Album Title: Meanwhile
Date of Release: 10 February 2023
Let’s not mess around – this new album from Klone has its work cut out for it. Back in 2019, I reviewed ‘Le Grand Voyage’, the French band’s sixth full-length and it almost immediately clicked with me. Of it, alongside a score of 95%, I concluded:
“It never ceases to excite me when a band comes out of the shadows to blow me away; it is the magic of music and the thrill of a new discovery combining to dizzying effect. And, with ‘Le Grand Voyage’, Klone have created the album of their career to date and have made a very persuasive case for featuring in many an end-of-year ‘best of’ list.”
Naturally then, I was very interested to check out ‘Meanwhile’, their eagerly awaited follow-up to what many consider (me included) to be their finest hour so far.
The first thing to say with this review is that my immediate thoughts on ‘Meanwhile’ weren’t as striking as those for ‘Le Grand Voyage’. And that’s disappointing to note in itself. The fact that I’ve had this promo for a good couple of months but only now committing my thoughts to paper might serve to underline my initial struggles with the music on ‘Meanwhile’.
Stylistically, the quintet have not radically departed from their previous modus operandi, which only increased my initial confusion. What you get is deep atmospheres, huge riffs that veer off-kilter at times, and that familiar overall sound that sits somewhere between alt rock, post metal, and prog. The vocals of Yann Ligner are equally as familiar and unique, and there are plenty of interesting little embellishments along the way from brass and keys alike.
It was whilst in the car on a work journey that I was able to finally able to understand my struggles and get my feelings to coalesce. In short, there are two issues that ultimately prevent this album from being the out-and-out winner that its predecessor was. Firstly, the overall pace of the record feels a little one-dimensional and mid-paced, with some periods where the music is guilty of meandering just a little. Secondly, to my ears, the melodies aren’t as consistent or as strong as they are on ‘Le Grand Voyage’.
On the latter point, it must be said that when they get it right here, Klone get it very right. Examples of this can be heard on ‘Bystander’ and ‘Elusive’, both of which demonstrate just how potent this band can be when they hit their straps. The former begins quietly with a bright guitar line and commanding bass but it isn’t until the chorus that I’m truly captivated. In Klone terms, the melody and structure is quite simple, but it is irresistible. As the song ebbs and flows, it gradually builds to unleash the kind of monstrous guitar sounds that send me weak at the knees, only serving to further enhance the power and beauty of the chorus that unfolds one last time.
‘Elusive’ shouldn’t be the highlight that it is for me, especially with the way that it begins. Odd ska-like brass sounds emerge slowly from the depths, initially sending me recoiling. However, the more I listen, the stronger the riffs and the melodies become, beguiling and magical in equal measure. I also love it when Ligner unleashes a more expansive vocal line, which he does here, adding an extra special ingredient to the mix. I wish he’d do it more on ‘Meanwhile’ if I’m honest, because when he allows his voice to soar, it has the power to give me goosebumps.
Other tracks within the ten offered up here are worthy of a mention too, although none of them threaten to topple the aforementioned duo in my humble opinion. The opening track, ‘Within Reach’ was also the lead single and it’s a solid piece of music that has a few sprinklings of brilliance within. The pace is slow and lumbering, with a sludgy, almost doomy feel to the opening riff that churns alongside the bass, accented by some heartfelt vocals. The heavier, more violent second half contains genuine menace, albeit laced with subtle melodies that I wish had been expanded upon ever so slightly.
Meaning a temporary cessation of breathing, ‘Apnea’ is a more delicate composition that has grown on me over time. It offers some bright notes within a generally quieter track that still carries with it a sombre darkness to it. The final moments are the very best though, as the song methodically builds and the final guitar notes are more muscular and therefore more potent.
The remainder of the record, in spite of frequent spins, I can take or leave. Nothing on this album could ever be referred to as ‘bad’ or ‘poor’ per se. In fact, I am certain that there will be many people reading this review and probably wondering whether I am listening to the same album as they are. But having been bowled over by the brilliance of ‘Le Grand Voyage’, I wanted to be taken on a similar journey with ‘Meanwhile’. Instead, I can’t help but feel a little deflated by much of what I hear because I know that the band are capable of better in my humble opinion. Flashes of brilliance and a couple of excellent tracks are not enough for me from a band of this undoubted quality. I don’t write reviews to make friends, which on the strength of this article is just as well, I fear.
The Score of Much Metal: 76%