Yyrkoon

Unhealthy Opera

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It took France a little longer than most countries to develop a respectable domestic heavy metal scene, and the oddly named Yyrkoon mirrored these travails with their own development, which occurred in fits and starts and saw each album trying a different metallic subgenre on for size. Luckily, the quartet appeared to finally find what they were looking for, direction-wise, with 2003's Occult Medicine and its like-minded 2006 follow-up, Unhealthy Opera -- to the point that they've entirely disowned all efforts that preceded them! In effect, this latest pair of albums contain a brutal, hyperactive, and very technical style of death metal, intermittently adorned with astoundingly melodic solos and guitar harmonies courtesy of St├ęphane Souteryand and Geoffrey Gautierhat. Like blinding rays of sunshine angling around the circumference of a hulking dark tower, these passages greatly help the listener distinguish between songs that would otherwise mostly meld together, and which, with all due respect to Yyrkoon's unquestionable performing prowess, essentially recycle the same old template set down by bands like Morbid Angel nearly 20 years before. Few are the tunes that leave any lasting impression when they are finished (maybe the title cut, "Abnormal Intrusion," and the two-part "Lair...of Madness"); and does the world really need any more creepy acoustic guitar instrumentals like "Temple of Infinity," or repetitive, slow-moshing riff exercises like those which bookend "Injecting Dementia"? Not really. "Horror From the Sea" is worth a mention for supposedly featuring a cameo by King Diamond guitarist Andy LaRocque, and so is the unannounced bonus track, "Signs," which contains some much welcome clean singing, but because of it was obviously considered an anomaly by the band -- pity. Otherwise, the best that can be said of Unhealthy Opera is that it reprises neither its uneven predecessor's spiraling highs, nor its more frequent lows, but rather forges a consistent, if relatively surprise-free, experience from start to finish that's nevertheless unlikely to significantly expand Yyrkoon's fan base.

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