‘Odyssee’ is the one and only album from this French quartet. It has become one of those albums that many prog fans have heard of but have never actually heard. I was lucky enough to find a copy at a used record vinyl shop in the middle of Nowheresville, Virginia, and I believe the guy severely undercharged me at $15. (I wasn’t complaining of course!) What I beheld when I laid the needle down was one of the heaviest, darkest, most fascinating and exciting prog records of the ’70s. It totally succeeds, despite borrowing quite liberally from a particular rhythm and melody in King Crimson’s “Red” (heard in third track “Novembre”). Additionally, the first two “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic” movements are referenced in fourth song “25e Anniversaire”. But ‘Odyssee’ as a whole is no K.C. rip-off-it also moves in a similar area as that of Pulsar (hypnotic space). And there are many moments of heavy riff-grinding that remind of the heavier Italian prog combos (ie. Jumbo, Biglietto Per L’Inferno, Il Balletto Di Bronzo). Despite these reference points, Artcane manages a unique, versatile style all their own.
Each of the 6 songs holds it’s own captivating personality. A huge thumbs-up for the title track, all 2:20 of it, which doesn’t hesitate to let the listener know what’s in store on the rest of the album. The song pulses with energy, aggressive rhythms and arresting melodic choices setting the tone. It crashes into the mellow beginnings of “Le Chant D’Orphée”, which builds and builds and eventually succumbs to Jack Mlynski’s incredibly powerful riff construction. Vocals are sparse on ‘Odyssee’, but when introduced on “Le Chant.” they are enigmatic and ghostly. The album’s real centerpiece is “Artcane I”, a lengthy track encapsulating everything great about Artcane: patient crescendos of cosmic atmospherics; hypnotic keyboard repetitions courtesy of Alain Coupel; the nimble yet heavy-handed drumming of Daniel Locci; creepy, dark vibrations all over the place; spurts of jazz-rock rhythms; moments of pure heaviness like the most metallic moments of ’70s-era Rush. Too bad this band’s career was so fleeting-I can’t imagine what “Artcane II” might’ve sounded like!
Two of the most exciting moments come second-hand from themes laid down by King Crimson. Some would call it plagiarism; I would call it “tribute”. This is not a book report, it is art, and what better art to draw influence from than King Crimson’s final ’70s period? It would be more disturbing if they couldn’t come up with anything original at all, but ‘Odyssee’ is full of ideas, chemistry, talent and power. Too bad they weren’t around long enough to capitalize on it. – Slipperman