By Rob Hughes
Being a shamefully unilingual citizen of this great nation, I have no right to disparage others’ attempts to bridge the language gap, as France’s CloverSeeds have done with their English lyrics for The Opening. But, oh, I knew I shouldn’t have cracked open the CD booklet. Curiosity killed the critic, I guess. It’s to singer Ced Oléon’s credit that he can sell lines like “It might not be safe for my good health/and soon I should come over hell,” but the rather ropey lingo taints an otherwise enjoyable album.
CloverSeeds have an accessible modern prog sound that plucks bits from the accepted gallery of influences: Tool, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, Anathema… It’s big and blustery, with taut riffing and grand, sweeping gestures in any number of time signatures, all presented with clean, powerful production. I’d bet their somewhat complex but never long-winded songs would come across really well live. So although this style is in danger of being played out by now—In Absentia is nearly a decade old—CloverSeeds pull it back from the brink of blahdom with their power and musicianship. This is a good band.
Oléon is a versatile singer, his voice taking on a sardonic Mike Patton inflection during the louder passages, then slipping into a Thom Yorke-ish feel when things get delicate. He even sounds a bit like Bruce Dickinson when he’s going at full pelt, as on “Higher.” Another standout element is the guitar work of Fabrice Jacquet and Pierre Librini, which lays on so many textures and atmospheres that it took a glance at the credits to realize that the band lacks a keyboardist. They build walls of squall on “Fam(L)ar” and get downright Steve Rothery-like on “The Opening,” which dumps the bluster in favour of sounding like Marillion with more power chords—an album highlight.
CloverSeeds might not be to your taste if, like me, you prefer prog from the staunchly retro or avant garde schools. After multiple listens, though, I have to admit that they’ve hit a sweet spot between hard rock might and progressive elegance. I’ll even forgive them the lyrical faux pas, seeing as they’ve delivered everything else with such class.
(The Laser’s Edge)