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

2017-09-06
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more

2017-08-22
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more

2017-07-27
Yestival Dates Beef up the Beat – Word reaches us that Dylan Howe (son of guitarist Steve Howe) will be joining Yes on their "Yestival" tour, drumming alongside longtime band member Alan White. » Read more

2017-05-19
First ProgStock Festival Set for October – October 2017 will see the inaugural edition of a festival called ProgStock in Rahway, New Jersey at the Union County Performing Arts Center. With a definite slant towards neo-progressive music, the event is sure to please many fans with the inclusion of such artists as Echolyn, Glass Hammer, and Aisles. The festival will take place October 13-15. » Read more

2017-05-05
Clive Brooks RIP – Word reaches us today of another sad passing in the music world. Drummer Clive Brooks, best known as a member of such Canterbury bands as Egg, Uriel / Arzachel, and Groundhogs, has died at the age of 67. Details are sketchy at this point. The news was reported on Nick Mason's Facebook page — Brooks was Mason's drum tech. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Thomas Kugler - Lilith: The Rock Opera – Based on the play by Remy de Gourmont, this rock opera adaptation is composed by Kugler. It features God, Satan, Adam, Eve, Lilith, and various angels and assorted baddies. Instrumental backing is...  (2007) » Read more

Michael Mantler / Edward Gorey - The Hapless Child and Other Inscrutable Stories – It's a rare project that extracts elements of the written word and transfers them eloquently to an audio performance. Composer/trumpet player Michael Mantler's first major success with this...  (2000) » Read more

Oysterband - Rise Above – Oysterband, né The Oyster Band, has been developing their own mixture of British Isles folk music and rock for more than ten years. Rather than rocking up trad tunes (for the most part – there are...  (2004) » Read more

Russell Allen's Atomic Soul - Russell Allen's Atomic Soul – Russell Allen has been the front man for prog metal act Symphony X for ten years and was searching for an opportunity to do some classic rock that didn’t quite fit the vision of his band. Allen...  (2006) » Read more

Epilogue - Hide – Epilogue sounds like a combination of more accessible current neo-prog bands and mid-80s synth-rock bands. I can easily envision many of their tunes having videos on MTV back during the Adam Curry...  (1996) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues