01. Gamla Stan
04. Les Caprices de Remington
05. Temple du Cri
06. Sans Fleur ni Couronne
08. Bouche Cousue
09. Bec et Ongles
Born in 1825, German chemist Emil Erlenmeyer is perhaps best known in the scientific world for being the creator of the erlenmeyer flask, a common piece of laboratory equipment with multiple practical functions to it. Now, he has lent his name to Limoges musical outfit Erlen Meyer, who have commandeered it for their own devices – devices which create some of the most exciting sludgy doom I’ve heard in quite some time.
Erlen Meyer is a bleak album. Although vocalised entirely in French, the throat-shredding howls of Olivier Lacroix convey all the emotion you could possibly want or need to understand: a band in pain, and an anguish crystallised by the loss of drummer Romain Djoudi in a motorcycle accident days before recording. The torment is tangible in every bark and groan; in every strum and beat. Although tragic, the result is truly compelling listening; the purest of emotive art.
After instrumental opening “Gamla Stan“, “Nuit” drives straight into a teeth-gritting example of this. Lacroix absolutely screams his words at the tops of his lungs, as if to shake the very room he’s in. A mid-section drops the fury for a few bars as he groans painfully about evocative imager of candelabras, dripping wax and recovering the rays of a smile.
The record is described as a cross between a dark thriller and a horror film; a collection of short stories from the viewpoint of a variety of protagonists, making nods to literary and silver screen. Sonically, the five-piece create this atmosphere with well-defined, twangy guitars, brooding and loud low end, and crash-heavy drumming. “Agatha” – that’s right, a reference to Dame Christie herself – is driven by the bass of Jérémy Abella and drummer Karol Diers skipping across the toms and cymbals. It perfectly captures the mood of the song, which narrates the unquantifiable frustration of writer’s block – “Le cliquetis des touches de sa machine à écrire, d’habitude d’une cadence (The rattling of keys of his typewriter, usually a rate rampant, had recently abated.)” – which is certainly something to which I can relate.
A few instrumental-only pieces divide the action, but so strong is the emotive core of this record that at least a cursory investigation into what the lyrics – all available on their website – mean is almost compulsory. “Temple Du Cri” is a hazy, horror-infused mess of mode and memory; “Sans Fleur Ni Couronne” (without a flower crown) describes a funeral from the viewpoint of the deceased; and “Bec et Ongles“, from what I can decipher, is a grotesque, Shelley-esque story of creature creation.
There is not a lot wrong with Erlen Meyer at all. If feels ever so slightly over-long to me, but I’m a genre light-weight, and it more than makes up for that with its mucky musical chops, its emotional fervor, and its compelling concept. I’m a big fan of this last one, but it’s a complete package for fans and newcomers to the genre alike, and a stunning debut for the band.