“Nothing’s perfect,” the first two words from “Touch the Razor” off of Hangman’s Chair’s newest album, Banlieue Triste. To sum it up, nothing is perfect and that’s true of the latest offering from this French doom metal band, and I for one say – it shouldn’t be.
The best parts of this album are in its imperfections, as guitarist Julien Chanut and the rest of Hangman’s Chair take listeners to the depths of their conscience and subconscious.
“Over the past three years, we’ve been through hard times – anxiety attacks, insomnia, and then one of us had drug issues that led him to the hospital. Our bodies are getting weaker as we grow older,” said Chanut. “We feel it is something that we can use in our lyrics instead of keeping it to ourselves; we feel we can tap into this negativity and turn it into something not positive, but at least creative.”
The creativity is showcased right from the beginning of Banlieu Triste, as the tone for the entire album is set from the get go. An ominous instrumental (one of three on the album) that builds the tone and lays the ground work for what’s to come from the bad suburb (Banlieu Triste). French ‘Synthwave’ master Perturbator (“Tired Eyes”) displays his skills and builds a suspenseful warning for those who dare continue.
Leading right into “Naïve,” where the vocals of new singer, Cedric Toufouti, add to the overall feel of the album and truly cements the tone that highlights the rises and falls of the album. From pure head banging to the slow power of the wall built by drummer and founding member Mehdi Birouk Thépegnier and bassist Clément Hanvic this album grabs you immediately.
“‘Naïve’ (the video for which features noted French actor Nicholas Duvauchelle, perhaps best known for his role in the crime drama ‘Braquo’) is about the difficulty of quitting drugs and vices in general,” said Chanut.
Other highlights on the album are found in the next track, “Sleep Juice,” which takes the listener on a journey that builds, not through speed rather an ever increasing power, that hardened doomsters will truly appreciate. The shaking in your soul as you feel the intensity build, diminish and then build again is a testament to Hangman’s Chair.
From there we truly see that nothing is perfect on “Touch the Razor.” This piece is one of peaks of the album. “Touch the Razor” gives listeners time to ponder and get lost in their minds only to come back and realize they are still here and can get lost again.
Afterward doomsters are treated to the second instrumental, “Tara,” which is a great respite from where Razor took them and where they’re about to go with “04-09-16.”
“04-09-16” starts right in the face, or in this case ears, of listeners and doesn’t let go. This is a more tradition stab at metal and the power chords drive the number to its zenith – and that’s a wonderful thing.
The song is about the overdose of one band member, which member doesn’t matter, but more importantly how they reacted to it.
“The first lyrics that came were ‘04/09/16’,” confirms Chanut, “and these relate to all the things that happened in the hospital. The other lyrics flowed from there…”Next up is “Tired Eyes,” which is a lyrical juggernaut as they go on a musical forage using tone, pacing and volume like a band who knows exactly who they are at this moment in time.And it’s a great way to get into the next track, “Negative Male Child,” which is balladesque and really showcases Toufouti’s vocals.
“‘Negative Male Child’ is about the relationship with parents,” said Chanut, “this is very emotional because one of us has just lost his mother.”The tone remains somber for the third and final instrumental on the album and features Chanut’s, plus guest guitarist Marc De Backer from Wolvennest, finest guitar work.
’Sidi Bel Abbes’ refers to the town in Algeria where late band member, guitarist Sid-Ahmed Azzouni, was from; tragically, Azzouni, 30, died in a diving accident in 2010, and his family chose to bury him in Sidi Bel Abbes.
This thoughtful piece is truly something Hangman’s Chair should be proud to call a tribute to Azzouni.
The last song on Banlieue Triste, is “Full Ashtray” and it’s quite a bit different but still fully Hangman’s Chair, than the rest of the album. Frankly, this song sounds like a perfect meld of early 90’s Seattle Grunge and NYC guitar heavy ‘70s rock. They pull it off exceptionally well.
All-in-all Hangman’s Chair have found their vibe and hit it squarely on Banlieue Triste.
“We feel that Banlieue Triste has something special, a taste of relief,” concludes Chanut. “With these songs, we believe that we’ve truly found our identity. Banlieue Triste is what we are now and what we used to be as kids – it’s full of nostalgia, the broken French dream.”
Contributing Writer for I’m Music Magazine Don Manuszewski
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