AMON SETHIS – Part 0 : Nitocris The Queen With The Golden Hair

Written by on 2021-03-13

“Hey, don’t you have a review to write ?”. That dreaded but dramatically true question that Shyanna welcomed my 35th link to an obscure Byelorussian new wave band. Yes, I do have a review to write. Except that I don’t want to discuss music. I don’t want to write because just like most people I just want to get under a blanket and wait unitl everything is over.

Except that after 4 months, she is right. It’s about time that I finally beat that blank page and try to be good enough to honor the talent and hard work of French outfit AMON SETHIS especially since I really loved their record.

AMON SETHIS - Part 0 - The Queen With Golden Hair

Released on 12/12/2020 / Self released

Links :

Tracklist :

01. The Legacy From The Past
02. Nitocris, The Queen With Golden Hair
03. My Sister, My Love, My Pharaoh
04. The Conspiracy
05. The Secret Letter
06. The Rise of Aoutef’s Army
07. Lost In The West
08. Desert Storm
09. Osiris, God Of The Dead
10. Mask Of Wrath
11. By The Torture
12. Eternal Love
13. The Blood Red templs
14. From Dust To The Stars
15. And Then Comes The Rain

Line-up :

Julien Tournoud (Vocals)
Olivier Billoint (Guitars)
Laetitia Bertrand (Bass)
Sebastien Perrad (Drums)
Adrien G. Gzagg (Keyboards)

Magnificent epic peplum

So let’s start with the two problems of the album so that we can get rid of them and they are not that important.

First thing: This is an extremely dense piece and binging it fully in a single seat might be difficult for people who are not fully prepared for it. It is 78 minutes long for 15 tracks with a lot of changes and often complex structures, so it can be a lot to take on.

Second thing : the mix and production are not always on point, most notably when it come to the voices. Because of the density of this heavy prog opus, the voice of Julien Tournoud should always be a conduit for the listener so that they never get lost in the music. But too often that voice is drowned in the middle of the rest and it makes following the lyrics and story not as easy as it should be.

However those two problems are easily fixable: just listen to the album several times, until you have assimilated all of the layers and elements well enough that you can enjoy them all the experimentations and mixes offert by the band.

After all, when you have the ambition to talk about the semi-legendary reign of queen Nitocris, you better go at it with everything you have. The first woman Pharaoh is supposed to have reigned in 2152 BC for one to twelve years according to various sources and was the last Pharaoh of the 6th dynasty and is not recognized by all Egyptologists and her existence is still a controversy.

And in the end, I must say it : the Grenoble formation gave it its all there. This is a diverse, epic, well researched album that sounds like the soundtrack for a massive and glorious Hollywood people, where the visual beauty of Cleopatra by Joseph L. Mankiewicz met the multitude of conspiracies from Game Of Thrones.

« Part 0 : Nitocris The Queen With The Golden Hair » meets its objective hands down. It’s impossible not to visualize the vast Egyptians plains of sand slowly filling with an innumerable armywhen hearing “The Rise Of Aoutef’s Army” or to imagine Merenre, the murdered husband of Nitocris slowly being reincarnated into the horus falcon during “My Sister, My Love, My Pharaoh”.

It the emotion, the images and the story are so clear and so easy to comprehend, it is mostly thanks to Julien Tournoud. Once more, the singe is the cornerstone of AMON SETHIS, his theatrical and epic interpretation, where he used several vocal registers depending on what he is narrating and which character is speaking, is impeccable and never goes too far. His attack on “Desert Stom” is beautifully precise and restrained, because by bringing the spotlight on himself, he allows for the song to cool down just enough before exploding into a massive chorus.

At first I had to regularly stop and wonder : “hang on, where are the guitars in this thing ?” And it’s precisely at the third time listening to “Lost In The West” that I finally clicked. The guitars are used here just like the first violin would be in an orchestra. Olivier Billoint is perfectly placed in the spotlight when it is necessary (the intro for “Mask Of Wrath”, the chorus of “By The Torture” or the solo from “Lost In The West”) but he is also able to support the orchestrations, so that they hit harder and are more epic (“Osiris God Of The Dead”, “The Conspiracy”).

I also tip my hat off to the drummer Sebastien Perrad who singlehandedly fulfills the duties of a whole orchestra’s rhythm section, and who masterfully puts his skills in service to the story, by using rhythm changes and complex patterns that probably were not that easy to put in place. He is the one making “Lost In The West”, on which I challenge you not to tap your feet along the double bass, which is deadly precise and surprisingly light thanks to a clever use of cymbals that never gets into cliché territory.

And now we have to talk about the bass. After all that time listening to this album, I only have one comment to make: Laetitia Bertrand is a killer bass player. If you want to have a better idea of her work and what she brings to the table, just look at the video for “Blood Red Temple”. Yes, this is a fretless six string bass. Yes, she perfectly sues that instrument. And hearing her being the lead instrument on “The Scarlet Letter” or “Osiris God Of The Dead” is as much a surprise as it is a pleasure. It was a risky bet but it massively paid off. Being completely independent from the guitar and the drums, she clears her own path and fills all of the voids excellently with incredible skills, precision and a healthy dose of restraint, which seem to be the motto of the band.

Another amazingly meticulous work, in front of which I must bow down, is the orchestrations and arrangements. Let me explain. When listening to metal, way too often I feel like the orchestrations are there “to make it epic”, meaning that everything is done first and they’re clumsily attached to it afterwards. When it is done like this it’s especially easy to hear and it sounds “fake” (the biggest example of this in the “S&M” of METALLICA). But with AMON SETHIS, that feeling is never here. Everything meshes perfectly and you often forget that the orchestrations are not electronically programmed given how spontaneous and live they feel. And now I just want a live show with an actual symphonic orchestra.

To put it simply : it’s not epic because there is an orchestra, is because of the epic story and stakes that the orchestra becomes the most logical thing possible.

And that’s where the biggest strength of AMON SETHIS lies. Beyond all adjectives that you can find, all the nitpicking, the analysis, it can all be summed up into one word : intelligence.

Because they never lose the thread of the story, because they never go on unnecessary tangents and useless showmanship and most importantly by always making the sotry drive the music and not the opposite, AMON SETHIS delivers a brilliant effort whose issues are easily submerged by its qualities.

“Part 0 : Nitocris, The Queen With The Golden Hair” slays from beginning to end. And if some songs do not require a deep anaylsis (“Eternal Love” comes to mind), they still are incredible. I can nly encourage you to check it out and spin it over and over again so that you can be transported is this mythical Egypt, whose inspiration was probably given to AMON SETHIS by Thot and Hathor. But this is another story.

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