Univers Zero - Heresie
The latest reissue from the most excellent label Sub Rosa is Heresie by the group Univers Zero. It's seldom that I am attracted to an album by the cover alone since amazing sleeves sometimes lead to not so amazing music. However when I saw this record pop up, I was immediately intrigued by the stark black and white photo of what seemed to be a gang of Euro-Gothic black art practitioners from the netherworld. Standing in a murky swamp as a thick cloud of fog rolls in on them with ice cold expressions on their faces. I had to know what this crew had in store for me. Let me tell you, they mean business.
Originally released in 1979 on a small French independent label Atem, Heresie is a succinct vision of darkness and dread that balances both mood and style rather effortlessly. Univers Zero would go on to become more of a Prog Rock band over time but in 1979 there was not a trace of prog in their canon. The first half of the A side builds on slithering drones and fragile melodies from bassoons and strings amidst a backdrop of pulsing timpani and cymbal rushes that feel more like blasts of steam from some evil machine. Gregorian like chanting builds over the textures that are eerily reminiscent of the heathen rituals that take place in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. There are clear echoes of Scott Walker as well, but where Walker would tip the scale away from the chaos, Univers Zero only drag its conjured dissonance further into the same murky water that you see on the cover. By the halfway point of the first piece, you have been transported into that same black and white swamp. You can feel the fog rolling in as the bleakness envelopes you, and just when it seems like the focus needs to break, it does. The pace and posture of the album shifts into a more frenzied and familiar state, similar to a Bernard Hermann score with jabbing strings and a dramatic force that lasts throughout the rest of the album.
By the end of side one, I was quite confident that this album had delivered on the promise of the album cover. Heresie is an exercise in darkness, or rather an example of the ability to evoke such a potent and unavoidable vision of darkness itself. (Adam)
Check out a track here.