Les Chants du Hasard – Livre Troisième Review

Sometimes, you have to try something different. Stagnating into a limited pool of metal quickly leads to burnout, and if there’s one thing I can’t stand… well, it probably wouldn’t be burnout explicitly, but that’s up there for sure. To stave off that awful feeling for as long as possible, I’ve made a conscious effort to be reasonably variable in what kinds of music I review for this site. I tell you this so you’ll understand why it was that when I first scanned through the promotional material for Livre Troisième, the third full-length release from French act Les Chants du Hasard, and saw the line “is it still metal? The question is now irrelevant,” my response was to dive right in, sight unseen. “Experimental,” the genre tag said. “Okay,” I replied. “Why not.” Let’s try something different.

Fortunately, that question is an easy one to answer – no, it’s not metal, but I understand the temptation to categorize it as such. Les Chants du Hasard is an orchestral project masterminded by Hazard, who handles all of the instruments as well as being one of the vocalists; the rest of the talent consists of tenors, sopranos, narrators, and other vocalists that texturize the whole. Strings, horns, growls, and voices constitute the whole of the instrumental range on Livre Troisième, which is ultimately why I say the project is not a metal one. Hazard was apparently, however, inspired by a number of metal acts and tropes as he wrote the piece, and wanted it to convey an emotional range more commonly associated with the style – anger, sorrow, violence. It’s metal-adjacent, basically – inspired by, adapted to, but ultimately not metal music.

Les Chants du Hasard is a group that stands very much outside of my usual listening habits. The closest thing I can think of to a band to name-drop is the Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra, which similarly takes metal themes and translates them into orchestral music. That is where the similarities end, however; rather than a full orchestra sound, Livre Troisième sounds more like a chamber, with a decidedly muddy production that distorts the low strings and horns while allowing the various singers to waver in the spaces between the music, wailing with intensity in choir, tenor, soprano, and even harsh growls. The result is that the whole winds up feeling like some kind of low-fi French horror-opera performance, dramatic and grand, maintaining a dark and gritty edge.

It’s clear that this is an album that is designed to be listened to as a whole; like any good French horror-opera, there’s a strong sense of story and theme tying the whole together. Over eight songs and forty-five minutes, Les Chants du Hasard reaches grandiose heights and intense melodrama, but it’s hard to think of the album as being eight distinct songs. Again, this isn’t exactly my usual listening, but there isn’t a whole lot to distinguish the tracks from one another, even after repeated listens. I know that I enjoy “Chant V – Les Milliers d’une Fois,” but can’t really remember why, and “Chant VI – La Comptine” has a fairly creepy thing going on with a child singing disjointedly and unhappily in the foreground, but for the most part, it all blurs together. Looking back, I remember more of the feeling, the drama, and the bleakness of the album than the actual songs, though I know a number of them have some really nice, cathartic moments and well-written callbacks.

It is clear that Hazard is a talented composer, and there’s no lack of skill in the execution of Livre Troisième, but it’s hard to feel too connected to the music. The production choices, the stylistic approach, and the drama are simply too much for me. I didn’t dislike the album, but I didn’t enjoy it either; it lacks the exciting, memorable catharses I hope for from projects like this one. It’s beautiful, but the beauty feels hollow. It’s dark, but the darkness feels forced. It’s well-written, but lacks power. I don’t want to simply write it off, but can only conclude that this particular effort wasn’t for me, and I won’t be returning to it either.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: leschantsduhasard.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/leschantsduhasard
Released Worldwide: April 9th, 2021

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