Gabriel Keller – Clair Obscur

2022 (self released)

1: Tumulte (Feat.Charlie Henry) (3:27)
2: Time (Feat. Emi B) (5:01)
3: Train To Resolution (Feat. Emi B) (4:27)
4: Open Arms (Feat. Emi B) (5:13)
5: Melancholia (Feat. Charlotte Gagnor) (3:50)
6: Sonate Au Clair Obscur (Feat. Clément Barou) (6:42)
7: Nothing Human (Feat. Maïté Merlin) (5:35)
8: Out Of My Life (Feat. Maïté Merlin) (6:51)
9: Honey (Feat. Marine Poirier) (4:45)
10: Accalmie (2:59)

As a model train enthusiast it turns out well for French guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Keller to have a song about a train on his debut album “Clair Obscur”. It’s not something that can be taken for granted, especially since Keller has closely collaborated with various other musicians for songwriting. In fact he has relied entirely on the female singers to determine which song they would sing. It’s an expressive affair.

The album is undoubtedly a matter of heart and soul. Keller is a brave warrior who dared to showcase two different sides of his taste on the album. While many struggle with the cohesion of an album, Keller starts off with five light songs influenced by The Beatles and Pink Floyd and then delves into a few darker tracks reminiscent of Porcupine Tree and Opeth. Not only does the music exhibit this duality but the album title and a publicity photo featuring Keller alongside himself also reveal this healthy schizophrenia. For some it may be a matter of either/or but for us omnivores it’s nearly all delectable bites.

An acoustic guitar opens the album. Tumulte evolves into a catchy mid-tempo rock song with instrumental flair featuring beautiful guitar playing by guest musician Charlie Henry whose performance somewhat recalls Joe Satriani. The arrangement of this song with cello and choir reveals a tasteful vision offering hope.

In the next three songs vocalist Emi B makes her presence known. She has a pleasant voice that’s as straight as an arrow. She shines in Time, embellished by a string quartet, but she truly earns the most points with her vocals in the graceful All About Eve-like Train To Resolution. When a sparkling solo by Charlie Henry concludes the song it leaves you with a good feeling about the music making it a shame that Open Arms and the French-sung Melancholia by Charlotte Gagnor can be described at best as mediocre.

With the bombastic Sonate Au Clair Obscur, Keller and his companions regain their footing. This instrumental track is the game-changer that leads to three excellent metal songs. Particularly the dragging and satisfying Nothing Human stands out. It’s worth noting that Keller performs his music live with an acoustic trio. On YouTube there’s a rendition of Nothing Human where instead of heavy sounds you hear a buzzing cello, an acoustic guitar and theatrical vocals. It once again highlights what a remarkable musician Keller is because even when he strips down his metal songs he still retains a good song. Listening to Out Of My Life it becomes evident that the combination of dark metal and expressive theatrical vocals is the unique selling point of his music. Like it or not, in Honey, they take it a step further. Well, I’m perfectly fine with that.

The album concludes with the tranquil Accalmie. Gentle movements on the acoustic guitar give food for thought. Just do that.

Gabriel Keller : guitars, percussion, bass, backing vocals
Lucas Biguet-Mermet : drums (1,6,7,8,9)
Simon Rebuffat : drums (2,3,4,5)
Charlie Henry : guitars (1)
Clément Berthie : guitars
Anthony Barbier : guitar solo (4)
Marius Marin : guitars (9)
Lucie Lacour : cello, backing vocals
Emi B : vocals, backing vocals (2,3,4)
Anne-Marguerite Solt : backing vocals
Charlotte Gagnor : vocals, backing vocals (5)
Marine Poirier : vocals, backing vocals (9)
Maïté Merlin : vocals (7,8)
Julien Mailland : bass
Clément Barou : piano (6)
Jean Charles Montibert : strings arrangements
Quatuor MajusculeS : strings
Jérôme Aubernon : solo violin (6)
Sos Section : brass section (8)
Pierre Lagache : brass arrangements (8)

© Dick van der Heijde 2022