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Altesia - Paragon Circus Award winner

Paragon Circus
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 14 December 2019, 5:38 AM

ALTESIA is the brainchild of the French multi-instrumentalist Clément Darrieu, based in Bordeaux. Passionate about music since his childhood, Clément learns music as a self-taught man and plays in different rock cover bands during his youth for several years. After having a revelation for Progressive Music, Clément founds his solo project in 2017. "Paragon Circus" deals with man's self-destruction in the modern and current society. The opus gives a bleak overview of a world the man has created and from which he is being trapped. The story stages a character who is about to live different experiences over his life. All of the six songs shine a light on several issues which drive the man towards his self-destruction such as economic disparities, incessant wars, alienation by work, social conformism, the judgement of people, the absence of happiness, the shallowness of people's reason. The album contains six tracks.

“Pandora” leads us off. Smooth and easy acoustical guitars create a dreamy atmosphere. It reminds me of OPETH, especially when the clean vocal harmonies come in. It’s a short, two-and-a-half minute opener that segues into “Reminiscent.” Solemn piano notes combine with lead guitar to create an ominous feeling. Thumping bass guitars usher in a Progressive passage where the meter is all over the place. The lead guitar solo is absolutely stunning, and those old-school keys that follow keep the OPETH feeling alive. It takes a while before the vocals come in, but they are smooth and mellow, with a melancholic feeling. The sax solo really makes the song swing, and it’s clear that the band has an arsenal of various approaches on the album.

“Amidst the Smoke” features melodic vocal harmonies and more of that melancholic feeling that fits in so well with the album themes. The Progressive elements are dialed back just a bit here to allow the vocals to shine brightly. Around the half-way mark, some heavy guitar and bass accents join a wonderful keyboard solo. They really create some memorable melodies in this song as well. “The Prison Child” opens with a little more power than previous tracks. It settles into a slow groove pretty quickly after that, letting the melody shine with minimal instrumentation. It waxes and wanes from heavier passages to lighter passages, but always with those central themes in mind. This time there is a violin solo…brilliant! Some heavier accents come towards the end of the song…the transitions are nearly seamless.

“Hex Revenge” opens with light piano notes and dreamy vocals. It picks up a little with clean guitars and depressive emotions. It turns angrier with the addition of distorted guitars and even some harsh vocals. “Cassandra’s Prophecy” closes the album, with a mid-tempo swing followed by some harrowing keys and guitars that bear down heavily on top of you. What an intriguing sound! Clean guitars follow, along with smooth melodies. The depressive qualities are on full display in the song. A guitar solo comes in along with a slightly angrier tone. This lengthy song (nearly 18 minutes in length) changes course many times throughout, but again, the transitions are easy to follow and they make sense. The guitar solo towards the end is done in a Classical vein and Alexis really lets loose to show you what he can do. It ends with a pretty clean guitar passage that is very melancholy.

This is some high level alchemy, but yet very accessible and easy to listen to. Clément is obviously a very gifted songwriter, and his work here is outstanding. The brilliant thing that he is able to pull off is writing an album that reminds me of old school offerings, yet it is also so fresh, new and alive. I mentioned about the transitions before, but they are absolutely seamless and the way he connects the passages results in a synergy not often heard by other Progressive bands out there. He really dotted all the “I’s” and crossed all the “T,s” here, and couldn’t have given any more of his soul to the album. Now get out there and purchase it!

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Pandora
2. Reminiscent
3. Amidst the Smoke
4. The Prison Child
5. Hex Reverse
6. Cassandra’s Prophecy
Clément Darrieu – Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Yann Ménage- Drums
Alexis Casanova – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Antoine Pirog – Bass, Backing Vocals
Henri Bordillon – Keyboards
Record Label: Independent


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