- - - - - -

Whyzdom - Symphony for a Hopeless God

Whyzdom - CD Review
Symphony for a Hopeless God




CD Info
Scarlet Records
11 tracks
English, French, Latin lyrics


There are a lot of directions that interest me in Femme Metal. A lot of themes. But this release probably hits as many as anything I’ve heard. Now Whyzdom has, in the past, clearly been a favorite of mine, I’ve liked everything they ever did. . . .A LOT. And this one is at least as good as the previous material. But, it’s good in a slightly different way. Band leader Vynce Leff has always done interesting stuff, both lyrically and musically. And this was no disappointment in either category. Musically, we get top notch metal, more symphonic than you deserve, and choral work to drive the mortal soul in all of us. Vocalist Marie Rouyer has a range of vocal styles, and a range in terms of octaves, that should satisfy you needs in the femme metal arena with nothing left to be desired. She’s a vox supreme.

With any release that provides the complexity of sound we get in Symphony, it’s difficult to understand how all that came about. With Whyzdom, it becomes even more difficult, Vynce uses a lot of software and a lot of approaches that not everyone is capable of mastering. I asked him about several topics I found to be interesting The symphonics are, of course, one of the first things one would ask about. Vince talked about that component: “About symphonics, as I said before, this time I wanted to use more the profound sound of bass brass, and you can hear it through the album, giving a cinematic edge to the overall album. But as always, I try to compose in quite a melodic way for orchestra, as opposed to harmonic way. Instead of placing orchestral chords along the song structures (like some orchestral libraries allow you to do easily), I prefer to work melodically on all separate parts. Which means that I try as often as possible to make instrument parts "singable". This is a much more complicated way of doing things because melodies of different instruments can change the harmonic content, and even sometimes lead to irregular harmonies, and conflicts with guitar riff harmonies.” But, you have to understand that Whyzdom is not just musicians, there is sophisticated software involved as Vynce explains: “As for material used, I mainly use Vienna Symphonic Libraries, which are the most used Libraries by classical composers. But on some parts, I also use East&West Libraries which have that epic cinematic sound used in many movies soundtracks - but which are slightly less good when composing in a melodic fashion. I have some other sound libraries, too numerous to mention, which I use when needed for some specific sound here and there.”

But this is metal and metal, generally speaking, requires some traditional instruments; guitars, drums, etc. And Whyzdom doesn’t forget this component, “I would say that, like the other previous albums, we paid very close attention to the interaction between guitar and orchestra. It's always important to have a dialog between metal elements like the guitar and orchestral elements. Instruments are talking with each other all the time. Moreover, all the instruments of the orchestra have their own role. This time we have put a lot of emphasis on the low growling bass brass : low trombones and tuba, who express drama and divine power. But you can also hear oboes, flutes to express fragility, for example.” But, with this release, there is a little more guitar than in some previous releases. Vynce said this was no mistake, “Another thing I want to pinpoint, is that we worked a lot with Regis (guitar player) on the guitar riffs. I feel that guitar is often left aside in symphonic metal, and we wanted to make it a strength of the album. They give a lot of movement and power to the album.”

Not to be ignored is one of the finest vocals in the genre. Rouyer is not the first Whyzdom vocalist, there have been several. But, she seems to be settling in nicely. Vynce seems to like his vocalists to be both dramatic and musical and Rouyer seems to fit the bill. But here, that vocal seems to be expanded in multiple ways as Vynce explains: “The other thing we have worked on a lot, is Marie's incredible ability to sing in different registers. It's very important in a song like Eve's Last Daughter for example, because her lyrical tone is used in the chorus to express a divine viewpoint on human kind. If you listen to the end of the song, you'll notice that the very last chorus is sung in rock voice, with exactly the same melody. It's there to express that the same words are put in the mouth of Human Kind this time, so the viewpoint is different, conveying a different meaning to the words (more accusative this time - not sure of the word - while in the chorus, it expresses compassion).”

And finally, the choral component is something that has often set Whyzdom apart from other Symphonic bands. “The choral work was done differently this time. Actually, we had only 3 female vocalists, including Marie and I made all male vocals. I chose to do it this way, because choir parts are incredibly difficult. For example, Let's Play With Fire is a choir with many chromatic intervals which only high level singers can do - it's very modern choir composition. Moreover, I must say that Marie's voice is so incredible that she could sing several registers like soprano 1, soprano 2, alto 1, alto 2 very easily.”

