight of recognition with impressive and striking releases. The Pont l’abbé based quartet are the next, unleashing a truly mighty album in the shape of their debut The Strand Of Time to hopefully lead them out of relative obscurity. Though not quite flawless the album is a brawling storm of invention, imagination, and intrusive intensity. From an immediate infectious introduction it evolves into a thoroughly addictive and compelling release from which resistance is impossible.
Consisting of vocalist/guitarist Niko Beleg, guitarist Sebastien Le Bellec, bassist Sylvain Coïc, and Thomas Coïc on drums, the band have released two demos prior to their album, Son of the Night in 2008 and the acclaimed The Dwelling of two years ago. That release was the moment Pictured really ignited with a flurry of positive reaction and the release being called one of the best melodic death-metal works released that year in the French underground media. Another two years on and the album finds the band even deeper into their striking evolution and creativity, the songs unveiling a maturity and inventiveness rare in debut releases and arguably in a great many melodic death metal albums over recent months.
Released through Klonosphere/Season of Mist, The Strand Of Time is an unpredictable and consistently invigorating release; its nine tracks a bruising yet contagious corruption of energy, spiteful aggression, and completely enthralling invention. Based in death metal the release is a continual maelstrom of great ideas and songwriting realised with a vigorous enthusiasm and skilful enterprise. Not one of the songs simply rests in the arms of expectation but come with a intimidating dark and deeply thoughtful imagination, no easy verse chorus verse chorus structure here. The tracks flex and turn with impressive fluidity and invention whilst retaining a perpetual aggressive and irresistible lure to the ear.
The album erupts from the first note of opener Another and takes no time in mesmerising and seducing with sharp colourful grooves and rampaging riffs brought on a wall of destructive rhythms. As the song goes deeper into its absorbing depths there is only submission and adoration on the horizon, the melodic manipulations teasingly fingering the senses within the intense bursts to ignite the most urgent primal energies. At every turn the song switches finding greater and more addictive inventiveness to give equal gratification.
We mentioned the album was flawless though it is not a massive issue in hindsight. The vocals of Beleg, fine though they are and better than a great many, do lack variety and precision to match the great sounds behind him. He has a one dimensional delivery which at times fails to find a connection with the imaginative music he and the band create. It is not a major thing and is more down to personal preference but does stop the album from becoming a best of year contender though it is close and could change.
The blacked greedy attack of Metal creates havoc within the ear next, a blistering annihilatory force which equally bewitches with acidic melodic veins of play within its vicious onslaught. Though not as startling as its predecessor it keeps interest and fervour high and makes a great lead into arguably best track on the album in the stunning Howling Forest. From an atmospheric enticing and dramatic keys the song nurtures its ambient breath into a storming gale of finely crafted play and vindictive riffs. With the core of melodic sonic mastery flaring up to enflame the heart throughout the song it is an insatiable pleasure for the senses and again shows how creative and inventive the band is.
Tracks like the venomous slightly folk tinged Black Bile, the rampant thrash punk driven To Hell And Back, and Stranger, simply leave one exhausted with satisfaction as they continue the irresistible and immense quality. The latter of these three is a feast of thirsty guitar play and hungry rhythms igniting the air with explosions of caustic sonic excellence and unrelenting intensive attacks. Add the challenging and intimidating closing title track and you have an album which is nothing less than impressive and at numerous times pure brilliance.
RingMaster Review 15/06/2012