26 September 2018 (released)
07 November 2018
Influence can come from anywhere and any time but there's a certain pocket of inspiration that temporally tracks through eras. It's the 20-year gap sphere of influence. This is the idea that the music that reached an artist in their formative years (read: teens) will have a permanent effect on their songwriting and typically it takes roughly 20 years for that to gestate within the artist, allowing their talents to catch up with what they had idolized in their youth. The result is that you see so-called throwbacks that echo genres that hit their peak 20 years prior. This phenomenon is echoed in other realms of culture as well, like fashion. The '90s were bubbling with '70s styles. In the 2000s, the absurdity of '80s chic started as a joke but turned to trend with late Gen-X bands looking back with fondness on the proto-synth tinged melodies that permeated their upbringing. Now we find ourselves in 2018, placing the 20-year gap at 1998. Obviously, the music landscape on a whole is vastly different. Rock is far from the most influential genre. However, let's compare rock with rock. Emotionally charged, industrial-tinged heavy rock was the flavour of the week. Although the era is now remembered with disdain for giving us nu-metal, a lot of great acts took a similar recipe and made real affecting music. Heavy enough to shake loose the demons inside you but beautiful to give their exorcism a nobility.
Every song on Venice May's debut record Illusion is Inevitable serves as an appeal to the heavens and the great below as each track soars with an undeniably epic nature. The Paris based duo take A Perfect Circle-like rock grooves and top them with theatrical vocals that verge on the operatic. Natalia Samofalova's 'serenity in the face of adversity' vocals tap into some eternal spirit, duetting and dueling with fellow collaborator Vincent Bedfert's cascading guitar lines. The thirteen track record takes a scant few breaks to touch feet to the earth, with very little time devoted to grounded passages. It's big, bold, brash and beautiful.
Clock-like harmonics and urgent high-hats initiate the record. Samofalova's lilting voice tells a tale like a pseudo-fairy godmother on the opener 'A Mouse and a Snake'. The lyrics are filled with cautionary advice while Bedfert outlines a wonderland soundscape with ringing guitar textures. Samofalova's chorus is as broad and resounding as a royal proclamation with thunder drums beating the word home.
The lead single also draws on ringing guitar harmonics amid an unfurling delay soaked six-string intro. Glimmering atmospherics take the place of a backing string section. A withdrawn first pre-chorus ratchets up the tension for another heavy-hitting chorus. On the next time around, Samofalova hits the pre-chorus with glass-shattering vocal power. Her unearthly vocal capabilities add a terrifying gravitas to the proceedings, with multiple tracks rising and diving around the main line.
The album on a whole is unrelenting in its power. There is a palpable gothic fury (victorian church gothic, not mall goth) that gives the songs a timelessness. Both Samofalova and Belfert show off their virtuosic nature, demonstrating a symphonic level of compositional prowess. If you feel that we've taken a huge step back embracing the kitchy minimalism of indie rock, Venice May is the antidote.