At the end of last year French newly-fledged item Oïkoumen has released independently their debut album Dystopia, making a confident statement within symphonic metal scene. With strong roots in classical domain, Oïkoumen also has some serious connections regarding modern music as well. Deceptively fragile and modestly solemn, the debut album of this French sympho trio reflects the ambiguous side of this conservative style’s ulterior motives.
Oïkoumen was founded six years ago in Paris, one of the most romantic and also the most revolutionary cities of the world, hinting a little bit on this enigmatic nature of innovation in their music. But only slightly, just defining their own stylistic borders, but never violating respected rules and familiar clichés of this genre. And considering that Dystopia is their first serious record (apart from self-titled EP and one single); it’s truly a miracle that you can’t really associate them to any famous names within this strict genre.
Naturally, when there’s a tag “symphonic metal”, we imagine some of these options – power-metal-based sympho band, neo-classical relation or modern vibes. What about Oïkoumen, what is their chosen path to musical glory? Everything and nothing at the same time. Damn, how it’s even possible, I dare to ask? Let’s not forget that Oïkoumen is from France, once again corroborating how unconventionally and ingeniously French minds work. All right, with traditional and classic rock foundation, Dystopia teeters on a verge of progressive abyss, pointing out towards contemporary djent and alternative realm under transparent veil of classical music’s dignity. There are rich patterns in arrangements, but very minimalistic background, so despite the stylistic shifts, there’s nothing experimental or unexpected. Everything is smooth and simple – without operatic drama or extremely down-tuned guitars. Pop vibes are oppressed by academic rigor, while ceremonial solemnity is muted by structural austerity. It seems like the band plays with dualities, but in a very limited space, just a couple of steps aside, but still it makes the difference.
The heavy metal scene is now overcrowded with a lot of interesting or boring bands; thanks to numerous streaming services and social networks, it’s much easier to be heard. However, it’s pretty much unreal to gain the fame in masses without real side of musical agencies and promotional companies. Oïkoumen are trying to gather an audience by themselves, little by little attracting the melomaniacs with their nonpareil visions on symphonic metal. Dystopia isn’t overwhelmingly extraordinary or out of this world experience, just an honest record without recycled platitudes or repeated exploits of some great symphonic giants.
The album starts with non-metal self-titled song “Dystopia”, offering us monotonous background, primitive symphonic lines and splendid atmosphere. These attributes are more or less constant during this album, from time to time fading into oblivion and then again resurrecting in slightly variegated forms. “Burnout” is the most contemporary song right here, so with djent and modern vibes we can dive into alternative music’s openness, but with playful singing lines. The voice of Laura isn’t too emotional or exceedingly expressive, it’s close to academic singing, but with a teeny drop of individuality that opposes classical training. Anxious and vaguely disharmonic “Slaughterhouse” is in compliance with somewhat chaotic “Insidious”. “Green Warriors” and “Five Elements” finally indicate power metal’s influence, but not in a full bloom. And the last composition “Utopia” contradicts the very mood of this album – full of light, hope and with an optimistic spirit. It is rather a folk piece with medieval vibes and fairytale mood, and under the influence of majestic symphonic background, we can really put a smile on our faces, this is truly a happy ending for such a dystopian album.
The minimalistic abstract art and metaphysical allusions are in accordance with the lyrical themes, based on modern problems of our world. Whether it’s the global warming or racial struggles, Dystopia reminds us to care about our planet and to fight for its preservation. Yeah, despite the lack of dramatic movements or passionate expressions, the first full-length album of Oïkoumen is emotionally mature and persistently bona fide.
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