Recently, Dam Kat of Children in Paradise messaged me on Facebook. She wanted to alert me to a debut from one of her friends, and I guess I expected it would be similar to her own work, something along the lines of progressive folk. Etrange is anything but that. Their self-titled debut released on September 1st, and it is one of the best progressive metal albums of the year for my ears.
Etrange hails from France. The members include Velhon on programming and keys, and Deadale on guitars and bass. The band’s name means “strange” in French.
The music here is sci-fi progressive metal with grand cinematic orchestrations, stunningly spacey keyboards, and burning electronic atmospheres. On one hand, you will hear all of the finger-scarring guitar work that you might expect, from huge solos, to blindly fast licks, to giant riffy moments. On the other hand, the album is un-apologetically majestic and cinematic, with huge soundtrack-worthy moments and this overall sense of an epic journey through space and time. The sound, if you are looking for a reference, will definitely please fans of Earthside and Pulse of Nature.
Etrange has no problem slowing down to muse and ponder. Indeed, some of the songs find their best expressions in those moments. The orchestrations always bleed in at just the right moments to give you those uplifting feelings of majesty and wonder, never letting the metallic portions go to the band’s collective head, if you know what I mean. The metal on this album is certainly grounded by the other elements, helping to put the music on an entirely new plane of existence.
I could go over each and every track, the album is that good. Let me offer some highlights, though. “Exile” starts the album with a grand score, building the anticipation just long enough to unleash blazing guitars and keys upon us. It ruminates with us in the middle, as if telling a soulful story, only to pour out metallic grace on us to end the track. “Titan” continues directly from “Exile”, and boasts some of the most incredible guitar moments on the album, but it is also soaked with neoclassical splendor.
Some of the tracks have more introspective sections. “Astralis” has some amazingly heavy riffage. It absolutely rocks, but has some thoughtful, keyboard-soaked moments that really shine, especially when laden with electronic effects. “Gateway” is a restrained, thoughtful transition piece from beginning to end. It feels peaceful and serene. I love it.
“Exoplanet” is my favorite track on the album. This ending song turns the cinematics up to the max. It feels like a grand work of science fiction art that you can hear instead of see. It is a truly stunning piece that grants you all of the splendor, energy, and abstraction that you could ever want.
Etrange have come out of no where to produce one of the most exciting, energetic prog metal albums of 2019. The sheer weight of the compositions and layers here will crush you on first listen. For me, I was instantly whisked away to another world, and the album never lets you lose that feeling. This is an absolutely stunning debut from a band I will certainly want to watch closely.