Review: Mineral ReflectanceDes Chemins de Vie

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Seven (+ 1 bonus) eclectic visions of petrified melancholy

One neat factoid of lithology is that the same mineral composition can form 2 different types of rock depending on how they cool—so though it starts at the same point, the same bit of magma can live several different lives based on how it crystalizes. Mineral Reflectance really takes this to heart—though the project is mostly helmed by French musician ZagZero of Akphaezya (among others), each song is sung by a different vocalist and named after a different form of stone they took inspiration from. In a chimerical way it attempts to draw inspiration from both the belief system of lithotherapy and the scientific study of lithology to form a concept with emotive alchemy.

I’ll be honest, this interested me because I tend to care more about vocal delivery and lyrics than your average metal fan. On that front this album has quite the cross-section of vocalists from people doing spooky-baritone singing to hardcore-style barks and black metal raspy shrieks. Like most avant-garde projects go, it struck me as a bit uneven with the variance in vocal and lyrical style, but I’m not looking to be coddled; take me on a journey. Where this project shines is taking listeners on a tour of the French and Belgian metal scenes: some places they already know or loved right away, some they might have never wanted to see, and some they maybe didn’t know existed.

The album starts off strong with the single “Septaria” sung by Belgian musician Déhà. It’s a hard-hitting track with some strongly emotive singing that really sets the mood of the album but set me up with some false expectations for the follow-up track “Obsidian,” which has a notably different delivery. Throughout the record ZagZero has a noticeable signature in their riff composition to the point that the riffs feel like they are a voice of their own singing along. “Spectrolite” and its harsh mix of death metal-style vocal delivery and sandpaper shouts was another standout track to me as well as the closer “Quartz” with its acoustic intro contrasted with the raw vocals that kick in after the song goes electric.

A complete tour of the French metal scene would be exhausting, but Mineral Reflectance hits the big spots—both the well-tread and the largely-unknown to outsiders. Though I’m not quite sure I’ve wrapped my head around the specific combination of contrasting inspirations from the (admittedly strange to me) ideas of lithotherapy and the science of lithology, the intense tension of being torn by two opposing forces was very clear to me in the voices on the record. Though I’m just once voice among many.

You can hear Des Chemins de Vie on Bandcamp and it will be available on Spotify starting December 28th.

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