Exposé Online banner

Halloween — Merlin
(Musea FGBG 4084.AR, 1994, CD)

by Dan Casey, 1994-08-01:

Merlin Cover art Halloween are a modern French outfit, who have often been compared to Pulsar. With their third album, Merlin, they live up to that comparison, but the approach here is more assertive and perhaps less romantic than Pulsar. The five-piece of core musicians are tastefully augmented by a small orchestra on several cuts, from the eerie opening timpani on "Conseil des Démons" to the soaring lead guitar line on the climactic "Forêt." The music is largely instrumental, with the occasional lead vocal (in French) but the voices (two male, one female) are light, usually heavily effected, and almost narrative in their style, which goes hand in hand with the music. Halloween are very unique stylistically, with thick keyboard pads and dense chord voicings, all the while mysterious, atmospheric and foreboding, telling their story musically with well-sculpted moods. At times the arrangements lack intensity, and the drummer is often unmotivated (or is it that peculiar French minimalism creeping in again?), but the sound is always contemporary, somewhere between classic 70s symphonic and modern-day neo-prog, without succumbing to any of the dangerous cliches of either. The musicians share some pretty impressive moments: Gilles Coppin lights up some nice synth solos (but keyboard techies will instantly recognize that the Korg WaveStation is the secret to his sound, since he makes no effort to hide it — every tune has two or more out-of-the-box WS patches on it), Philippe Di Faostino proves his real skill is on tuned percussion, and Jean-Francois Delcamp paints an eloquent and subtle picture with the solo classical guitar "Viviane." While not a masterpiece, 'Merlin' is a solid all-around effort, both captivating and entertaining enough to recommend it.

by Peter Thelen, 1994-08-01:

I didn't have very high expectations for this, after all their first two albums were somewhat short of spectacular, especially with their dreadfully pronounced English vocals. Within one minute of putting it on it was clear to me that Merlin would be the disc that changed my mind about this band. Their basic sound is as it always was: a dark and brooding symphonic rock full of powerful yet somewhat morbid melodies that might work well as the accompaniment for any grisly horror film. This is the one thing that Halloween always did so well. The basic band is now a five-piece with the addition of vocalist Geraldine le Cocq, who complements the vocals of keyboardist Gilles Coppin and violinist Jean-Philippe Brun nicely. Add to that a string quartet (Quatour Matheus) and four piece brass section (Bicnia), as well as other musicians on contrabass and prehistoric flute — all used on various tracks as the need calls. The album story centers around the magician Merlin from the story of King Arthur. Wisely, the band has chosen to utilize French lyrics this time, yet over half of the tracks here are completely instrumental, giving the band room to stretch out and try new ideas, which on this album seem to always work well. With the string quartet employed, they often reach a sound that could almost be described as a symphonic Univers Zero; with the brass section and strings together they achieve the bright and powerful romanticism that many bands seem to be searching for but few ever find. The album flows well from one track to the next, almost seamlessly, and the music overall has a well balanced feel between loud and soft, bright and dark. Halloween has done a commendable job pulling this one off; this is gripping symphonic prog that deserves to be heard.

by Mike McLatchey, 1994-08-01:

It's been a long time, four years in fact, since we've seen from this highly regarded French outfit. Laz was greeted with a lot of hype when it came out in 1990, it had a lot of people turning heads. To tell you the truth, I was less than enamored with either Laz or their debut; I felt that while some elements of their style were excellent, the overall feeling I got was that neither album flowed very well. Enter Merlin and a totally new sound. Female vocals, a string quartet, and horn section are all added to make this widest Halloween palate yet. Does it work? The answer to that is Yes! Not since Änglagård's Hybris has there been an album of such remarkable cohesion, such incredible dynamics, such memorable melodies and riffs, and such an awesome production. In fact, while Änglagård took much of their music from the likes of mellow Genesis, or riffs from Shylock or Cathedral, this Halloween album is brimming to the full with utter originality. A couple pointers must be stated — the overall cohesion especially with the immaculate orchestration reminds one heavily of Ezra Winston's Ancient Afternoons and the mix of classical and progressive under a conceptual banner reminds one of Isildurs Bane's Cheval. Other than those small comparisons, all we have here is a totally incredible album, with every second contributing to the overall feel from the ominous undertones of "Le Conseil des Démons" to the absolutely gorgeous vocals of Geraldine Le Cocq on "Morgane" to the dramatic ending of "Forêt," this album is a sheer mark of brilliance and easily the best Musea new release since Shub Niggurath's LP debut. This is by far the best album I have heard in this vein in a long time, and to make what could have been a trite conception into such a magnificent vision is only a mark of the brilliance of these musicians. See you at Progfest, Halloween — well done!

Filed under: New releases , Issue 4 , 1994 releases

Related artist(s): Halloween

More info

Latest news

2020-09-09
Simeon Coxe RIP – Simeon Coxe, best known for his experimental electronics in the band Silver Apples, has died at the age of 82. The band's 1968 debut album set the stage for both German electronic music and experimental punk music a decade later. Coxe died on September 8 from pulmonary fibrosis. » Read more

2020-09-05
Gary Peacock RIP – Legendary bassist Gary Peacock, veteran of many recordings and performances with Paul Bley, George Russell, Roland Kirk, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, and many more. » Read more

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the age of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more

2020-07-12
Judy Dyble RIP – Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble, who was a founding member of Fairport Convention and one of the distinctive voices of the 60s folk revival in Britain, has died at the age of 71. Her passing came at the end of a long illness, though which she continued to work. » Read more

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Urban Sax - Urban Sax, Fraction sur le Temps & Spiral – Legend has it that the idea for Urban Sax came into being around 1973, when the town of Menton in the south of France commissioned Gilbert Artman to reverberate the town with four amplified fixed...  (1994) » Read more

Robert Rich - Electric Ladder – Always a beacon of unpredictability, Robert Rich has trained this writer’s ears to expect something unexpected with each new release. This time out it’s a bed of pulsating modular...  (2006) » Read more

Tideline - Siren Song – Where is the audience for an album of commercial pop variety songs with unusual arrangements, and an occasional mildly avant-garde pop surprise thrown into the stew? I cringed when I first heard it,...  (1995) » Read more

Dice - Dice, Four Riders of the Apocalypse & Live Dice – During their short career, which spans the late seventies, Swedish band Dice (never to be confused with the Swiss neo-proggers Deyss) released only one self-titled album, an excellent testament to...  (1996) » Read more

Rick Wakeman - Simply Acoustic – Recorded live at the Cavalry Chapel in Costa Mesa, CA in March 1994. Simply Acoustic is a solo piano retrospective through his career work with Yes, David Bowie, and even Cat Stevens. Modern radio...  (1997) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues