Diving Rooms
/self-released; 2004/



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After weeks of rain, coldness and dubious weather, spring seems finally determined to take over. Everyone is out, sipping beers or whatever pleases them, blissfully sitting at a coffee’s terrace or watching a pointless rugby semi-final, enjoying the warm sun and here I am, shutters closed in the afternoon, pleasantly bopping the head in my dismal apartment to Diving Rooms, making funny faces out of delight to echo the poisonous atmosphere. Here I am, admiring the good-looking digipack that gathers photos conveying themes of alienation and dislocation. Empty places and orphaned doors ominously lighted in storm blue. There’s a graffiti in a lonely swimming-pool that says ‘Remplir est le seul but de l’homme moyen’, meaning ‘Fill up is the sole goal of the average man’. I won’t venture on metaphysical comments; it just prompts me to empty my vodka. ‘Don’t look at me, don’t judge’ sings Andres in the last song…

Heliogabale has been one of the prominent French emo bands in the 90s. They had not released anything since Mobile Home in 1999, an album which eased up their road. At a time when all 90s emo bands tend to calm down, they have chosen to come back the wild way: Diving Rooms sometimes reminds their noisy first efforts Yolk & To Pee (‘Albinos’) even if the sound is much better, fierce but restrained, even if the songs are much more mature, there is urgency here. Samplers out, let there be guitars…

Philippe Thiphaine’s guitar play is irreproachable, alternating raw staccato riffs with hypnotic but threatening arpeggios, somehow reminding Duane Denison. Mentioning Jesus Lizard impressive guitar player is not surprising because there is something appealingly poisonous in the atmosphere, in the energy possessing the music. Of course, actress Sasha Andres bitter female singing is not particularly reminiscent of Yow’s raucous, unwholesome ranting, she’ll make you think of Lydia Lunch or Queen Adreena, especially when shouting. However, references are annoying insofar as Heliogabale is undeniably idiosyncratic. ‘Hunting’ is an incredibly addictive opener while ‘A stone can’t swim’, my favourite song, goes gradually tighter as if it was losing its nerves facing what’s impossible, Andres shouts ‘A stone can’t swim and me neither’ at the end. ‘My happy fly’ and ‘Les Chiens’ carry on in this tense, oppressive direction. When the pace slows down (‘Les papillons’, ‘My happy fly’ to a lesser degree), the band is to be associated with Daisy Chainsaw’s unhealthy creepy, grating songs giving the fuzzy impression that the singer is creeping in a quagmire.

Heliogabale's 5th album is a great achievement which has just triggered in me the longing to re-discover their previous albums. One of the best albums released this year so far. And it’s self-released !

-SEB ‘stoneface’ WOOd.

/may 1st 2004/