So, musically, this is pretty much everything you could possibly expect. But, with this one, the lyrical message has gone over the top. There’s a central theme and Vynce commented on it: “The central theme is God and religion, and of course Human Kind. All songs are completely related to that. There is some sort logic in the flow of the titles, but it is not so important.” I’d tell you about individual tracks but Vynce did that for me, and his is probably a better interpretation than those of a semi-retired shrink who spent too much time around water boards and folks who vacationed regularly at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib:

“The album starts with "While The Witches Burn" in the ancient times with Inquisition excesses and witch hunts, partly for political reasons, also based on credulity and fear. The second track "Tears of a Hopeless God" is a a reflexion about what God would feel, witnessing all the horrors perpetrated in his name throughout history (ancient but also modern, like). It's also a reflexion about Human kind nature, because we hope that, although mankind seems to be running to their own destruction (war, infinite growth in a finite world, ...), there's still a hope that there's some good in Human nature that will make him overcome these troubled times. The third track "Let's Play With Fire", coming after a dark mid tempo song, is somehow lighter but also terribly realistic : you can try to ignore that fire burns your skin, that ice is cold, but facts remain... and you can pretend to ignore religion or hope that it will be leaved behind, just like John Lennon expressed a few decades ago... But it's been here for thousands of years, and it is inevitably part of Human Kind history. "Eve's Last Daughter" puts the listener in a destroyed city, a battle field. Global war raged on earth, and in the end, only one woman remains : "Eve's Last Daughter". The song describes her walking through the city, and through her memories. The chorus exhorts Eve to behold her last daughter. This is the failure of God. "Don't Try To Blind Me" is a short heavy song where the main character refuses religion. "The Mask" is a song about how bigots attracted someone in their sect (or religion). The main character tells that story and how it makes her sad to have lost her friend that way. "Asylum Of Eden" is a song about Human condition, abandoned by their gods. In "Waking Up The Titans" a girl fights cancer. In her delirium and pain, she finds shelter in her dreams with Gods and Devils. She hold God(s) responsible for her pain and her ineluctable death. She calls on the Titans to avenge her and help her fight. "Theory of Life" topic is more centered on science and progress and how they're sometimes misused. It's also personified as a God in the choir that I love a lot : "Theory of Life" (which you can translate by "god" in fact, or, in the context of this song : statistical happenstance), cradled by fear or death, we're mortal toys in your hand." "Where Are The Angels ?" is a final call (and of course vowed to failure) to divine intervention and also a denunciation of the futility of religion's good will in front of bare reality. To finish the album "Pandora's Tears" is a reminder of Pandora's story, the Greek version of our Biblic "Eve".

The individual tracks differ more in terms of lyrical content than in musical composition. Yea, some are slower, some are pounding, some are strictly beautiful. While the Witches Burn is haunting, a drum roll takes us to Latin choral work of astounding beauty. Eve’s Last Daughter lets Rouyer drive the action with a beautiful vocal that evolves into one of the more complex metal tracks on the release. Waking Up the Titans goes overboard on the Symphonic with killer choral work. But, the themes are usually different,

The lyrics are all pretty much outstanding, especially for a guy who had to have an English dictionary handy the first time I interviewed him. Of course, there are lyrics in multiple languages: English, French and Latin. They kick off with the title track:

« Jour de colère que ce jour là / Qui réduira la Terre en cendres »
If there’s a god somewhere in the skies / What does he think of the mankind he created
If there’s a god somewhere in this world / What does he think of those who kill in his name

Waking Up the Titans uses the same multi lingual approach to take us to additional concerns worth noting:

Gaia Ouranos Atlas Prometheus / Chronos Hyperion / Come to me now
« Viens avec nous / Viens donne-moi la main / Souffrir ne sert à rien
Ton combat est vain »
This battle was lost from the start / No truce with that enemy inside
I fought that war before / The same wounds
And the same deadly conclusion / Wake up ! Titans by my side ! /
Break up God’s curse of humankind

I see no way to give this anything less than a perfect score. It captures everything I want in this style of music and does it at a level of excellence that is hard to ignore. A musical triumph in every sense of the words.