BY R J LANNAN
When Two Worlds Collide In 1916 from February to December
one of the fiercest battles on the European continent took place in Verdun, France
in which almost three quarters of a million lives were lost. As in many wars,
it was a Pyrrhic victory.
The music of Verdun is a collision of
two musical macrocosms; progressive rock and Eastern Fusion. Luckily no one gets
hurt by the impact and in the end the whole planet gains. In fact the mixture
is a sort of homeopathic treatment for the more common types of music. Moreover,
there is nothing pedestrian about hard driving rock with the blending of ethereal
vocals sung in several languages.
Verdun is a dynamic and creative
band led by guitarist, keyboardist, and song writer Neal Barnard. Mike Stetina
is the ace percussionist and the gifted vocalists are Martha Roebuck and
Ngoc Hoang. Their first eponymous titled album is profoundly creative joining
Progressive rock with Asian instrumentation and Eastern principles.
on a Vietnamese legend, the first track, Dream of the Black Horse
is an intensive exercise is fusion rock. The opening features the eerie instrument
the dan tranh, a Vietnamese zither related to the Japanese koto. Suddenly the
tempo explodes with guitar and drums and the dream or possibly, the nightmare
unfolds. Roebuck and Hoang blend an excruciated sweet vocal track over Barnard's
Taking the listener completely by surprise is the group's
cover of Jimi Hendrix's classic Purple Haze. It has a little bit
of down tempo and a turnabout change in vocal, a sweet female voice instead of
Hendrix's gravelly pronouncements. Verdun's rendition is familiar enough to make
you remember the times and different enough to appreciate them.
is a remarkable song containing several diverse elements. First, Stetina
lays down a stinging counterpoint drum track. This is covered by a strong ambient
keyboard layer. On top of that are the evocative voices of the two angelic vocalists
singing in different languages. The lyrics are like Haiku, only bolder.
more, rains fall
Once more, spring calls
Stones lie waiting
Love's last hope dies
Vietnamese vocalist Ngoc Hoang wears
quite the "Poetical Leaf" as she sings in her native language in Nightfall
while Martha Roebuck, like a musical chameleon, changes her speed and pitch in
the haunting ballad, Song For A Sparrow. In the song, Carter Melin
is responsible for the doleful cello addition and Barnard's poetry is simple as
well as beautiful. However, it is Martha's empyreal voice, sounding like an innocent,
which infuses an astounding amount of emotion into the song.
Seven is a very notable instrumental track that has industrial-like overtones.
Once again we are awed by Stetina's explosive percussion that punctuates Barnard's
guitar playing like musical dynamite.
On the last cut and one of the best,
Fate, evokes something like the beatnik poetry of the 60's. Sounding
a bit avant-garde and slipping in a bit of French, Barnard manages to write about
life, love and death.
There it is. So many words, so many lies.
it is. Is everyone blind?
Lighthearted madmen. Smiling, bury their dead.
jeux, jeux sont faits, jeux sont faits (The games are played).
is a kind of edgy ambivalence to most of the album. Its unique tempos and evocative
vocals give it a World/Rock/fusion music texture. However, there is volatility
cloaked to the music. It sort of like a container of very hot wax. You don't know
if you should stick a wick in it and create light or throw a match into the container
and initiate an odd sort of pyrexia. We can learn from this music.
to check out Jamie's Bonk's Conversations
with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series: Verdun
Rating: Very Good